When i was in school and we were asked to write essays on our favourite books i always wrote Mahabharata. There is a saying in Bengali :”Ja nei bharate, ta nei bharate” which means anything that did not find a place in the great epic, does not exist in India. Politics forms the crux of the epic. Dynastic politics, feud over property, power tussle between blood relations make each page of the greatest story ever told so gripping. But an adaptation of the same with Indian electoral politics as the backdrop fails to impress much. Specially so because this film comes from the kitty of Prakash Jha (who had raised the bar of film making with Gangajal). Had Karan Johar made this film i would have been all praises (like i was in MNIK; that film was pathetic too). Rajneeti works because Mahabharata works.
I will not go into the story of the film. I would just try to talk about certain aspects of the film which if absent could have made Rajneeti a classic. First is the screenplay. In the first half of the film it almost resembles a Yash raj drama! Specially the scenes between Ranbir and Katrina! The scenes went by too fast and editing was really bad which hampered the flow of the film. The songs were complete misfit and could have been given a miss! Prakash Jha should really learn how to use songs as background scores. Some concepts were cliche ridden. Dialogues were stale in most parts and evoked laughter in some serious scenes (like “tum mere jyesth putra ho”). The director’s attempt to adapt Mahabharata boomerangs. He lets many strings loose which becomes very difficult for him to sort out by the end of the film.
Violence and cash form an essential part of our politics, and this is one aspect of the film that has been dealt with, with full dedication. Marriages become business deals, no place for ideals in the game and ruthless hunting down of adversaries form the major part of the second half of the film. And that is why Rajneeti is watchable. This is Jha’s domain and he doesn’t fail. The world behind the closed doors has been shown very efficiently. And so were the scenes of public rallies and gatherings. Very grand ( i even clapped in the scene where Arjun Rampal is declared the party candidate i a rally where Manoj Vajpayee was supposed to address).
But by the end Jha gets carried away and takes a lot of liberties with the script which makes it rather weak. Or else, how could murders of two state level leaders in broad day light in the middle of the street go un-investigated? It seems he was in a hurry to wrap the film.
About the cameos. Naseeruddin Shah was a wastage. He plays Suryadev ( if you have read the Mahabharata). That reminds me, i did not know Indian men were blessed with such virility. One encounter and the woman is blessed with an offspring. The lady who played Ranbir’s love interest Sarah did justice to her role(she had little to do). Even Katrina can be called a guest star in the film. She hardly has anything to do until Rampal gets killed( and that was one scene that shook me). After watching Indu (katrina’s character) deliver that speech at a public rally my reverence for Mrs Gandhi increased at least a hundred folds.
About performances, Manoj Vajpayee was back to his Satya days, Arjun Rampal was emphatic, Ajay Devgan wins hearts, Katrina proves she can act too (in the last half an hour) and Ranbir shows shades of Al Pacino in his portrayal of Arjun (with huge influence of Michael Corleone). The show stealer was Nana Patekar. I am still confused whether he is Shakuni or Krishna! But i am biased towards the latter. The political advisor and guru of Ranbir, he pulls the strings in the game and he does it with elan.
Had the sub plots been dealt with more maturely and had the screenplay and editing been more crisp, the film could have become a masterpiece. Mahabharata and Godfather are epics which are very difficult to recreate on screen. I prefer Kalyug over Rajneeti if adaptation of Mahabharata is the yard stick.
I rate this film a 2.5/5 and have to admit with a heavy heart, i was disappointed.
P.S. Wayne Shapre’s background score was good. And Ajay Devgan’s character proves the futility of caste politics. Although the film is not very impressive, i am all the more keen on joining politics.