Hania Amir, Kubra Khan, Iqra Aziz at Parde Mein Rehne Do premiere

Directed by: Prakash Jha
Producer by: Prakash Jha
Starring: Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal, Naseruddin Shah
Music Dir: Pritam Chakraborty, Aadesh Shrivastav, Shantanu Moitra, Wayne Sharp

I've never really followed politics. But I am truly fascinated by 'Mahabharata'. Lord Krishna, Arjun, Karan, Bheema, Duryodhan... are legendary and the clash between Pandavas and Kauravas is equally unforgettable. Prakash Jha's RAAJNEETI talks of warring cousins, dynastic rule and electoral politics of the Hindi heartland, besides the vicious and horrifying games some people play to attain power.

To me, RAAJNEETI is a human drama, a complex game that people indulge in to achieve power and how this greed envelopes them and transforms them into ruthless and conniving humans. I admit, it takes time for the story to sink in, but slowly and steadily, you get sucked into a world that's dark, dangerous and demonish. The attire may be white, but the deeds are grey or black.

RAAJNEETI is not only 'Mahabharata', but also 'Godfather'. Despite knowing 'Mahabharata' or 'Godfather', one is not able to presume what games the present-day Pandavas and Kauravas would play in RAAJNEETI. In fact, the story alters constantly, unravelling in a serpentine manner and speed... so much so that you don't know what's gonna happen next. It keeps you awed at the constant turn of events. Clearly, unpredictability is the biggest strength of RAAJNEETI. Yet, let me clarify, this is not a documentary, tetchy or preachy film. This one not only entertains, but also enlightens.

The flipside? None, actually. The naysayers may point out that the subject material is 'heavy', 'serious' and 'dry', but you ought to know that when you adapt 'Mahabharata' in the current milieu [present-day politics], you can't expect 'item songs' and 'slapdash humour and mimicry', for God's sake.

These naysayers may also state that the running time [almost 3 hours] is a no-no in today's times, but let's not forget that even 3 hours is too short a duration for a good film and vice-versa, even an hour is too lengthy for a terrible film. RAAJNEETI is a genuinely good product, so you definitely don't mind its length. But one thing is for sure: RAAJNEETI doesn't cater to an audience that keeps its brains at home while watching a film. You need to be alert while watching this one.

Final word? Prakash Jha, the persona, is known for qualitative cinema and RAAJNEETI, his new offering, stands tall on the list. Cinema is all about narrating interesting stories on celluloid and for that very reason, RAAJNEETI deserves distinction marks. Of course, the massive star cast and the sparkling performances are the icing on the cake.

I strongly advocate this film. Do yourself a favour: Watch RAAJNEETI.

Bhaskar Sanyal [Naseruddin Shah], the fire-brand leftist leader, is feared for his single-handed ability to challenge the most powerful of leaders. Until one private mistake of his hurtled him into a self-imposed exile.

Cut to the present day. Prithvi [Arjun Rampal] is the heir to a powerful political legacy and impatient to seize the top position. But his cousin, Veerendra [Manoj Bajpayee], proves his biggest political opponent. He's a man who believes he was born to rule and who will now stop at absolutely nothing to claw his way back to the top.

Cornered by family and political colleagues, Veerendra plays a new game: He picks up Sooraj [Ajay Devgn], a youngster with anger in his heart and leadership on his mind. Sooraj doesn't know the secret behind his identity, which, of course, is revealed much, much later.

Prithvi's brother Samar [Ranbir Kapoor] is an 'outsider', with no political aspirations, but he gets sucked into the battle-ravaged arena of family rivalry. Only to turn into a master of the craft of political warfare. Indu [Katrina Kaif] daughter of a wealthy industrialist, is also caught in this web. Last but not the least, there's Brij Gopal [Nana Patekar], who plays the role of mentor and guide to Prithvi and Samar as the battle gets bloodier by the day.

It requires courage to assemble a mammoth, ensemble cast, pick a story that does justice to each character and give the film the feel of an epic. Also, you ought to have comprehensive knowledge of the subject material - politics, in this case. And for all these and more Prakash Jha deserves all the praise possible. He knows the territory like the back of his hand, having observed the political culture very closely. Like I said at the outset, every character in RAAJNEETI is grey or black, not squeaky clean at all.

At an edited length of almost 3 hours, RAAJNEETI keeps the viewers glued to the goings-on for start to end. Anjum Rajabali and Prakash Jha's screenplay brings to the fore the ugly face of democracy most realistically and convincingly. The constant twists-n-turns in the story, the characters who change colours faster than chameleons and the blood-bath they indulge in are the highpoints of this film. In fact, there are sequences that merit brownie points, but it wouldn't be ethical to reveal them here since that would rob the fun while watching the film.

If the screenplay is watertight, the dialogue are equally remarkable. Every line is soaked in acid and only enhances the impact of several sequences. There's no scope for music in the film and the songs, including the hugely popular 'Mora Piya', are interspersed briefly in the narrative. Cinematography is top notch. RAAJNEETI is not an easy film to shoot, given the fact that there are more than 3 or 4 actors in every frame, besides a massive crowd of course.

To slot RAAJNEETI as a multi-starrer film would be erroneous. It's a multi-actor film and every actor delivers a sparkling performance. The film has some of the biggest names in the business, but the ones who stand out are Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpayee. Ranbir surprises you with every film. Here's an actor who can give the best in the business sleepless nights. Arjun is a revelation and what a terrific performance he pitches in. He's like an untamed lion. Manoj delivers his career-best performance. He plays the evil part superbly.

Ajay Devgn is sidelined in the second hour, but you need to give it to the actor for accepting and enacting his part with complete conviction. Nana Patekar is brilliant. He utters the most acidic lines with a smile, which only an actor of calibre could've achieved. Actually, you can't imagine anyone else in this role. Katrina Kaif is first-rate. The sincerity and earnestness shows in every sequence. She sheds her glam doll image and transforms into an actor with this film. Naseeruddin Shah, in a brief role, does well. Sarah is good.

The film has a number of talented names in supporting roles and each remain etched in your memory, especially Dayashanker Pandey, Chetan Pandit, Darshan Jariwala, Shruti Seth, Kiran Karmarkar and Vinay Apte. Nikhila Trikha, as Arjun and Ranbir's mother, is admirable. On the whole, RAAJNEETI makes a sweeping impact. A truly admirable effort, this brilliant film is not to be missed.

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