Prakash Jha’s made a pretty huge impact in his last three films alone, on the Indian Film Industry. Films that revolve around actual social issues, have been made with a large effort to portray the realism in India, something majority of Indian films lack, as is the stereotype, which is true. After films about corruption in small states police department (GANGAJAAL), how kidnapping has become a business in other states of India (APAHARAN), Jha returns after 5 years with one movie that focuses on a larger general issue of Indian politics in the aptly named RAJNEETI (“Politics”).
A hugely layered film with various nuances that boggle the mind and every scene ends up as a revelation to the overall direction of the story. The story itself is really simple and one that happens all over the world. A political party is headed by a family consisting of two brothers, their sons, and other extended members. After a tragic accidental stroke of the eldest brother—who also happens to be party leader—the rest of the family members are left vying for power. This kick starts an epic battle for the leadership of the party with the ultimate reward of becoming Chief Minister of India. Amidst the scramble, there is the youngest son, who has no interest in politics, but enters the arena after direct attacks on his family.
Each of the big named actors utilized in the film have been done so with utter perfection. From bit parts to the lead, each role served its purpose in the screenplay and was performed amazingly by the actors. Arjun Rampal was impeccable as a morally ambiguous politician who was loyal to his family despite his character flaws. Nana Patekar, the most seasoned actor among them all, never stole the spotlight and complimented the rest of the cast in the role of a well wisher and caretaker of the family. Manoj Bajpai as the eldest cousin with a huge inferiority complex, constantly trying to gain power by any means, including ‘eliminating’ the competition, made you hate him, with a passion. And in arguably the best performance of his career, Ranbir Kapoor most definitely delivers in his role of a reluctant son and brother that dives into the dirty politics of the country, in an attempt to avenge his family honor.
RAJNEETI would’ve been perfect, if not for one glaring abnormality that ends up taking away from the entire film.
The film begins with the relationship of the daughter of a politician with an older man, which results in the birth of an illegitimate son. To save face, the son is given up, to be found and raised by a family in the village. This is Ajay Devgan’s character, who ends up embroiled in the fight between family members for power, (not knowing that they are all actually his own blood relatives) acting as a lower ranked politician aiding Bajpai’s character. So the first born is helping the bad guy go against his own family… without even realizing the truth. So far this is making for great drama no? I thought so too.
However, through out the entire film, Devgan’s character is shown as a side character that is just there, involved and witnessing and at times participating in the dirty politics of this family. However, there is never a culmination of the fact that his character is related to them. The entire subplot of him being the illegitimate older son of the family plays no part whatsoever in the over-all story… AT ALL. There is the revelation, a crying mother who requests him to join his ‘true’ family, which he obviously rejects stating his loyalty lies with people who were there for him… and that’s it! The whole secret being revealed doesn’t affect the characters’ actions at all; it didn’t contribute in any way to the end result of the plot… nothing. It seems almost as if there were additional scenes and plot points to be considered, but were all edited out or scraped in the final cut. I wish Indian Films had ‘Directors’ Cut’ releases in DVD, however they don’t, so we’ll never get that answered.
End of the Spoilerama segment of this review.
Other than that (huge) oversight, the film itself was thoroughly enjoyable, extremely complicated and awesomely layered to keep you at the edge of your seats. Yes, I realize that’s a cliché, but I feel secure in using clichés for films that actually deliver that level of excitement. The performances and realism portrayed are unparalleled to the usual popcorn, candy floss entertainment that the Indian Industry is known for worldwide.