Movie Review: Raajneeti

Film: Raajneeti

Director/writer: Prakash Jha

Lead Cast: Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai

Rating: 8/10 – Perhaps the best ever political/family drama in Bollywood

Having spent his early life since birth in Bihar (west Champaran), Prakash Jha undoubtedly has a great vantage point to understand and depict all that is ugly about society and politics in states like UP and Bihar. We all saw it earlier in Mrityudand, Gangajal and Apaharan. All three were hard hitting socio-political commentaries, more than being entertaining films. And with Raajneeti, he has surpassed his own brilliance, and his storytelling canvass. It had to be, because Rajneeti is a deft and astute combination of Mahabharat’s epical story and characterization with the heart wrenching wretchedness of Indian politics. Prakash knows the political turf so well, that the political rallies in the film are a treat to watch. The cinematography is so well that the camera seems to incorporates the vastness of Indian political circus and the narrowness of the politicians with equal ease.

But before I move ahead, I must reaffirm that none of this would have been possible if Rajneeti wasn’t inspired by the ageless, peerless political/family drama called Mahabharat penned by Ved Vyas centuries ago. Mahabharat is not only the longest epic of the world or the story of feuding brothers, but also one of the world’s foremost political commentaries. And it was written much before Chanakya gave his Chanakyaneeti, much before Cervantes wrote his Don Quixote. Politics finds its genesis in feuding families and warring brothers. Mordern Indian politics is just a blown out version of what happens in most big Indian families.

Even Praksh Jha openly acknowledges the influence of Mahabharat in this movie. Let me talk about it in more detail. The similarities are very interesting. The character played by Nikhila Trikha (the matriarch of the family) the equivalent of Kunti (of Mahabharat) has an affair with her political mentor, Bhaskar (“Bhaskar” is a synonym for Sun, who, in Mahabharat had “blessed” Kunti with a son before her marriage) Sanyal, and gives birth to an illegitimate child. This child is later called Sooraj Kumar (son of Sun), played by Ajay, and is the equivalent of Karna. Sooraj Kumar is supported by Veerendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpai) when everyone else publicly humiliate him. So, like Mahabharat, Veerendra (like Duryodhan) becomes the patron and friend of Sooraj. In the rival camp is Prithviraj Pratap (Yudhisthir) played by Arjun Rampal, his brother Samar Pratap (Arjun) played by Ranbir Kapoor and their mama, Brij Gopal (Krishna written all over his name) played by Nana Patekar. Watch the trailer below, and you’ll understand who is who.

These characters are the pillars of the movie, and the reason why they are so strong is because they derive their nature from the immortal epic. You just can’t ignore the guru-shishya relation of Krishna-Arjun between Nana and Ranbir. Samar Pratap is the chosen one of Brij Gopal and is the epitome of ruthless, conniving, power hungry Indian politican. Like Krishna, Brij Gopal is the master strategiest, who knows no other dharma but the dharma of raajneeti. In the climax scene he gives Samar a lecture on Raajneeti dharma, when Samar’s determination becomes weak (like Krishna’s Gita updesha in the battle of Kurukshetra).

When Samar’s mother realizes that Sooraj Kumar is her own child, she goes to meet him to bring him back to the family. But Sooraj, like Karna refuses, pledging his lifelong allegiance to Veerendra. The final Yudh of Raajneeti is the mid term assembly elections. And to win this election many a lives are sacrificed and taken. The Rajneeti of Brij Gopal does become victories in the end but not before it teaches everyone involved, the wretchedness of politics, not before Samar Pratap realizes that he has lost everything in this ugly game of power and position. The family is destroyed forever.

A great immortal story, unforgetable characters, exemplary performances from all lead cast, the political and social grassroots understanding of Prakash Jha, the above par cinematography and the superb dialogues (except for when Nikhila called Sooraj her “jyeshtha putra!!” who uses that phrase these days?? That was trying too hard.) bringing out the frustration, hatred, jealousy, anger of the characters, all make this movie a must watch.

But squeezing the multilayered and complex story of Mahabharat in three hours is impossible. And that’s one of the weakness of Raajneeti. There is no chance to explore the individuality of any of the characters. They are all just small players in a grand epical drama being played on a giant canvas. But the very fact that Prakash attempted that without much damage and still managed to showcase accurately the ugliness of Indian Politics is a commendable task.

After a long time I have seen an exceptionally crafted Bollywood movie, where story is the king. Hats off to Prakash Jha for that! Reportedly, he worked on the script of this film for five years. And the result is in front of all to see. But Prakash can’t take all the credit for the brilliance of this movie. He will have to share it with Ved Vyas, India’s greatest storyteller. But then, that’s a compliment very few get.

So folks, go watch this movie. Watch it even if you don’t know the p of politics. For this film is more about the corruption of an Indian joint family, than about party politics. And also watch this very interesting discussion on the film given below.


2 Comments to “Movie Review: Raajneeti”

  1. Dear Shiv,

    I am agreed with all the ppoint which you wrote amout the movie and the rating you gave to the movie. But you should have criticised about the acting of evry actors (lead roles). The directors has given the exact role to everybody and they have done justice to their character…except one person that is THE RANBIR KAPOOR. He was seriously awesome in the role of Samar. Though his character is such that the audience will see only him, but he also shown us the great acting skilss he has. Being in the lead role of the he got the responsibility to make the charcter a perfect strategist, a shrewd and cunning apolitical character and he has done that. I think he is showing his immense talent in acting. He is very much a versatile character and able to show his skills as a romantic hero, a comedian, spiled brat, a casanova and in serious role. A real challenge for the Khans (Shahrukh and Amir) and someone who still for more than a decade.

  2. Sugata,

    I guess I should have talked more about individual performances also. But the reason I avoided it, is because it would have made this review too long. Moreover I do really feel that all the lead actors have done great.

    However Ranbir and Manoj Bajpai do deserve special mention. We all know that Ranbir has great talent and is most versatile of all the star kids. Plus he got the best role in the film. So naturally, he was outstanding. But others were also good! Lot of people have said that Nana has done better before. Of course he has, in films where he got the lead role. Here his role demanded a shrewd and silent performance and Nana was excellent in that. If you take Arjun Rampal, for the first time I have seen him really act! Ajay Devgan didn’t have much screen time or an author backed role. So obviously he couldn’t have done much here. But whatever time he got he was excellent in that.

    And yes, Ranbir has scting skills, has star quality, has good looks. So, yes, he is definitely going to rule the next decade.

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