Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood ... I love them all!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Yahaan (2005)

Director: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Jimmy Shergil, Minnisha Lamba, Yashpal Sharma
Genre: war, drama, romance
Lenght: 2h:23m.09s

A year back, I was losing interest in Bollywood movies. It just seemed that everything I watched looked and felt the same, same stories, same overacting, same sounding music. I discovered South Indian movies, namely Tollywood and Kollywood, and it seemed I wouldn’t get back to Hindi cinema for a while.

Then I watched Yahaan.

The first movie of ad-maker Shoojit Sircar was released without much hype. Jimmy Shergil wasn't (and still isn't :() know as leading man material, and Minnisha as a debuting actress didn’t draw much attention either. At least not in the wide public. I couldn’t for the longest time remember what made me watch Yahaan in the first place, but while writing this post I suddenly remembered.

It got pretty bad ratings on a Czech and Slovak Movie Database, so I decided to give it a pass. Then I read on the bolly-what forum a thread with tastefully done romantic / intimate scenes and the song Naam Adaa Likhna was mentioned. I really liked it – it was simple, Jimmy and Minnisha looked very comfortable and gentle together, and the song was haunting. That was all it took to convince me to finally watch it.

By the end of this movie, my love for Bollywood was rekindled :)

Minissha plays Adaa, a Kashmiri girl dreaming of the day her valley turns into a paradise once again. She lives with her family a relatively quiet existence, until the day Aman, an Indian Army Captain, sets up a guarding post in front of her house. These two had a meet-cute before, if one can call it that - he and his soldiers were holding her at gunpoint. :D Now they start meeting, talking, throwing glances at each other, and the mutual attraction grows into something deeper.

The dream of freedom a pair of jeans can evoke...
But the local girls aren’t supposed to mingle with Indian soldiers, and Aman was warned right during his first day to focus only on his work – he’s there to protect the locals, not to play with them. And he learns right away how hard the life for some of them is. Yet he isn’t a robot to blindly follow commands. He gradually wins the respect of Adaa’s family, and his senior officer’s wrath too when he wants to report him for unseemly behaviour.

Religion isn’t an important factor in Yahaan. Adaa is a Muslim, Aman a Hindu, yet it never becomes a point of conflict between them. Even the militants don’t act on religious grounds – they fight for what they believe in and when words fail to work, they take hold of weapons.

Don’t know about Jimmy Shergil in other movies, haven’t seen him doing much before. He seemed like all the other b-grade actors, but he totally won me over with his portrayal of Captain Aman. No over the top gestures, good dialogue delivery.. and my oh my, even his eyes spoke volumes. I’ve read some complaints about Minnisha’s acting, but I honestly couldn’t find a fault with Adaa. She was great, and I really liked her voice. She’s got an interesting face. Some camera angles were unflattering, but it got lost among all the pretty shots.

Isn't she loverly?
Yet the nicest surprise were the supporting characters. I won’t mention some of them, as it would spoil some twists in the plot, but take for example Adaa’s father. Not a hint of filmi melodrama or unreasonable attitude. Her granny was a very no-nonsense woman who didn’t hesitate to give an Indian soldier a piece of her mind and ‘ask’ for a cigarette at the same time. She was very gentle with her family, and stood up for Adaa when she deemed it necessary.

Shree, Adaa’s little sister, was really cute. Not an annoying, oversmart kid at all. She wasn’t there for cutesy eye candy, her role was important. She didn’t speak much, so I was really taken with her body language. Plus it was too adorable how she followed Amaan around – like a little puppy. It reminded me of normal children running after somebody they’ve taken a liking to. Amaan uses his connections to help the little girl, though I suspect he did it also to impress Adaa :)

They were so adorable when they were together :)
There are more parallel stories in Yahaan, but I won't discuss them all - too spoilery :) But I'll say that I liked the build-up of the romance track. A lot. It isn’t love at first sight, nor were there any immature moments between Adaa and Aman. Even in the circumstances they were facing, they still found time to berate each other, or to be playful. The way they spoke, looked at each other, or how they behaved when somebody was watching vs. when nobody was around – it all felt natural, very down to earth. The more I saw them, the more immersed I became in their struggle. I don’t know much about Kashmir, but everybody had a reason for the way they were acting, and the attitude of the locals towards the army men was understandable. The first half of the movie is mostly through Aman’s point of view, but after intermission Adaa takes over and it’s a joy to watch her fight for her man.

There aren’t many song sequences, but the few that are present were nicely integrated into the plot. The background music was amazing. As you can tell from the screencaps and posters, almost the whole movie is shot in blue overtones and when a colourful scene comes around you instantly know that a change in mood, or an important event is taking place. The most colourful moment was the music video to Mele Chaliyan, but even some scenes between Adaa and Aman had a warm, sepia hue. I was afraid that a movie concerning the Indian Army would be too preachy and full of patriotic speeches, yet luckily it wasn’t the case. It’s important that Aman is a soldier since it creates conflict – a relationship with him could very well cost Adaa dearly. The Kashmiri’s don’t differentiate between soldiers, terrorists or militants – all seem the same, reaching for guns and disturbing the life in the valley. The ending seemed to deviate into standard Bollywood towards the end, but only for a while and it didn't mar my enjoyment of the movie.
I know Yahaan isn’t much known, but I’m very glad to have seen it. I don’t know which movie started my addiction to Bollywood. It certainly wasn’t Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, although I loved the music, costumes and cultural references. What I know for certain is that Yahaan brought that love back when it was slowly fading away.


  1. Sigh... So many people rave poetic about Yahaan, I'm periodically reminded what a loser I am for not having seen it :) I really need to get my act together and watch this movie already! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. No worries, Dolce, you're not the only one who hasn't seen it yet :D After all, it's not a 'classic'. Don't expect mind blowing cinema - I've found it's often for the worse and you could end up underwhelmed, even though it IS a very nice movie. I wasn't disappointed, but you know.. Just sayin'.. ;)

  3. For some one who grew up with Bollywood, I really liked your review of Yahaan. I stumbled onto this one and fell is love with the haunting music and understated body language. Jimmy and Minisha's chemistry is wonderful and really symbolic of love affairs in an Indian small town.
    Highly recommended. You may also enjoy Jimmy's Haasil which I watched post yahaan and liked as well.