If anything goes in politics and elections, why not make a film on politics in which anything goes! While the film’s name is Raajneeti, the story is more about one-upmanship between two families. Scripted with a gun, the film takes a few characters with traits and attributes out of Mahabharat and blends them with those from the all time Hollywood classic The Godfather. So we have Arjun Rampal, a cross between Bheem and Sonny Corleone; Ranbir Kapoor combines Arjun and Michael Corleone; Nana Patekar as Krishna with a dash of Tom Hagen; while Ajay Devgn is Karna and Manoj Bajpai is Duryodhan. The end and the means to achieve it being identical, here it is political territory as against underworld domain.
Initially, as the first few reels unwind with a commentary attempting to establish the family equations, one is at sea with the proceedings. And the things start becoming somewhat interesting as there is more to what is happening than mere party meetings. The story is about two brothers dominating the politics of a state when the elder brother, Jahangir Khan, suffers a stroke and is rendered motionless. He wills that his younger brother, Chetan Pandit, along with his son, Arjun Rampal, take over the party reigns giving no explanations for keeping his own son, Manoj Bajpai out! The battle lines are drawn as Bajpai wants to run the show and file his own candidates to contest elections. So far the battle for dominating the politics is mostly verbal and gets interesting as Ranbir Kapoor enters and there is some hint of romance. At that point, the power struggle enters its violent stage as Chetan Pandit is shot dead and his two sons, Arjun Rampal and Ranbir Kapoor decide to take to arms, too.
As the film enters its second half, it leaves a trail of violence; it becomes The Godfather revisited through a Hindi belt Indian political clan, so to say. Once set on the path, the film even borrows scenes and sequences from this Hollywood classic. If someone has betrayed any of the two sides or ratted, there is no explanation or reason why; viewer is expected to accept it because it is there on the screen. What impact the script can’t make, is attempted through visuals; crowd scenes are well created and executed. Despite the length, the long references to communities, minor as well as backwards, just add to tedium. Especially since the film has no emotions, romance or music to fall back on for a breather between the orgy of violence.
Performances are generally of high standards. Arjun Rampal adds a feather to his cap with this film. Nana Patekar excels in a perfectly cast role of saying little conveying a lot bystander of the family. Ranbir Kapoor, playing one with suppressed anger, is impressive. Manoj Bajpai is suitably loud and aggressive giving a purpose to the retorts. Katrina Kaif’s Barbie doll look and expressions are on diminishing returns now, getting to be too familiar. Ajay Devgn faces nothing challenging to do and his role, surprisingly, is that of a glorified henchman! Naseeruddin Shah has just two sequences. Of the rest, Shruti Seth and Nikhila Trikha do well while Chetan Pandit, Jahangir Khan and Vinay Apte support well.
Although the music seems to have been sacrificed due to length, it’s the songs Mora piya and Bheegisi bhaagisi, are appealing. Dialogue is good at places but, in totality, lack the punch. Cinematography by Sachin Krishn is the high point of the film amplifying director Prakash Jha’s ambitious execution of crowd-filled frames besides adding to the blasts and other such scenes.
Prakash Jha has thought bigger this time around but has preferred to stick to his favourite theme of politics and the system; while his claim may be of depiction of Indian politics vis-à-vis Indian democracy, alas, the atmosphere in the film shows only local Hindi belt flavour. Not that the Indian audience would care much even for national politics as a medium of entertainment.
The anxiety for Raajneeti so far was due to its youthful and talented star cast which has brought around 50 per cent opening to an otherwise dry film. Having opened to a better box office in UP, Bihar and MP, the film’s appreciation will be limited to these areas.