Raajneeti – Movie Review

Raajneeti was one of the most awaited movies of the year for many reasons. Very few Indian movies have an ensemble cast; Prakash Jha has made some very good social-political movies like Mrityudand and Gangaajal and as the title suggests, this movie was expected to be an out and out political drama unlike his earlier movies where Politics was not the main theme but just one of many backdrops.  Prakash Jha had been active in politics and even contested two Lok Sabha elections from his home state Bihar; once as an independent (2004) and once from Lok Janashakti Party (2009). All this had raised my expectations from the movie.

The story is inspired from Mahabharat. All main characters are from one single joint family and fight each other for the political legacy after the family patriarch is paralyzed. Surprisingly for a political movie, not much attention is paid to other parties but the story revolves around different members of one family trying to take over the party. We have seen this happening in many political parties (in Congress after the death of Sanjay Gandhi when a feeble attempt was made by Menaka Gandhi to inherit the poilitical legacy of Sanjay only to be rebuked by Indira Gandhi and more recently in DMK). Of course the real life clashes were not as bloody as it is in the movie. Most Indian political parties are controlled by families where head of the party treats the party as his/her fiefdom to be passed on to some family member. Jha has successfully portrayed this aspect of Indian politics.

Mostly the movie is good. Surprisingly even Arjun Rampal has pulled off his character of a politician from the Hindi heartland really well and as expected Katrina Kaif is unconvincing because of her accented Hindi. They should definitely have used voice over dubbing for her. Or maybe Prakash Jha subtly wanted us to think of Sonia Gandhi when we see Katrina. In fact the scene where Katrina tries to evoke sympathy in her voters by reminding them of sacrifices made by her family, reminds us of Sonia Gandhi. No wonder Congress forced Prakash Jha to change the dialogue Vidhwa vote le jaayegi (The widow will take away the votes) to Bitiya Vote le jaayegi (The daughter will take away the votes). All characters are well etched and believable. Full marks to Prakash Jha for this. Many Hindi movies have tried to show state of Indian Politics in recent times. As far as closeness to reality is concerned Raajneeti is the best so far though it is not perfect. The story though inspired from Mahabharat is indeed hatke.

Of course the movie has some flaws. And the biggest being the failure to use Mahabharat as a backdrop convincingly. Some sequences inspired by Karan’s birth & Arjun’s hesitation to kill Karan in the climax just did not click. Thankfully, Jha restrained himself in showing Katrina as modern day Draupadi. He had clarified in his many publicity interviews that the movie is not inspired from Mahabharat but the characters are. By this he implied that there is no hero or villain, as we generally have in Hindi movies, but the characters have Grey shades. This sounded good as it is indeed difficult to adapt the epic in a 3 hour movie (the movie is a little less than 3 hours) but Jha has tried to do so and this is the movie’s biggest undoing. In fact one may wonder whether the movie is on Indian Pilitics and Mahabharat is used as backdrop or Jha intended to make a modern day Mahabharat and Indian Politics is used as a backdrop.

Despite its flaws it is one of the better movies in recent times and the best in its genre so far. It definitely deserves a watch.

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Shivaji spoke but would we listen ?

You are solely responsible for your situation

You are solely responsible for your situation

It is very rare for a movie to give a social message, without getting preachy and entertain at the same time. Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosale Boltoy (I am Shivaji Raje Bhosale speaking) is one such exception. The movie is based on grievances of Marathi Manoos (Marathi people) in Mumbai. The issue raised is same as the one raised by Bal Thackeray in 60s and recently by Raj Thackeray. However the solution suggested is different than what is being propagated by Raj Thackeray today or was espoused by Bal Thackeray in the past.

The movie starts off by introducing the main protagonist, Dinkar Maruti Bhosale, a clerk in a bank, as Damn Marathi Bhosale. Dinkar feels that Marathis are neglected and disrespected in their own state and “outsiders” are making hay at the cost of locals. Till here it seems as if the movie is espousing Raj Thackeray’s  agenda.  However, when Dinkar curses himself for being a Maharashtrian, Shivaji’s spirit, a la Munnabhai, comes to the rescue and the movie takes a turn for good. When Dinkar Joshi rues the fact that Gujaratis dominate the busuines landscape in the city, South Indians dominate the hotel industry and North Indians dominate the bureaucracy, Shivaji asks him that had anyone stopped Marathi Manoos to do any of these ? Dinkar then decides to take charge of his life and with the guidance of Shivaji reclaims self respect and sanity back in his life.

The movie has  exaggerated the plight of Marathi Manoos at some places. For example, Dinkar’s daughter wants to change her name as a film director, who himself is a Maharshtrian but hides this fact, believes that Marathi girls have no future in Hindi movie industry. But the plus point is that “outsiders” have not been vilified. The corrupt BMC employees and Policeman in the movie are Maharashtrians and so is the corrupt minister. This was probably a subtle reference to the fact that Maharashtrians dominate BMC and Policeforce in the state. Two North Indians help Dinkar Bhosale a la Jiva Mahale when he goes to meet his Afzal Khan. The movie does not end before making a point that political apathy is not the solution to corruption in politics and only by participating in the political process can one make a difference.

Locals v/s outsiders is the backdrop of the movie. However, the movie succeeds in driving home the larger point that people themselves are responsible for their situation and nothing would change unless they take steps to change the status quo in a positive manner.