Movie - Raajneeti (Hindi)
Director - Prakash Jha
Producer - Prakash Jha, Ronnie Screwvala
Cast - Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgn, Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Sarah Thompson, Shruthi Seth, Darshan Jariwala, Daya Shankar Pandey, Nikhila Tirkha etc.
Music - Wayne Sharpe, Pritam, Adesh Shrivastav, Shantanu Moitra
Cinematography - Sachin Krishn
Editor - Santosh Mandal
Story, Dialogues - Prakash Jha
Screenplay - Anjum Rajabali, Prakash Jha
Background Score - Wayne Sharpe
Art - Jayant Deshmukh
Release Date - 4th June 2010.
Very rarely do movies leave you overwhelmed!! And when they do, you cant feel happier than that. The last time a Hindi movie did that to me was Taare Zameen Par (3 Idiots was fantastic, but it didnt quite reach there). After that, many great movies have come and gone. But none of them created such an amazing impact on me. Raajneeti may not be a flawless film, but for me, its one of the best Hindi movies I've seen. Being a HUGE fan of the Mahabharat and any kind of stories even mildly related to it, I was eagerly awaiting Prakash Jha's interpretation of the epic. Maverick filmmaker Mani Ratnam had already filmed his interpretation of the Mahabharat through his Tamil blockbuster Thalapathy, which is still fresh in my mind. So I was curious to know how differently Prakash Jha would re-tell the epic story, set in today's political situations. And while watching the movie, I realized that Raajneeti is a heady mix of not just one, but two of the greatest stories ever told - The Mahabharat and The Godfather.
Raajneeti is the story of two families, and their quest for power. Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) is appointed the new heir of the state's biggest political party by his uncle, who was the previous leader of the party. His cousin Virendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpayee), who was eying this position, automatically turns into an enemy. In the political games that follow, Viren joins hands with a young Dalit leader Suraj (Ajay Devgn) and Prithvi's younger brother Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), who is totally not interested in politics, gets dragged into the midst of events. Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar) is like a mentor and father figure to Prithvi and Samar and plays the mediator between the two families. The movie tells the tale of the fate of these two families change forever after a tragic event.
The movie begins with an explosive scene involving one of the country's best actors Naseeruddin Shah. And from then on, the 3 hour long movie does not bore you even for a second. (Even the ill-placed item song is mildly engaging because of Katrina Kaif's presence). The atmosphere, characters and the milieu is established through a narration. Thus, the director does not waste any time in establishing the characters, and gets to start off immediately with the actual plot. From then on, the director succeeds in keeping his audience at the edge of their seats till the movie is over. Not with thrilling action sequences or gimmicks, but with a power-packed screenplay written by him and writer Anjum Rajabali. We know each character of the movie like the back of your hand since we've been hearing about them from time immemorial. And after a few minutes into the movie, one can identify which character is whom and what is his significance in the Mahabharat. I'm not depriving you the fun in identifying who is whom. But yea, somewhere in between, we also see the characters and sequences of Sonny and Michael Corleone seeping into our own Bhim and Arjun, which is done pretty seamlessly by the writer.
Each actor in the movie makes a thunderous impact, in their well-etched out characters. The novel factor about this movie is that none of the characters in it are completely positive. Each character in the movie has grey shades and makes decisions according to his/her own conveniences. An explosive Naseeruddin Shah, a shrewd Nana Patekar, a cunning Manoj Bajpayee, an intense Ajay Devgn, a hot-headed Arjun Rampal, a scheming Ranbir Kapoor and a helpless Katrina Kaif form the majority of the star-studded cast. Though Naseer Saab is present only in hardly 3-4 scenes, he makes an amazing impact. Nana Patekar gets the best role in the movie, of the 'sutradhaar' and he plays it effortlessly, reminding us how great an actor he is. Manoj Bajpayee gives a spectacular performance after a long long hiatus. The explosive actor who shocked us through Satya and Shool is back in full form here. Ajay Devgn gets a role which is perhaps too short for an actor/star of his stature, but does full justice to his character, giving it the right intensity, which he is famous for. Arjun Rampal surprises us yet again with an amazing performance. The model turned actor who was a terrible actor once, matured into being a fantastic performer through films like Ek Ajnabee, Om Shanti Om and Rock On. And after his National Award winning performance in Rock On, he is back in yet another powerful role and comes out in flying colours. Ranbir Kapoor can be called as the protagonist of the movie. He is the sharp-minded, scheming successor to the all-powerful legacy. His role is not all white. In fact, the screenplay treats him as a villain at several instances. Ranbir handles all this effortlessly with the traits of a very experienced actor and gives yet another terrific performance. Another much hyped performance in the movie was that of Katrina Kaif's. She has taken a lot of effort and that should certainly be acknowledged. But her performance could have been better. Her Hindi surprised me though. She spoke shuddh Hindi very well in the movie and was pretty okay in the much-hyped campaign scene. But yea, it could have been better. Sarah Thompson is okay. Darshan Jariwala, Dayashankar Pandey, Shruthi Seth and Nikhila Tirkha are all decent.
