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RAJNEETI. Director: Prakash Jha. Players: Nana Patekar, Naseeruddin Shah, Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai.  Music :Wayne Sharpe, Pritam Chakroborty, Aadesh Shrivastava , Shantanu Moitra.Theatrical release: UTV Motion pictures & Walkwater Media

Known for his realistic, edgy films, Prakash Jha returns with a bang after a long hiatus ( his last was Apharan in 2005).
Rajneeti, as the tagline says, is indeed “Politics…and beyond.” The mammoth canvas of this multi-layered movie is not just a cutting comment on the current dirty politics but also a brilliant analogy to the Hindu epic Mahabharata, which proves its timelessness.

If the Mahabharata was about war among first cousins over territory and kingship, Rajneeti is a family feud for the
 seat of power among similarly bloodthirsty cousins, set in the dusty politically-volatile central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is not the first time such a feud has been captured on screen, but what makes Rajneeti a landmark is the way the elements of Mahabharatahave been woven convincingly into the contemporary plot without making it seem contrived.

There is the omnipresent, omniscient, Brij Gopal (Patekar), the modern–day Krishna. He is not just a consummate politician but, to an extent, also the concerned Bhishma-like mentor  who has devoted himself to the family and calmly guides the younger generations through the convoluted paths of politics, without himself getting actively involved anywhere. Then the story of Karna is played out in the character of Sooraj (Devgn), who is rescued from anonymity by Virendra Pratap (Bajpai), the scorned heir apparent, a la Duryodhana. Finally, we have Prithviraj Pratap (Rampal) and Samar Pratap (Kapoor), the modern-day impulsive Yudhishtra (Bhim?) and the cool-headed warrior Arjun (incidentally, samar means war) at logger heads with Virendra.

An unpredictable twist of events pushes the apolitical, studious Samar into the vortex of politics. The whirlpool of dirty politics, where lives cost less than seats, brings out the inner devil in the innocent young man as he takes on the role of the efficient trouble-shooter who doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger when required.

The entire cast turns in creditable performances. Kapoor sheds his chocolate-boy image to emerge as the calculative, ruthless Samar and still manages to evoke some amount of sympathy from the viewer. Kaif impresses with the ease with which she transforms from a carefree rich kid to the political player who learns to take much in her stride. Her Hindi diction, normally tinged with a western accent, improves a lot here. Bajpai excels as the frustrated heir, who must witness others supercede him and all his machinations eat dust.

The two performers who steal their scenes are undoubtedly Patekar and Devgn. Patekar makes excellence seem like an understatement; he is there is almost every frame of the movie, saying very little but conveying much with his non-committal smile, truly the most masterful underplaying seen in recent times. Devgn is at his intense-best, smoldering eyes and seething anger reminding you of a volcano about to erupt.

Wayne’s background score is magical the way it blends into the scenes. Equally evocative is the classical “mora piya mose bolat nahin …”

There are a few quibbles one might have with this otherwise perfect narrative—like  the opening sequence, where events happen too quickly for the viewer to catch up to a number of characters, and the crucial revelation scene between Sooraj and his mother, when the director suddenly lets the characters lapse into Sanskritized Hindi, which is not in keeping with the local dialect which is followed quite faithfully elsewhere.

These small lapses apart, watch this one for a revelation on Indian politics.


Madhumita Gupta

Madhumita Gupta has written for The Times of India, Hindustan Times, and the India Currents. Her prize-winning stories have been published in various anthologies and international publications like SAWF...