Respite and relief. This is exactly how I felt walking out of the cinema after watching Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti. Thanks to the filmmaker, we have officially been bestowed with 2010’s best film thus far. Praise the Bollywood God; he has finally been kind on us. My expectations of the director were scorching high considering the film has a boastful cast of some of the best in the industry: Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgn, Manoj Vajpayee and Naseeruddin Shah. And then there are other actors who have surprised us in the recent past including Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. The film, obviously based around Indian Politics, is also based around the epic Mahabharata. With a filmography that reaches vast and wide, one can only expect an award-winning production and performances. Raajneeti is a political saga bestows precisely what it promises.
The film opens with Bharati Pratap (Nikhila Tirkha) rebelling against her father, the Chief Minister (Darshan Jariwala) only fall into an illicit relationship with the leader of a rival party Bhanskar Sanyal (Naseeruddin Shah). While he disappears after a fateful night, Bharati gives birth to a child who is left in a basket by her uncle Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar). Bharati is then married off into a strong political family and is told to forget her past. As years wear on, the political party falls apart and her son Prithvi Pratap (Arjun Rampal) finds himself fighting his cousin Virendra Pratap (Manoj Vajpayee) as they fight for a ticket to the elections. Brother to Prithvi, Samar Pratap (Ranbir Kapoor) makes his way back from the U.S. to meet his family. Just when he is about head back to complete his doctorate degree and into the arms of his firang girlfriend Sarah (Sarah Thompson), his father is shot dead. In order to save the political party from falling apart, he slyly convinces Indu (Katrina Kaif) to marry his brother, a girl who loves Samar deeply. Virendra finds himself handling his party with Sooraj (Ajay Devgan), who happens to be Bharati’s illegimate child. The family is torn apart and amidst more chaos, it is Indu who must carry on the name of the family as she makes her way into politics with the help of Samar.
Raajneeti is every socio-political movie fan’s delight. From the get-go you are introduced into the world of corruption, deceit and bribery. Prakash Jha does an absolutely top-notch job of keeping the film interesting, gripping and enticing despite the story being of a serious nature. The execution of Anjum Rajabali’s and Jha’s script and dialogues has been completely justified by the actors who have been casted to perfection. As a director, Jha knows the ropes and demonstrates that in every scene of Raajneeti. The screenplay is strong to the extent that it is virtually impossible to find loopholes in the script. The subtle Mahabharata story has been cleverly interwoven into the script which starts with the family’s division over power and money and ends with a smart anecdote between Nana Patekar and Ranbir Kapoor; a scene not to be missed!
However, if one were to find a single negative aspect to the film, it would be the length; it is all of three hours long. But even then, what could you possibly edit? Every scene is so solid and required.
If the screenplay is fantastic, then the performances are even better and support Jha’s script one hundred percent. In fact, the actors really work the film and each one binds the film ensuring its resilient script is flawless. Breaking down the performances individually would be the only acceptable honor the cast of Raajneeti.
Ranbir Kapoor: It was last year post Wake Up Sid! that the world finally realized that Ranbir Kapoor had turned from star to actor. He furthers proves this with his enactment of the sacrificing yet sly brother. From a Mahabharata standpoint, Ranbir plays Arjun and wows! Kapoor is the backbone of the film.
Arjun Rampal: A serious surprise in Raajneeti! Arjun is fantastic and honest as the impulsive and feisty politician who is willing to do anything to reach to the top. Raajneeti will be a changing point for Rampal’s career.
Manoj Vajpayee: There is no doubt that Manoj Vajpayee is an actor par excellence. And with Raajneeti, he becomes an actor who can play any role with ease and nuance, even if that is one that is nothing but negative.
Ajay Devgn: Yet again, Ajay Devgn confirms that he is one of the finest in the country. No one, and I mean no one, can do what he does in a film; play a supporting actor and yet hold his own in a film. When he shouts, your skin crawls and when he cries, your hair rises.
Nana Patekar: We need to see Nana Patekar a lot more often. He doesn’t scream in Raajneeti, nor does he get loud. He underplays his role to perfection. It is Nana Patekar who is Krishna from the Mahabharata. Fantastic and how!
Katrina Kaif: Unfortunately, Katrina filters in and out of the film but nevertheless readers, Kaif has finally become an actress. Her transition from young ambitious girl to sacrificial political goat and finally the future of politics, she shed the glam look for a traditional one and does it with great apt.
The rest of the cast must be mentioned simply because no one deserves to be left out: Naseerudin Shah – Short and sweet; Nikhila Trikha – Who would believe she is all of 30 and plays Ranbir’s mom with such grace? She is one to watch out for!; Shruti Seth – her role is incredibly brief but impactful; Sarah Thompson – Yet another great performance; Chetan Pandit – Perfect!; Darshan Jariwala – As usual, spot on. The additional supporting cast all put up great acts.
While there is no place for any dances in the film, the background music is worthy of praise. Raajneeti is engaging and dirty, entertaining and honest, demands attention and will make you think. Finally an intelligent film comes out of Bollywood this year. If you’re a socio-political fan, you need to watch Raajneeti. If you want to see a film with real performances, you should watch Raajneeti and lastly, if you want to see Hindi cinema at its finest, you must watch Raajneeti.