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Genre: Political Drama/Thriller
Rating: 4/5

Directors like Prakash Jha have been repeatedly trying to scope the Indian political revolution with undertones of current affairs. The audience needs something sensational yet real, and what’s more than hooliganism practiced by Indian politicians, adding impersonations of politicians or events we know in the present or past. The plot of Raajneeti is no-so-plain state politics of India today, set in Madhya Pradesh. The Chief Minister (CM) of state becomes physically paralyzed. Evidently, there are multiple, capable, charismatic leaders in the party ready to take on the reins, each having junta’s support and being able to sway situations as and how they need towards own benefit – needless to add, murders, corruption, sexual favours, blackmailing, extortion, and above all, allegations follow. Above and beyond ego hassles, the torrid state of affairs creates two power blocs within the party, which split away as separate parties each vying for CM’ship. The chunk of the story is about the power struggle. Raajneeti draws considerable inspiration from the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, both through story and characterization.

It’s official. Ranbir Kapoor has it. Consistently outdoing himself through each performance, variety of plot and genre, Ranbir is most certainly on his way to become the next Bollywood biggie. A style of his own even in presence of stalwarts, Ranbir’s character (Samar Pratap) is etched to call spade a spade, be a conniving politician and be just that, which he does with great √©lan. Possibly taking cues from some of the young desi politicians of today, he does not overdo his body language, or show any aggression. How he plots a situation, the low-yet-confident tone in his voice adds to Samar’s aura. His charisma is underscored by his vilayati babu mannerisms, very good fashion sense, his purported phoren PhD possibly, decent command over English, gori girlfriend, spectacles all add to building Samar’s image. He’s also made his ‘thinking face’ very noticeable, and in line with Samar’s nature. The crown jewel though as a lead character in a Prakash Jha flick, is Ranbir’s MP Hindi diction.

Ajay Devgan has convincingly played an individual from a backward clan (Sooraj Kumar) snatching political limelight, but the role did not challenge his caliber really. With not much to speak, and playing Karna in this Mahabharata, he has stayed in the shadow of Duryodhana (Manoj Bajpai playing Virendra Pratap). The merit of his role though, is being able to completely turn the fate of situations through his political overtures before the other party could even begin strategizing. Mainly required to portray agony, and mental unrest and calming any aggression with his dialogue-baazi, Ajay proves his versatility with minimal effort. Manoj Bajpai is all facial expressions, excellent Hindi diction and appropriate aggression. Overdressed sometimes, yet he manages to snatch eyeballs in a shot with multiple characters too. He has made Virendra’s emotions much visible through his Hindi enunciation.

Nana Patekar as Brij Mohan plays a passive, composed, smiling-but-slimy senior mentor of a political party. His screen presence is not captivating, and his dialogue delivery is monotonous. But Brij’s characterization is stronger in the second half of the movie, and key in adding momentum. Arjun Rampal as Prithvi Pratap is the surprise package in Raajneeti. The challenge for him must have been to play a non-urban politician based in MP. He’s used his Hindi-speaking skills with some slang towards his characterization well. His Slang-lish comes in the way sometimes but his aggression while instructing party-workers, talking down upon policewalahs, carless banter are all mannerisms expected of a bucketed Bollywood image of a desi politician. Arjun in jeans, or Arjun in a khadi kurta, his performance screamed he’s here to stay. Katrina Kaif as Indu does not fit the bill perfectly. Apart from looking glam here and there, Indu’s character has been mismanaged, timing, length, and direction all let loose. But Katrina has displayed better acting ability this time around, express’d during the last 30 minutes where she becomes a politician (too). Possibly impersonating Sonia Gandhi, she comfortably steps into the garb of a public personality. One thing deserving mention is her Hindi diction, apparently grown by leaps and bounds.

In short, Director Prakash Jha’s modus operandi  was to put-together events that pitched characters against each other so they form camps. Build each camp’s strength; gradually decline one’s ability to score, so eventually the other wins. Merit must be given to researching local politics in MP, character impersonations (reminiscent of Ramnika Gupta, Sonia Gandhi, Mahabharata characters, etc), heavy MP Hindi dialect coupled with some hard-hitting dialogue-delivery. How they managed to keep (expectedly unruly) crowds together for real, possibly wearing same clothes (if shot over multiple days) must have been pretty challenging for Prakash, given so many public interaction scenes. There are no flaws in the direction really, except that the transitions of characters to different shades are quick and unjustified, which brings us to Screenplay, put together by Anjum Rajabali and Prakash Jha and Editing by Santosh Mandal.

It’s another thing that Ranbir pulled it off but it’s not justified how a newbie with no political experience suddenly starts strategizing for a political party and is immediately accepted. How the families are quiet about murders of close associates, a dehati Babulal  being gay, etc are unjustified too. It wasn’t required Raajneeti be another Mahabharata, but the storyline has stuck close: the Karna-Duryodhana friendship, Krishnarjuna Gita-saar, etc are notable. Cinematography by Sachin Krishn is pretty average. The story did not require stellar work in this department, but Sachin has captured MP town interiors and crowds very well. By focusing close-up on actors’ expressions, Sachin has added more appeal to the cast; this is especially true for Ranbir Kapoor. Background Music by Wayne Sharpe has good amount of piano, is subtle and is not dramatic making dialogue the focus. No song-and-dance sequences is a saving grace.

Why 4/5:
The long chain of events leading to climax is not illogical, but not absolutely critical to the climax either. Quite a few sequences could have been done away with or shortened (phases establishing political leverage for younger members of the 2 parties, bhashans, confrontations, etc). Post-climax is plausible though, with Samar letting himself out of the politics and letting the interested do their job. It’s a relatively well-known story for Indian audiences, but portrayed within realms of current affairs and people, and in deeper detail. The ensemble of an established cast with brilliant performances makes Raajneeti a delightful watch. 

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