Power. The quest for its supremacy has seen many a battle through centuries bringing chaos, destruction, bloodshed, grief and loss. Indiaâ€™s greatest epic, The Mahabharat witnessed cruel forces stand for what they seemed as right, against their brothers who, aided by a master Strategist, outsmarted the great warriors.
In the end, it never was about good or evil. It was about achieving victoryâ€¦ at any cost. Prakash Jhaâ€™s audacious venture of Raajneeti treads this very path to re-incarnate the intricate battle for supremacy.
An ensemble cast comprising of Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Naseeruddin Shah and an impressive lot of others play todayâ€™s warriors in the great battlefield of Indian politics.
The backstory of Kunti's 'first born', Karna leads us to the high stakes political game in the Pratap family after their supremo is hospitalized. The state is witnessing a transition in government and there is more than one challenger within the family itself. The battle lines have been drawn and clearly, the thirst for power has corrupted everyone involved. There is no good in this quest for victory.
Aided by Karna, Duryodhan leads his charge against the Paandavs who are aided by the experienced strategist, Krishna. After the fall of Paandu, the united brothers of Yudhishtir and Arjun salvage their position with every move, lie and trick outside the book as Krishna guides them through the battlefield. This essence of The Mahabharat has been adroitly adapted to Raajneeti's political backdrop and all credit for its intricate development goes to writers Anjum Rajabali and Mr. Jha himself. The scale is elaborate, the cast ensemble and the plot engaging but the execution of it all with the thorough script, well paced screenplay, masterful direction and flawless performances make this a remarkable film. Only Shyam Benegal adapted the epic to modern times with his Kalyug and Jha far surpasses one's expectations in this intense political thriller.
Raajneeti is not for the faint hearted who solely indulge in slap-stick comedies, heart warming tragedies, mushy love stories or any vampire chronicles. This is real, wicked, unforgiving and ruthless politics. But Jha doesn't make a documentary with this cast. There is a bit of filmy drama with women being impregnated after just one encounter, love being compromised for the ultimate goal in battle and people being used as pawns on a big chess board. At the same time, Jha is unforgiving while he portrays the brutally of battle. There are car bombs, assassins, gruesome beatings, bloodshed and profanity suited to the film's environment. It rarely fails to surprise you with every new conniving plot and strategy and the convincing performances by the actors who certainly are portraying dual characters. One being those of the film Raajneeti and the other being the celluloid reincarnations of characters from The Mahabharat.
This is also a performance powerhouse. Naseeruddin Shah ofcourse, excellent in his brief role, deserved more screen presence. Nana Patekar's simplicity in portraying the most important of characters is awe inspiring. He is indeed a mentor for the rest of them. It's been a long time since we watched Manoj Bajpai in a worthy role and what a laudable performance it was! His defining moment was his speech after Shakuni Mama's incident. Ajay Devgan being Jha's favourite man maintains his typical intensity in a solid act while Arjun Rampal delivers the most shocking performance which is also his finest yet. Watch him as he speaks to his brother on his cell phone with bloody hands and you will witness the intense actor in him. Sarah Kane in a brief role seemed quite seasoned already along with Nikhila Trikha (Kunti).
Katrina Kaif has proven her worth with Raajneeti. Jha instilled confidence in Katrina's mediocre dialogue delivery and nurtured her to reach her epitome in the public speech she makes in front of thousands. She now sheds the tag of the cute, beautiful new comer and surpasses many of her peers showing her versatility in just the past year. Speaking of which, the new force to be reckoned with is certainly Ranbir Kapoor. From being the lover boy, funny man, awakened man and salesman, he proves his mettle as the underdog who earns respect through actions. Whether he is playing chess on his BB or watching his game plan unfold on the screen or calming an infuriated, impulsive brother, Ranbir shows his composure and caliber while making his presence felt in the midst of accomplished senior artists.
The musical score also has an ensemble cast here. With Pritam, Aadesh Shrivastava, Shantanu Moitra and Wayne Sharpe, the music is brilliant. The pop-classical Ishq Barse, the melodious Bheegi Si Bhaagi Si, the uplifting theme song - Dhan dhan Dharti by Shankar and Wayne Sharpe and Aadesh Shrivastava & Shashi's outstanding Mora Piya are all excellent, even with their well remixed versions (Mora Piya 'trance' mix!). But Jha mercilessly edits the songs from the movie, only to keep a bare minimum when the screenplay could exhale.
Prakash Jha seemed to draw inspirations from The Mahabharat, 'The Godfather', 'Kalyug' as well as the 'Sarkars' and in his distinctive way, gave us an engaging, witty, hard hitting, intense drama that is a depiction of a democracy that works, but at a price. With real people, about 10,000 of them, Jha shot in locales that serve as the battlefield with superb cinematography by Sachin Krishn. His well researched and gripping script is the soul of this multi-starrer and his vision to bring the greatest epic to life just adds to the viewer's intrigue and awe element. One might even need repeated viewings in order to grasp some deeper dialogues.
Minor dramatizations apart, Jha's work is commendable simply because very few have succeeded with the scale and grandeur of Raajneeti and while critics can dissect all they want, this IS the most definitive and convincing version of The Mahabharat and the ugly face of democracy.
- 8.889 on a scale of 1-10.