A road film, especially one where the journey goes terribly awry, requires an edgy plot line, stunning camera work and some razor sharp editing. Unfortunately, Yahan Sabki Lagi Hai, a debut effort by Satavisha Bose and Cyrus R. Khambatta, has none of these. When the technicians leave much to be desired, it’s the writers and the actors that need to step up. Sadly they too let us down, even as we go into the theatre not knowing what to expect. And it also doesn’t help to be a road movie and arrive soon after the ground breaking NH10. Agreed, it’s not a fair comparison, but given the timing, it’s inescapable.
The makers of YSKLH had an idea, but perhaps didn’t know how best to go about executing it. The film holds a mirror to a lot of issues, especially in the lives of urban young India. It also tries to show the disparities in the lifestyle and thinking of the haves and the have-nots through a bunch of youngsters, some reckless, some crooked, some ignorant and some idealistic.
We have a footloose, rich girl Kesang (Eden Shyodhi), her merchant navy officer boyfriend Bharat (Varun Thakur), their friend Shanti (Teeshay Shah) and Kesang’s loyal driver Chandu (Heerok Das). These group of friends, (barring Bharat) with deep pockets, seem to know nothing beyond the art of rolling a mean joint. Kesang, Bharat and Chandu have an ugly encounter with a small-time gang of drug dealers during a road trip. Chandu, the driver, in fact is part of the gang, who gets betrayed by his own people. They get drugged, mobbed, beaten up and left in the jungle. And things go from bad to worse.
There is a plot and a sub plot and then some. There’s also some toying with a non-linear narrative. In trying to express how rudderless these lives are, the film too loses the plot. So all you have is a cluster of really sad, screwed up lives that seem to have no escape route. While the characters drown in their own frustration, the audience tends to echo those sentiments, but not out of empathy. The story tellers make it hard to feel for the characters who appear to have no reason to get wasted and pay for it. The only exception being Bharat and Chandu, the real victims of circumstances.
There are scenes that are mind-numbingly disturbing and in my opinion could have been avoided, or even subtly toned down. In quest for authenticity and holding a mirror to society and all that, they only serve to leave a bad taste in the mouth. It’s a multi-lingual film where the characters speak in English, Bengali, Hindi and a little Marathi too. The dialogues are very urban and every day, heavily peppered with abuses, but the delivery is grating, almost on the border of testing your patience at times. The performances are strictly average, nothing to write home about. Eden has the maximum screen time, but she has a long way to go before she can make it count. Varun is over the top and a bit too high pitched in some scenes. Heerok is convincing as a confused poor crook. On paper, the characters with their back stories, are layered, but the translation on screen is as flat as it gets.
The story has pace but falters when it comes to substance. The background score is a plus and perhaps one of the few things that add some edge to the limping narrative. With better performances and more nuanced writing, this would have been a very different film. Also, the directors needed to have a tighter grip on the many stories they are trying to tell in two hours.
Yahan Sabki Lagi Hai --- these words are not exactly inviting. And if you thought that was odd, read the subtitle: Everybody Gets Screwed Here. One thing’s for sure, the title is as honest as it gets. But that’s not good news.