Some might call Raajneeti a much brighter, friendlier version of the grittier, more morose Sarkar
. Some might call it a watery version of the infinitely more splendid Mahabharata. The naïve, however, might simply be able to enjoy Raajneeti for its more apparent worth.
Though it possesses an instantly engaging cinematic splendour, Raajneeti is like any other political drama. And by any, we mean any. There is betrayal, plotting, scheming, cold blooded murder, pawns being shifted all over ruthlessly, and basically, unusually well-groomed political leaders who smoulder their way through it all.
In brief, Samar Pratap (Ranbir Kapoor) and his brother Prithviraj Pratap (Arjun Rampal) must manage their inherited political legacy after their father gets assassinated. They have a ruthless rival in their first cousin Veerendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpai), who, Duryodhana-style, joins hands with local Dalit poster boy Sooraj (Ajay Devgn). Sooraj happens to be Samar's mother's first child, born out of wedlock (jyeshth putr
, if you must).
Scruples are a luxury here, and so are feelings. Everyone plays at this game, and everyone who does, loses some.
Raajneeti is realistic cinema to the extent that the settings are rural, the crowds are large, the conflicts are genuine, the field of political strategy has been understood, and there are people like Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai in the cast. There are powerful moments, that come in mostly when the said smouldering bunch does its said smouldering bit.
However, you quickly realize that you've seen it all before. It isn't just the fact that the role of Sooraj, one of the film's key characters, has been all-too-obviously adapted - end-to-end - from Vyasa's Karna.
For one thing, it is the fact that political games by themselves can hardly get any fresher or more novel; they've remained the same for millennia. And then, the film has some rather cheesy confrontations and resolutions to certain issues, helped along by contrived dialogue in some parts. There's also the danger of the heavy duty shuddh
Hindi alienating local Hyderabadi audiences somewhat.
The lopsided promos of Raajneeti, for their part, have managed to sideline the issue of predictability in the script. There is no central female character here, and the only women who are involved in this testosterone chess board are involved purely because of their "feminity" or "sexuality" (or "vulnerability", whichever the politically more correct word is).
Katrina Kaif's waving to the crowds lasts for a total of about 3 minutes - and it comes in at the end of her defeating battle with her feelings for the conniving Samar Pratap. Sarah Thompson plays Samar's girlfriend and fulfils the role of a foreigner who is freaked out at the brutality of Indian politics. Shruti Seth plays a Mahila party worker who uses her body in vain to get a party ticket. The mother, of course, has given
birth to the wronged son Sooraj.
The actors are in top form, as expected. Though you'd have expected more of Naseeruddin Shah the leftist, there's much meat in the rest of the acting department as well. Devgn, Nana Patekar and Bajpai are every bit as impressive as always. Ranbir Kapoor seems an actor mature beyond his years and his experience, and has great screen presence.
And despite her much-publicized look and research behind this role, Kaif has miles to go in the acting department. She's vibrant and refreshing to look at, though, and that possibly makes up for a lot else.
Raajneeti's visuals have pomp and stateliness, and an overall cinematic pleasantness. It is the kind of movie where rural grime is a concept that must be dealt with by the story rather than be romanticized by the camera; and the kind of movie where political bigwigs live, debate and negotiate in swanky and scrubbed-clean interiors.
The music is pretty powerful as well, except for one misfit of an item song.
Well, it's merely among the better films Bollywood has come out with this summer. Watch it if you're curious to see what "better" means.