There were many reasons why Rajneeti could have been one of the biggest and most powerful films of the year, if not the decade. It had the one of the best directors at the helm, had veterans and stars to pull it through, had already generated enough interest ( I am consciously avoiding the word ‘hype’ here because it’s reserved for films like ‘Kites’ and ‘Housefull’), was based on a topic very dear to us Indians. But inspite of all these advantages, it wound up as just another frivolous story of bloodthirsty ambitions, politics, backstabbing, and political one-upmanship.
I’m not going to delve into the intricacies of the story here. I’m more interested in the plot and characterization. It has borrowed heavily from Mahabharat and The Godfather. And I don’t think that was a very good idea. It enabled the knowledgeable audience to know where the story was heading next. And some of the scenes were so straight out of the epics that it was unbelievable. Like the scene where the SP slaps Ranbir in the hospital lobby, or the scene where Arjun Rampal dies are textbook Godfather scenes. Imagine if Chetan Bhagat wrote ‘The Godfather’!!!! (not that he could have, even in his or our wildest dreams!!!) he’d be laughing his way to the bank on copyright infringements and royalties. Other scenes reminded one equally of Mahabharat. These two epics are mammoth in their own rights, and to combine them just to make the movie more imposing didn’t work. The result was a movie where the story is lost in tactical maneuvers and never achieves the intensity of either of it’s parents.
Of the performances, I felt only Nana Patekar , Manoj Vajpayee and Arjun Rampal were the true performers. While Ranbir Kapoor had the best role in the film and for most it was an out and out RK film, I humbly disagree and honestly think he needs to work on his dialog delivery badly.Once it was established that RK was Michael Corleone and Arjun, all he had to do was watch Al Pacino a couple of times play Michael. Naseer was only meant for the birth of Ajay, and again Ajay himself delivered a hallmark performance we have come to know him for.
Two of the girls I know were surprised that there were no songs in the movie, even though it has a soundtrack. And I was surprised at their surprise. Why would a movie like this need songs? It was not a love story, it was not a sitcom comedy, it was not a patriotic movie, then why? Songs were not meant to be a part of this story, and were wisely kept away. And if at all they wanted to have a proper song sequence, the only place they could have put it was when Ranbir agrees to marry Katrina. And that brings me to the two most ridiculous scenes I saw in the movie. The first one is immediately after Ranbir agrees to marry Katrina. The next thing we see is the couple hitting the dance floor in a club and a ‘wink-and-it’s-over’ dance number. What the hell was that about?!! One moment I was watching an intensely manipulative Ranbir wooing Katrina, with Nana watching with an approving smile, and the next moment everything is blanked out and we have girls in skimpy clothes (I don’t mind 😉 )dancing!!! and before I can adjust (no pun intended, don’t mean it in the physical sense), we’re back to the politics of it all!!! I mean WTF!!!
The next scene is after some major event occurs. There is a close up slow motion shot of Ranbir running wearing a bandana. Very Michael Bayesque i must admit! and the next frame cuts to the terrace where a worried Sara watches him sprint away!!! My first reaction to it was the memory of countless scenes in comic situations where the hero and heroine run towards each other in slow-mo (real or faked) and then as soon as they are about to hug, they switch from slow-mo to real time, cross each other only to stop some distance away!!! coming back to the particular scene in Rajneeti, it made absolutely no sense to me. Ranbir had shown enough intensity in some previous scenes already. This scene was not required to establish how focussed and intense that character was. Again, WTF!!! One thing’s for sure, Prakash Jha has many talents as a director, but artistic rendition is not one of them.
I went to watch Rajneeti expecting an intense, power-packed political drama. Even if Mahabharat was the mould for it’s plot, I was damn excited because it touches on every subject, every emotion under the Sun, and remains the most powerful epic ever written. What turned me off was the rip off of The Godfather, minus the intensity. For movies based on the novel, I really found the Sarkaar duology more intense.
Rajneeti started as a modern day Mahabharat, morphed into The Godfather but dissolved in their shadows without leaving any imprint on my mind.