Films on Indian Politics have a trademark feel. Specially from directors like Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Kashyup. Its raw, its fast paced, its brutal and its in your face. Rajneeti is re-packaging of an age old story with new characters and known situations. Rajneeti is the vehicle for Actors and not just stars. Rajneeti is a welcome relief in the slump, but not exactly a benchmark film.
Largely inspired from the Mahabharata and The Godfather, this one is a tribute to both. Its about a family that rules Madhya Pradesh politics and the infighting within the family for power. Direct references are to the Mahabharat family in terms of charcters and direct scenes are lifted from the Godfather ( like the Hospital sequence and the horse head sequence).
Lets talk about the positives. Like most recent Prakash Jha films, this film also has a very tense undercurrent, with things happening left right and centre. Infact there are so many characters in the film, that it takes you some time in understanding who's who. But once you know, you are sucked in. The first half goes like a breeze. With political cards thrown all over the place, the movie keeps you on the edge and sets up for a stupendous second half. The scale, the background score,the screenplay overwhelm you and you think you are gonna watch history being made. 2 actors keep you spellbound - Nana Patekar and Manoj Bajpai. Nana Patekar who plays "Krishna" the guide is fabulous is almost every moment. He emotes to perfection in the most tense of scenes. Manoj Bajpai as "Duryodhan" is also in top form. His angry speeches, his inner turmoil blazes the screen. The others like Ajay Devgan, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal do a good job aswell, and the only weak link seems Kathrina Kaif, though she does redeem herself towards the end. What is also refreshing to see, is that no one is shown as a pure soul and completely white. Everyone has shades of grey and everyone is ready to do anything to gain power.
What makes this movie a GOOD movie but not a GREAT one is an average second half which drags. Infact in trying to put in so many references some scenes seem irritating. You wonder why did Prakash Jha spoil something that he had started so well. Some irritating points are a few forced assasinations, an avoidable reference to "KARAN", some unwanted pregnancies! The film would have done without these things. Also, though Arjun Rampal does a decent job, he seems out of place in the raw charcters look. Ajay Devgan is wasted with too little screen time. Kathrina Kaif, though suits the character to the T, is weak in some sequences. Finally, the climax is ridiculous to say the least! These points are irritating, because suddenly a complex, intelligent , realistic film becomes farcical.
Gangajal still remains Jha's most powerful film even though Rajneeti touches some dizzy height towards the interval. Its a nice little tribute to both Mahabharat and Godfather, but unfortunately would not come in that category of culthood. I would say that it is a job half done, and I still think Prakash Jha could have avoided the Godfather references. Thats what made Gulaal so refreshing. Even though it also lost momentum in the second half, it remained a genuinely original film. Go for it, as its one of better movies to have hit the screens in a long time. Plus, directors like Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra should be given support so that they come up with more compelling dramas. As far as Rajneeti is concerned, the political drama is complex, but not completely compelling..
Rating : 7 / 10 (0.5 extra for Nana Patekar's whizardry...)