Prakash Jha is a director I like, and amongst all his films, my favourite is Mrityudand, not least for the many themes it so successfully tackled. His later films have tended to be narrower in scope. With Rajneeti, though, he’s taken a very large canvas, and you can see that he’s had trouble keeping all the elements in place. It’s a messy story to begin with, and Jha screws up with the addition of some needless complications. For instance, why is Manoj Bajpai sidelined by his father in the first place? Very unconvincing. As far as a modern-day remake of the Mahabharat goes, I would still rate Benegal’s Kalyug as better than this. Having said that, I am grateful to Jha for at least having the courage to make a somewhat intelligent film. Everytime a movie like Housefull or Wanted works, I feel we have hit rock-bottom, but along comes a movie like Rajneeti that lifts us a few precious inches above cinematic rock-bottom. I suppose we should count our blessings.
Enough has been written about Rajneeti being a sort of shabby cross between the Mahabharat and Godfather. It is. So I shall not touch upon that angle here. Instead, here are the top three reasons to watch Rajneeti:
1. Rajneeti is a ‘must watch’ film if only for the distinction of having the Most Awful Sex Scene Ever. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, ever. There’s an actress called Shruti Seth – she’s really funny, especially when she tries to be sexy – who tries to seduce Arjun Rampal’s character. The scene is hilarious. Even before Arjun touches her, Shruti’s breasts are heaving mightily and she’s biting her lower lip, and grimacing in a manner that she probably thinks is seductive. And then we have what can only be called a WhamMa’am (Arjun dispenses with the Thank You, and was there ever a Bam?), and the brief encounter is over. Shruti’s still heaving and trying to look scowlingly seductive. Hysterical. Well done, Jha.
2. Things get better when Katrina and Arjun consummate their marriage. (The lead-up to that is quite funny too.) Instead of the staple Indian euphemisms for sex (a bright fire, birds pecking, bees on a flower) we have the radically aesthetic shot of fingers clawing their way across the sheets. Hot stuff.
3. Oh yes, there is this scene where a car blows up, killing Arjun Rampal. As Katrina cradles his body in her arms, “Mora piya mohse bolat naahi’, sounding even more mournful than usual, starts blaring…quite loudly too. I remember muttering to myself “That’s ’cause he’s dead, biatch.” Yeah, I know. I am a callous bastard.
I really don’t know why Ranbir has been praised for his acting. What acting? He’s just had to keep one blank expression all through the movie. Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, had a role that required her to be more than Ikea- type furniture. Needless to say, she blew it. Arjun Rampal, surprisingly, was the revelation. For once, he managed to make the transition from Furnitureworld to the Land of the Facially Mobile. As for the woman who plays the Kunti-equivalent – I think her name is Nikhila Trikha – she’s hilarious. In the tearful scene where she tells Ajay Devgan that she’s his mother, that he’s a bastard, and other such mother-son stuff, many people in the audience cracked up. Not quite the reaction Jha was looking for.
And what is with all the women getting pregnant? Three of the characters in the film get pregnant, just like that. On a whim, almost. Tazeen has touched upon this in her non-review. Whatever happened to safe sex?
Now for the positive bit. Note the use of the singular. The film is accurate in its representation of Indian electoral politics. For example, time and again, we are shown how the electorate falls for the most ridiculous speeches about parivaar, balidan, qurbani, suhaag, and other such shit. And perhaps the most telling moment – and one of the film’s inadvertently-authentic scenes – comes towards the end, where the faithful family chauffeur, the historically maginalised, has to take refuge again at the feet of the dynasty, the very dynasty that put paid to all his dreams and that can still maintain the status quo because his son is now dead. Rubs home the fact that minions like us can rave, rant, blog, tweet and light all the candles we want, it don’t count for nothing in the end. So there is still that touch of authenticity, albeit a very fleeting one, that we expect from Jha.
Finally, while still on the question of authenticity, there’s been a lot of speculation in the media about whether this film is, in parts, a thinly disguised representation of India’s first dynasty. I can confirm to you that all such speculation is unfounded. How do I know? Well, in all the scenes of the party core committee, right from the beginning of the film, there’s this quiet, unremarkable and presumably loyal Sardar present. But finally Katrina Kaif is made the CM. Not the quiet, unremarkable and loyal Sardar. So how’s that real life, huh?