The only flaw i could find was that Ajay Devgn's character was not developed properly. That character had enormous potential being just, unfortunate, loyal, powerful, vulnerable and dangerous, all at the same time in the epic. This is where Mani Ratnam scored over Prakash Jha, since his movie was about this character and not the entire Mahabharat, and he could explore all the emotions that this character would go through. In this one, Ajay Devgn's Suraj takes a backseat in the second half while Ranbir Kapoor carries the story forward. Also the confrontation scene with his mother could have been worked out in a better way. This one reached nowhere near the impact that the similar scene in Thalapathy had on me. The friendship between him and Manoj Bajpayee also hasnt been brought out very well. But since Jha has taken on the epic as a whole, this is just a minor fault in an otherwise fantastic screenplay. And yea, the item number was totally unnecessary. It looked forced into a film like this. Thank God that it was shortened by the editor and the song showed more footage of Katrina Kaif than the item dancer.
The screenplay is power-packed and is full of punches. In fact, you get surprised or shocked in scene after scene. And there is not a single moment of dullness in the entire film. The 3 hours are tightly packed with so many things happening at the same time, that it is difficult to grasp things if your attention is diverted from the screen even for 30 seconds. The writers have also managed to include a short Bhagvat Gita moment in the screenplay as well. The dialogues are also equally good and are written in pure, shuddh Hindi, which is something really strange in today's Hindi cinema. Nowadays Hindi movies have more English dialogues than Hindi ones. And a recent big budget movie hardly had 10% Hindi in the entire film. So the pure Hindi dialogues are so nice to hear, and they are completely in context, since the movie is about Politics, and majority of the politicians know how to use their language skills effectively through their speeches.
There are almost no songs in the movie. The only song that plays for more than a minute is the item song, which also doesnt last more than 2 minutes. The very popular 'Bheegi Si Bhaagi Si' and 'Mora Piya' come in bits and pieces at different points in the narrative. Background score by Wayne Sharpe is excellent and sets the perfect atmosphere for the movie. The Vande Mataram tune which is often repeated is awe-inspiring as always. There is a Gulzar song at the end of the movie composed in the same tune by Wayne Sharpe, which summarizes the entire movie.
Cinematography by Sachin Krishn is excellent. There are a large number of extreme wide shots and he has managed to make them look absolutely stunning. The team must really be appreciated for handling so many actors together along with humongous crowds including thousands of people. And Sachin has captured them all brilliantly through his camera. Editing by Santosh Mandal is fine and Art Direction by Jayant Deshmukh was very good.
This movie is unlike any other random Bollywood film. It is rooted in our heartland, in our politics and tells the story we've all been hearing for ages in a new perspective. And since it takes such a serious subject, dont have any pre-conceived notions that this movie will not be entertaining. It is a fantastic entertainer and keeps you hooked from the very first minute till the last minute. (Just that there are no songs, dances, comedy tracks and action scenes). Raajneeti is a high-voltage political drama which is not to be missed at any costs. It is one of the best wholesome Hindi movies in this decade, along with Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Omkara and Taare Zameen Par. I saw it on an early morning multiplex show with a very dry audience. I want to see it again in a packed single screen with the right reactions for each scene. :) :) Do yourself a favour, watch Raajneeti as soon as possible!!
P.S. - Now that I've seen Prakash Jha's version of Mahabharat. I'm equally excited about seeing what Mani Ratnam would be doing to the other epic Ramayan through his Raavan/Raavanan, releasing two weeks later.
Rating - 4.2/5