Bollywood has always been plagued by a need to make its movies commercial. Directors rarely try and apply themselves thoroughly, fearing that they might alienate a lot of their audience. Even most of commercial Hollywood flicks have more substance that an average Bollywood drama.
Raajneeti changes all that. It is a brilliantly directed movie which is intelligent, enthralling and commercial at the same time.
The movie’s plot is of a political family which disassociates when their patriarch Bhanu Pratap suffers a stroke. The control of the party naturally shifts to his younger brother Chandra Pratap. Bhanu Pratap further chooses Chandra Pratap’s son Prithvi Pratap( Arjun Rampal) over his own son Virendra Pratap [Manoj Bajpai]. This does not sit well with Virendra who with the help of a Dalit leader Suraj [Ajay Devgan] unleashes a fierce power struggle within the party.
The story of the movie follows this gory power struggle. This power struggle has an uncanny resemblance to ‘The Mahabharata’. Its characters position themselves into roles similar to those of Arjun, Krishna, Duryodhana, etc. Though ‘Raajneeti’ does have a major dissimilarity to the epic…
It has no heroes.
All the characters are immoral at some level. They try and justify to themselves the appalling choice of actions they take, but at no point will you find yourself siding with any of them. You may empathize with their motives or the conditions under which they act, but you will never be able to identify any one of them as an infallible hero. This aspect of the film takes it beyond most of the commercial drabble that is spewed across the silver screen come every Friday. ‘Raajneeti’ is ostensibely courageous and unapologetic. You will love it for that.
Another aspect of the movie that should be applauded is its intelligence. The script is laden with smart witty conversations, well thought out plots and genius twists. Even the subtlety incorporated, is brilliant. ‘Raajneeti’ does not insult the audience’s intelligence by unnecessarily stating the obvious (unlike New York). The subtlety might even motivate you to watch this movie more than once.
Further, Raajneeti also scores points for being current. Its plot makes sure to cover most of the drama surrounding politics that gets to us through the popular media. It uses cheap dirty political tricks throughout its length that make it look realistic. Though I must emphasize, that realism isn’t its strongest point. If scrutinized well enough, you might notice some improbabilities.
I would also like to address the controversies surrounding this film. ‘Raajneeti’ has no resemblance to any political personality at all! In fact, besides being based on The Mahabharata it shares a bit of its personality with The Godfather. The impunity with which the members of the family take the law into their hands will definitely remind you of the Corleones!
One very interesting character in the plot is Samir Pratap [Ranbir Kapoor] the younger brother of Prithvi Pratap, an NRI who is on a short visit to India. He has no intention or motive to get into politics or associating himself with any of the accompanied ugliness. Though, as soon as his family is threatened, he unleashes a vicious retaliatory plan. It is just for the sake of vengeance, that he throws himself into the blood bath that ensues. Ranbir Kapoor does well to lose his chocolate boy image for this role. One can only hope that he sticks to this level of maturity!
Katrina Kaif plays the role of Indu Pratap, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She is the character who comes closest at being a hero. Though, by the end of the movie, I didn’t find her blotch free. Katrina’s acting is still barely passable. Thankfully, she doesn’t have much to do.
Other actors also do justice to the intense plot. Veterans like Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai and Ajay Devgan do exactly what is expected of them. Their performances are the reason why this film appears so realistic. Even Arjun Rampal executes one of his finest works yet. He manages to strike the right balance as his character waivers between being heroic and being a villain.
Besides the occasional lack of realism, there are some other shortcomings too. For example, the background score is unfortunate! Sure… the Vande Matram theme does the trick whenever it’s played, but besides that the score seems to have little relevance to the plot at most occasions. Secondly, there seems to be a tendency of the director to hold back both on sex as well as violence. I feel that by losing its U/A certification, Raajneeti could have done a much better job.
In conclusion, I would like to say that there is no reason that anyone should chose not to watch this movie. Prakash Jha executes with great panache what people have anticipated from him. This movie reminds us what the effect of cinema can be when it is used by the right people!