Star cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Arjun Rampal, Ajay Devgan, Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Naseeruddin Shah

Plot: Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpayee are first cousins belonging to a family of politicians. They battle it out for the chief minister’s chair. Aiding Arjun is his younger brother, Ranbir. Manoj has the support of Dalit leader Ajay Devgan. Nana Patekar guides Rampal. Katrina loves Ranbir but he has an American girlfriend, Sarah Thompson. Drama, deceit, lies, manipulations, murders… there are all this and much more.

What’s Good: The plot, the performances of the stars, some action sequences, the songs.

What’s Bad: The second half is too lengthy and boring; there’s too much violence and bloodshed; dialogues are in high-flown Hindi and often difficult to comprehend.

Verdict: Raajneeti will do well in parts of India like U.P., Rajasthan, C.I. and Bihar. But business in cities like Delhi and circuits like Nizam, Bengal, East Punjab, C.P. Berar and Mysore will not be very encouraging.

Loo break: Some of the violent scenes in the second half can be given a miss, especially by the ladies.

Prakash Jha Productions, Walkwater Media Ltd. and UTV Motion Pictures’ Raajneeti (UA) is a political thriller. Bhanupratap Singh (Khan Jehangir Khan) and his younger brother, Chandraprakash Singh (Chetan Pandit), head the Rashtravadi Party which had been in power earlier and which now supports the government. It is trying to come back to power. The drama details the games politicians play at the time of elections.

Bhanupratap gets a paralytic attack and is hospitalised. While Chandraprakash takes charge and is keen to make his son, Prithviraj Pratap (Arjun Rampal), the chief minister, Bhanupratap’s son, Virendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpayee), thinks he ought to become the leader. From here begins the tussle for power between two cousins. Samar Pratap (Ranbir Kapoor), who has come to India from New York on a short holiday, gets sucked into the political game when his father is shot dead before the elections. Samar, under the guidance of his maternal uncle, Brijgopal (Nana Patekar), gets into planning, strategising and campaigning for his elder brother, Prithviraj Pratap. Meanwhile, Virendra Pratap enlists the support of Dalit leader Suraj (Ajay Devgan), who, it turns out, is actually the half-brother of Prithviraj Pratap and Samar Pratap.

Prithviraj Pratap and Samar Pratap are forced to form a new party, Jan Shakti, to oppose the Rashtravadi Party, now belonging to Virendra Pratap. To further his chances of victory, Prithviraj Pratap gets married to Indu (Katrina Kaif), daughter of a rich businessman who lays down his daughter’s marriage to Prithviraj Pratap as a pre-condition to funding the Jan Shakti Party.What more political games are played, who all finally contest the elections and who emerges victorious are all part of the latter half of the drama.

The film has an interesting plot (Prakash Jha). The screenplay, penned jointly by Anjum Rajab Ali and Prakash Jha, is interesting in the first half but deteriorates after interval when the political game gets ugly and people are eliminated one after another. On the plus side of the script is the fact that it is well-researched and gives the viewer a deep insight into what goes on in the name of politics. Some twists and turns are shocking and leave the audience dumbfounded.

But the film is not without its share of flaws and lows. For one, it is too long and since it moves on a single track, it becomes boring and monotonous, especially after interval. Almost all the lead characters in the film are negative and could stoop to any level to gain political mileage. This creates confusion in the minds of the viewers as they don’t have a single person whose finger they can hold through the film. In that sense, there is no hero for the audience to consider as their role model. The excessive violence in the second half can act as a deterrent for the female audience who may cringe at the sight of so much bloodshed. Yet another weak point is the use of high-flown Hindi in the dialogues, making it difficult for the viewer, especially the city-based youngsters, to understand the goings-on easily. Besides, there are so many characters in the film that it takes longer than usual for the audience to understand how the various characters are related to one another.

Frankly, the drama appeals till the interval point with the killing of Chandraprakash Singh being the most exciting part. Post-interval, there are some exciting parts but the film tends to get monotonous and repetitive what with people killing people at the drop of a hat. Fans of Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, AjayDevgan, Nana Patekar and NaseeruddinShah may not take too kindly to their characterisations/roles: Ranbir Kapoor, unlike his earlier films, is no fun-loving cool dude; rather, he plays a serious role; Katrina Kaif loves Ranbir but there is no romance between them; Ajay Devgan’s Suraj character is present throughout the film but he doesn’t have a role that can be called very substantive or one that makes him a hero; Nana Patekar doesn’t have fiery dialogues to mouth, something he has become synonymous with; Naseeruddin Shah has such a minuscule role that his fans will feel cheated. The film lacks emotions and light moments. The ending is depressing.

Coming to the performances, the actors have all done very well. Ranbir Kapoor is effective in a serious role. Katrina Kaif does her part well; she leaves a mark in the non-glamorous role too. Arjun Rampal springs a surprise with a promising show. Ajay Devgan underplays suitably but he doesn’t have a single scene which could win him applause. Nana Patekar is efficient in a role that is more subdued than one is used to watching him in. Manoj Bajpayee has his moments. He plays his character with finesse, Naseeruddin Shah is excellent but he hardly gets any scope. Sarah Thompson leaves a mark as Sarah. Shruti Seth does a wonderful job. Kiran Karmarkar is superb in the role of police officer Sharma. Vinay Apte is extremely natural. Nikhila Tirkha is okay as Ranbir and Arjun Rampal’s mother.Chetan Pandit is wonderfully restrained. Khan Jehangir Khan acts ably. Dayashankar Pandey is superbly natural. Darshan Jariwala and Ravi Khemu provide able support. Barkha Bisht is alright in an item song-dance.

Prakash Jha’s direction is good but the narration would appeal more to the audience in the Hindi-speaking belt and the older generation than the youth. Also, by almost neglecting light moments, heart-rending emotions and romance, he has restricted the film’s appeal. Music is good but the songs in the film are not complete, having been edited. The audience’s enjoyment of the music (‘Mora piya’ song composed by Aadesh Shrivastava) is, therefore, greatly reduced. Action scenes (Sham Kaushal) are wonderfully composed. The scene of the killing of Chandraprakash Singh and the bomb blast sequence in which two lead characters are killed together deserve special mention. Crowd scenes are handled excellently and there are plenty of them. But here, it must be added that the crowd scenes sometimes look monotonous because there are so many of them. Camerawork (Sachin Kumar Krishnan) is superb. Sets (Jayant Deshmukh) are very nice. Editing (Santosh Mandal) is crisp.

On the whole, Raajneeti suffers on account of a dull, boring and overly lengthy second half. Considering its very fine start, it should do reasonably good business in India but since its business in the Overseas circuit will not be good enough, it may be a problem for its worldwide distributor (UTV) to recover its investment of over Rs. 65 crore.



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