A story that has been “inspired” by The Godfather and has borrowed “context” from The Mahabharata seems to be aping the right things. Directed by Prakash Jha, the man who gave us “Gangajaal” and “Apaharan”, Rajneeti is the story of Politics set in modern day India.
At the outset, it is obvious that there is some thought that has gone into the making of this movie. The sets are larger than life, one star face after another looks back at you for the first 10 minutes of the movie (some bigger and better than the others) and there looks like there is a coherent, if familiar, narrative running through the movie.
From the Mahabharata, there are 2 sides of the same family that are fighting each other for power in the upcoming state elections. The erstwhile leader of the political party suffers a stroke and instead of handing over power to his son Veerendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpai), he appoints his brother the leader of the party along with his nephew Prithviraj Pratap (Arjun Rampal) as the new General Secretary. This enrages Veerendra who demands that his Uncle give him the post of President of the party.
Upon finding himself ousted from the high seat of power, Veerendra finds an unlikely supporter, schemer and confidante in Sooraj (Ajay Devgan) a young man of the powerful Dalit community. Being a leader amongst his kind, Sooraj is guaranteed a voice as he is backed by his community and seems to have the fortitude to cause some change.
Drawing inspiration from The Godfather, Prithviraj welcomes home his younger brother Samar Pratap (Ranbir Kapoor) from across the seas. Ostensibly home to celebrate his Uncles birthday, Samar stays behind when as the battle lines are drawn and he becomes embroiled in the battle to win. The cherry on this side of the family is the presence of Consigliere Brij Mama (Nana Patekar). An advisor to the family, it is Brij Mama who runs the show from behind the scenes and puts out the fires when all hell breaks loose (which happens a lot). Indu Pratap (Katrina Kaif) plays Samar’s one sided love track.
There is a lot of slam bang in the movie, key member of families dying, murder most foul, alliances made and kept in the sake of winning and other such schmooze that one finds in Politically driven stories. Where this one works, is even when one feels like there are too many dramatic moments coming too quick, Prakash Jha drives home some more, and like a sledgehammer, does not stop till the movie ends. Yes it become predictable because it’s inspired from such popular works, but the effort the cast puts in to making it work in today’s time and context is commendable. Arjun Rampal is a tad off, trying a little too hard to pull of his ruthless look at times and stumbling into his uber-cool real life persona at others, Manoj Bajpai is commendable as the desperate-for-power-at-any-cost. Katrina Kaif is above-average at most time, coming into her own only in the last quarter of the film as the stoic widow. Ajay Devgan and Ranbir Kapoor are rather good in their respective roles, both serious, brooding and conniving at the same time but in different ways, but the star of this movie is Nana Patekar. The wily old fox comes off as the most natural looking character in the entire movie, his facial expressions saying things the screenwriter did not give his mouth to.
The editing is a little lax, running in at close to two and a half hours. The screenplay is good, and can be forgiven for its literary liberties. The direction is good overall, focusing on more or less the right things.
Looking at the number coming out after the first weekend, it looks like Prakash Jha has won this election hands down. Watch it, you could do worse.