Operation Y is best known by Russian students as the first Russian movie they experience. It’s prolific director, Leonid Gaidai’s first feature film and is enormous fun to watch.
Operation Y and Shurik’s Other Adventures (Операция „Ы“ и другие приключения Шурика / Operatsiya „Y“ i drugie priklyucheniya Shurika) is a classic Soviet comedy film. It was shot in 1965 by prolific director, Leonid Gaidai. It’s the seventh most successful Soviet movie ever with 70 million box office views.
The film consists of three short stories: “Workmate” (Напарник), “Déjà vu” (Наваждение) and “Operation Y” (Операция „Ы“). Each story follows the adventures of a naive university student named Shurik (Aleksandr Demyanenko). Amusingly, he can’t help but put himself in difficult situations.
For many Russian language students, Operation Y is the first Russian movie they experience. It’s full of slapstick humor and is altogether quite easy for a foreigner to understand. On top of that, it’s a great introduction to the comedies of Leonid Gaidai. Some of his other works include The Diamond Arm and Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession. You’ll find that many of the actors in Operation Y appear in other Gaidai movies.
A hooligan named Fedya causes trouble on a bus by refusing to let a young pregnant woman take his seat. However, the film’s protagonist, Shurik, offers his seat to the pregnant woman instead. Enraged at this, Fedya attacks Shurik. And because of this, he is sentenced to community service.
As luck would ahve it, Fedya’s community service is at the same construction site where Shurik works part-time. Unfortunately, Fedya continues to abuse Shurik. Eventually, though, Shurik stands up for himself and fights back. After fighting and chasing each other throughout the construction site, Surik emerges victorious. He subdues Fedya with the now famous catchphrase, “Надо, Федя, надо!” (You must, Fedya, you must!).
It’s summertime at the university and all the students are cramming for their exams. Shurik is no exception. He runs about desperately trying to find other students’ study materials to cram from. Upon finding a girl reading her lecture notes he proceeds to follow her.
Shurik and this girl, Lida, are so absorbed in their reading that they do not notice one another. Amazingly, this continues even when they’re together at Lida’s home.
After the exam, a friend introduces Shurik and Lida to each other. They immediately have a connection. Back at Lida’s, she becomes convinced that Shurik has telepathic abilities, as he is able to tell where everything is in her home. They kiss.
Meanwhile, another student tries to cheat on his physics exam by constructing a concealed radio. However, the examiner catches him red-handed. And so, the sneaky student receives an excellent score for his design and a fail for the exam itself.
A warehouse manager hires three criminals to stage a break-in and cover up his own thievery. The criminals are none other than the famous comedic trio nicknamed Fool (Балбес), Coward (Трус) and Stager (Бывалый). They are played by Yuriy Nikulin, Georgiy Vitsin, and Yevgeni Morgunov respectively. (You’ll see these three pop up in the rest of Gaidai’s movies).
The crooks’ carefully laid plan hits a snag when the young Shurik replaces his landlady-babushka as the guard of the warehouse.
A slapstick fight ensues in which Shurik fends them all off, only to accidentally knock himself out with a chloroform-soaked handkerchief.
Operation Y was enormously popular in the USSR and is still a source for many everyday expressions by Russians to this day. The movie is the seventh most successful Soviet movie ever with 70 million box office views.