Raajneeti is a lot more than a modern-day Mahabharata

June 4th, 2010

Fact: Raajneeti is a work of fiction and has very little resemblance to the life of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Fiction: Raajneeti is a work of fiction if you can call Ved Vyas’s Mahabharata a work of imagination.

Disclaimer: Without any intentions to hurt anyone, I do not consider Vyas’s creation an absolute factual chronicle. Director Prakash Jha, in Raajneeti, is no doubt inspired and has indeed used the great classic as the backdrop of his film but his adaptation is novel.

Raajneeti can be catalogued in the political thriller genre and anyone who loves this genre would appreciate the intrigue factor of this film. The film begins on the ghats of Varanasi and sets the mood and the tone with the silent tears of Bharti (Nikhila Trikha). You know what to expect from this tale on Indian politics: compromises, deaths, murkiness, violence and at the end deep pain and sorrow.

The film delivers all of that and keeps the curiosity factor kicking with twists in the tale. The film’s story is of a joint family in Indian politics and the infighting for the top post.

I hate giving out the story of a film before someone has seen it, however, I would definitely share my take on Jha’s marketing strategy with the choice of actors and some low points in the film.

Director Jha has a repertoire of good work but with his latest, he has also proved his skills as a smart strategist too. Firstly, his choice of actors for the characters of Sara (actor Sarah Jean Collins) and Indu (Katrina Kaif). It looks like Jha knew from the scripting stage that Katrina’s accent and foreign roots would create enough buzz around the film, linking the character to Mrs Gandhi. There is little similarity between Indu’s character and Mrs Gandhi’s real life except for a brutal assassination. Since there is no incident in the film that justifies Kaif’s strange Hindi accent, you wonder about Jha’s intentions for casting her for the role of this typical Indian girl.

You might also wonder why Sarah Jean Collins finds so-much prominence in the film’s posters when she has almost the same or less screen time than actors who play more important characters in the film. Another well-used strategy creating a mirage between reel and real.

One lesson the film-makers of Raajneeti seem to have learnt from the Kites debacle is the art of sub-titling. Raajneeti has some dialogues in English and, thankfully, the subtitles are in Hindi (yes, even in multiplexes whose audiences are not expected to know to read the language). This will surely help the film in Hindi belts.

The film has a few sequences which look like direct lifts from Coppola’s Godfather but then, don’t intriguing stories have some similarities?

A low-point in the film is the conversation between Sooraj Kumar (Ajay Devgn) and Bharti (Trikha) which takes you back to the days of Mahabharat, B R Chopra’s magnum opus on Doordarshan in the late 1980s. Especially when Bharti speaks the cult line, “Tum mere jyeshtha putra ho.” Devgn even wears ear-rings to make sure the audiences do not have any difficulty to associate his character with the epic warrior.

I also hoped that there was lesser violence in the second half of the film but then the war of Mahabharata went on for 18 days.

As far as business is concerned, the film is expected to find audiences in both muliplexes and single screens. The film does have a repeat value as it has excellent performances. Lovers of serious stuff on 35mm will like this fare.