In Prakash Jha’s sweeping damning and definitive look at Indian politics and its power-hungry players , Sarah Thompson is Ranbir Kapoor‘s Irish-American girlfriend who suddenly finds herself thrown into the vortex of the murkiest aspect of Indian culture… no , I don’t mean films about Indian politics, but politics the real thing. Ekdum asli maal, boss.
Sarah’s shock is never ours. We are a cynical people.
Prakash Jha known earlier for his deft Devgn-helmed Bihar-centric political thrillers (Apaharan, Gangaajal) this time explores the Mahabharat for a look at the way politics in our country governs almost every aspect of Indian existence. The Thompson character’s shocked realization of the indiscretions and immoralities of Indian politics cuts across the audiences’ perception of the world bathed in blood and corruption, manned and piloted by people who emerge out of a dynastic propensity to define power-hunger as a birthright.
Raajneeti has more characters lunging for the ballot box than the popcorn-nibbling audience can keep track of . A taut clenched drama of devastating nemesis, Raajneeti moves across its epic mythology-inspired canvas with a vigour and velocity that sweep audiences off our feet.
The way Prakash Jha captures the parched dusty bustling energy of political rallies is maha-impressive. Yes, this director understands the rudiments of politics as well as the entrances and exits of the movie-making canvas . This is no amateurish attempt to yoke the Mahabharat with Indian politics. The truth-defining moments in Raajneeti are truly shattering. The lies that co-writers Anjum Rajabali and Prakash Jha’s characters live have ricocheting ramifications.
Prakash Jha delves deep into the conscience of his characters to emerge with some acutely penetrating insight the corroded heart of the Indian body-politic.The dramatic high-points in the narration are handled with strangulated vigour. The sound of a muffled scream is never far away from the centre of the narration.
Jha’s storytelling never touches those nerve-ends in his narration where his characters would have actually expressed what they feel. You often miss a culmination to the dramatic tensions that the writers and director build so diligently. A sequence such as the one where the mother-figure(new actress Nikhila Tirkha, interesting) meets her illegitimate son(Ajay Devgn) for the first time is more interesting for its dramatic possibilities than their actual realization.Strangely,the lamguage in this mother-son reunion sequence abruptly turns to shuddh from sly.
The criss-cross of relationships in the intricate tapestry of trust betrayal murder and atonement works as a persuasive pactiche of smothered anguished dramatic ambivalence. No character is allowed ample space to express his or her innermost desires and ambitions.
Katrina’s character for example, is so underdeveloped , we never know what she really wants to get out of her space in life . The brutality with which she is shoved by the male characters from rebuffed love to a marriage of political convenience to a widowed political career, is a plot of immense dramatic potential, alas sketchily realized.
We see Jha’s gallery of dynastic politicians in all their ruthless glory. But we never get close enough to them to connect with their lust greed pain anger and hunger.
The squalor and ugliness of Indian politics is put on screen with cutting immediacy. There are interesting side-characters , like the ambitious female politician from Sitapur(Shruti Seth) who uses sex for barter and female newscasters, rallyists and petty politicians played by actors who seem to know the world they are meant to occupy from the fringes.
The trouble with the over-laden plot is that all the major characters clamour to be emblematic and individualistic. They are types and yet unique in the way their portray political cliches. They inhabit the two worlds with just about enough conviction to make this a political drama high on content if somewhat low on emotions.
What really elevates Raajneeti to the level of a powerful political parable of our times are the performanes. Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal and Ajay Devgn(in that order) get a firm grip over their characters and carry their tumultuous karma to a logical culmination.
Katrina Kaif comes into her own in the last 15 minutes. She looks vulnerable and resplendent as a girl forced to put power over her heart. As for Ranbir Kapoor he is actually the backbone of Raajneeti. He brings a reined-in steel-edged ruthlessness to his character. For sure there is no other actor from his generation who could have played this character.
The pair’s goodbye sequence at the end of the film is so discreetly and deftly handled, you wish there was more moments between the two.
Raajneeti is not just a film that opens up the tattered edges of Indian politics. It dares to walk right into the muck, with restraint vigour and some sensitivity. The film has some outstanding cinematography by Sachin Kumar Krishnan . The camera seems to be looking into places in the characters’ psyche that perhaps even the screenplay isn’t aware of.