Raajneeti - Movie Review
When it comes to the political scenario in North India, few can compete with Prakash Jha's taut sense of detailing (Gangaajal, Apaharan). Raajneeti is his most ambitious project to date
Dir: Prakash Jha
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal
WHAT'S IT ABOUT: When it comes to the political scenario in North India, few can compete with Prakash Jha's taut sense of detailing (Gangaajal, Apaharan). Raajneeti is his most ambitious project to date -- it has a medley of big stars, mammoth production values and an enormous setting. But in his attempt to succumb to commercial parameters, Jha somewhat loses out on his unique ability to merge reality into the mainstream format of cinema. Raajneeti has its pensive and introspective moments but it's nowhere close to what Jha stands for. Positioned as the modern-day Mahabharata with politics as its backdrop, the film focuses on the ruthless and cold-blooded race for power. When a senior leader of a political party is indisposed, Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) is next in line to take charge. But this doesn't go too well with his cousin Veerendra (Manoj Bajpayee). Battle lines are drawn between the two -- Prithvi has his younger brother Samar (Ranbir Kapoor) and mentor Brij Gopal for support while Veerendra is aided by the local, young Dalit leader Sooraj (Ajay Devgn). As the war for oneupmanship begins, hell breaks loose with secrets and lies exposed --Sooraj stands determined despite his illegitimate connection with Prithvi's family; Samar sheds his ideals to take an integral part in the bloodshed and Indu (Katrina Kaif) is forced to sacrifice her love and settle for a compromise. This is Raajneeti -- brutal politics and victory at any cost.
WHAT'S HOT: Raajneeti is a character-driven story with a multi-star cast. Jha doesn't get intimidated by that. Each character is laced with betrayal and deceit. The director also adds purpose to their actions so there are no loose ends. It takes a while to get a grip on the narrative but once that's done, the first half offers the necessary punches. The high points are the varied relationships between each of the characters. Be it Indu's one-sided love story with Samar; the camaraderie between Veerendra and Sooraj; Samar's strategizing with Prithvi; the silent but strong bond between Samar and Brij Gopal -- it's the drama between the protagonists that fuels up the pace. To add to this, Jha scales his film a few notches above with his sweeping crowd shots -- perhaps the best in recent times. The actors themselves do a commendable job. Ajay Devgn brings intensity into every scene. He adds pathos and affliction to his character. Ranbir Kapoor gets the meatiest part and makes the best of it. From candid to sharp to calculating, he brings forth the transformation brilliantly. Arjun Rampal may not look like a politician but this is one of his finest performances. Manoj Bajpayee is the surprise packet and shines in every scene. Nana Patekar excels in the brooding moments. Katrina Kaif plays her lovelorn act convincingly. Her body language is amazing in the last 10 minutes of the film. You can't imagine anyone else playing Indu.
WHAT'S NOT: Interpreting the Mahabharata was an excellent concept but films like Hum Paanch and Kalyug, made on the same subject decades ago, were far more effective. The screenplay needed to be clever and not archaic. Jha goes way over-the-top with most of his high-octane sequences -- realism be damned. In which part of India would you find prospective CMs, senior police personnel and opposition leaders being hacked to death by rivals? If only Jha had devoted one-tenth of the time he did to creating the crowd scenes to his script, Raajneeti would've been a different experience. The amateurish handling of some scenes is shocking -- the one between Arjun and Shruti Seth will make you squirm in embarrassment, just like the kissing-in-the-rain sequence between Naseeruddin Shah and Nikhila Trikha. There's an unnecessary item number and it ends just as abruptly. The Arjun-Katrina relationship is devoid of any emotion (good or bad) and just when he needs it, the director hurriedly makes amends to prepare audiences for what follows. There were enough opportunities to explore Ajay's character but Jha leaves it half-baked. A sloppy interpretation, immature handling of critical scenes and lack of authenticity make Raajneeti a botched-up fare.
WHAT"S THAT! Naseer is shown to be a senior politician -- one night of passion with his prot �g �e and he disappears from the scene forever? The funniest (unintended) scene of the film is the talk between Nikhila Trikha and Ajay -- it's guaranteed to make you fall off your chair.
WHAT TO DO: Watch it for Ajay, Arjun, Nana and Manoj; Ranbir's stunning portrayal and Katrina's coming-of-age. The rest of Raajneeti will put you off politics forever.
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