Writer, Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cinematographer: Rishi Punjabi
Editor: Geeta Singh
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Amit Sadh, Vijay Varma, Shruti Haasan, Kenny and Sanjay Mishra
Producer: Sujay Shankarwar, Gaurav Bose, Gagan JS Bindra, Sunir Kheterpal, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kuldeep Singh Rathore
Streaming Platform: Zee5
Mild Spoilers Ahead
Yaara’s tone is unhinged. The Chaukdi Gang has 4 orphans, Mitwa (Amit Sadh), Phagun (Vidyut Jammwal), Rizwan (Vijay Varma), and Bahadur (Kenny), brought together by Chaman (Sanjay Mishra). They are given an assignment to loot a bank in Patna. Chaman is waiting in the car for them to return with the bags-and-the-bucks, but he soon realizes that one of the tyres of the car is punctured. The boys are back from the bank with the bucks, and now there’s a shootout that plays to riffing guitars, while the tyre is being changed- there is something subtly comic about this. But then Chaman gets shot. Then, he gets burnt on the pyre. The transition is sudden, the music isn’t helpful, and so the mourning is never felt viscerally.
Ditto for another scene when Sukanya (Shruti Haasan), daddy’s-rich-girl with naxalite proclivities, (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi?) is falling in love with Phagun. Phagun asks about her parents, and she says she hasn’t spoken to them in a while, and they mimic a phone call where Phagun plays her dad-dy. They laugh, they kiss, and from a moment in the heartland of class war, and police violence, they are transported to a dreamscape where they whisper platitudes in song, abs exposed, neckline deeper, wind blowing in hair, and fabrics flutter-flutter-flutter. I love love-songs, the dreamier the better, but their insertion into the narrative shouldn’t feel like a jolt.
Based on Olivier Marchal’s French film Les Lyonnais (A Gang Story), Yaara, over 2 stretched-hours long, is about friendship fraying over time. The boys meet as boys, become men, and are caught in a Naxal village, and jailed separately, Mitwa for 5 years, Phagun for 10, Bahadur and Rizwan for 7. (You are correct in asking why the differential jail sentences- this gets explained towards the end of the film in a climax that is as shocking as it is obvious.)
After the jail sentences Phagun (now Paramveer, married to Sukanya), Bahadur, and Rizwan make money the right way, until Mitwa comes back into their lives. Where has he been since his jail sentence, no one knows exactly. Sukanya is now a mother, and reminds me of this old saying, “If you’re not a communist at the age of 20, you haven’t got a heart. If you’re still a communist at the age of 30, you haven’t got a brain”. She now wears pearls and knee length dresses with blazers, and looks pale as a person drained off purpose. Her tone too, is a few notches below what it was. Is this what marriage does to a person, or is this about her losing her sickle-and-hammer passion to violent circumstances?
Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director, stages the transition of youth to adulthood quite well. He uses the desert landscape of undulating dunes to show the change, where the camera is static, and the boys run down a dune, but when they emerge from it, they are older, but jolly as they were. Dhulia also uses film posters to connote the passage of time. The problem with having such a broad time-frame is to make sure that with time, there is also evolution of character. Here, no such things happen. You don’t know how to describe the kids as children, but when they grow older, they become the summation of one or two adjectives. This is a symptom of dated writing. No character evolves over the film’s duration, they’re only ‘exposed’.
This problem is felt more severely later. The action-set pieces are staged well and Jammwal is … well, Jammwal (who feels stiff in the aged portion in his cravats and coats), but the beating heart of the story shouldn’t be about beatings but about heart- the friendship, the love, the jealousy, even. None of it is felt. When one dies, you can see the others weep, but there’s a cold distance between you and the character; you feel nothing, registering the loss as a fact and not a feeling. The music that doesn’t evoke much is overused, the dialogues have a seen-that-heard-that quality, giving this dated story of flip phones and bell bottoms, with dated characters, a dated execution.