An epic too big to be enveloped in three hours

The maker of hard-hitting movies like Damul (1984), Mrityudand (1997), Gangaajal (2003) and Apaharan (2005), Prakash Jha came up with Raajneeti in 2010. What had happened to Raju Hirani in 3 Idiots (2009) after his extremely appealing Munnabhai series, happened to Prakash Jha too in his third venture in the new millennium as he made a good movie but it did not live up to his reputation. The reason is simple. He tried to force the tale of the Indian epic – Mahabharat in the realistic story of the Indian politics. And the result was that he fell flat on his face.

The fact is, the Mahabharat is too big an epic to envelop it in a time duration of three hours. Just by showing feud in a political family and unnecessary killings, the Mahabharat cannot be brought on celluloid. Right from the very first scene, the movie proved so engrossing for me that I never knew when it had arrived at the interval point. However, the second half could not prove to be that impressive. Reason ! As against its first half, the movie deals with less the Indian politics, more the Mahabharat style relationships and dealings among the protagonists in its second half.The first half is a typical Prakash Jha one, completely realistic and baring the true face of the Indian politics which is power-based and not people-based. How the tickets for the seats in the election are distributed, how conventional vote banks are kept intact, how power is grabbed and kept under control, how dynastic dynamics takes place in the Indian politics, how meetings are conducted in the Indian political parties, to which extent our politicians are greedy and finally, to which extent they can fall from the ethics for the sake of winning elections and grabbing powerful positions, have been depicted with utmost realism. Up to that, it is no less than Gangaajal and Apaharan.

However, in the second half, the director has shown everything over the top. An industrialist bargaining for a Chief Minister as his son-in-law in view of her daughter’s matrimonial negotiations, big political guns taking weapons in their hands and fearlessly killing their opponents, a senior and mature political leader instigating a young one to murder his political opponent as he had killed his father (knowing very well that the would-be victim is none else but the would-be killer’s own brother) and several other things which are uncalled for and does not fit in the original plot. Several incidents have been taken from the Mahabharat to justify the claim that the movie is inspired from the epic. However these incidents are not natural to the original story, they clearly look purposelessly imposed and superficial. My biggest objection on the movie is that high profile political killings take place, a very senior police officer is murdered in the day-light and even a foreigner is killed, yet no serious investigation takes place either on the part of the police or any other investigating agency(like the CBI or so). This is highly unnatural. Yes, there is anarchy in India, no law of the jungle all the same. Big political leaders arrange murders. They do not commit murders (that too quite openly) themselves.The incidents borrowed from the Mahabharat have not been led to their logical conclusions and left as loose ends without proper tying-up. In fact, they are totally superfluous and the movie could have done without them. This is an insult to the great epic. Shyam Benegal had made Kalyug in 1981, bringing the framework of the epic into the story of an industrial family. Prakash Jha has tried to imitate (perhaps inadvertently) the legendary filmmaker in this regard but has not been very successful. In fact, he has drowned himself (the film) by riding two boats at the same time, i.e., making a hard-hitting political drama as well as drawing the Mahabharat saga into the narrative. Had he concentrated upon his first objective only, he would have made a memorable film.Reducing the female characters to mere puppets in the hands of the male ones as well as showing the central character (Ranbir Kapoor) as using everybody and every relationship is another highly objectionable thing on the part of the director. Ranbir Kapoor (the modern Arjuna) shamelessly uses the emotions of Katrina Kaif and others and murders many people without a hitch. Even then the director very conveniently allows him to return to abroad (from where he had originally arrived) and shows him in a bright light which is quite indigestible. The director has distorted the characters and the situations to suit his purpose but this has snatched the flair of naturalness from the movie. The biggest distortion is in the character of Ranbir Kapoor. The director has emphasized his genuine love for Sarah at many places, yet he gets ready to marry Katrina Kaif for the sake of arranging funds from her father to fight the elections. This is too contradictory.

The character of Nasiruddin Shah has been removed totally after the first reel. This is irritating. His return into the narrative could have provided some logic as well as spice to the story. Besides, the character of Ajay Devgan (the modern Karna) being very emphatic in the first half but sidelined in the second one, is also a factor which disturbs the balance of the movie. Further, the character of Nana Patekar (the modern Krishna) is totally confusing and unconvincing. His reaching Ajay Devgan’s house with a pistol in his hand to personally kill him, looks ridiculous. The mother (the modern Kunti) is shown as politically active in the beginning but later on she is totally passive and submissive to anything and everything done by the males in the family. This does not look natural. And finally, except Nasiruddin Shah, all and sundry (including the modern Krishna, Nana Patekar) are shown with low morals, ready to do the meanest things. At least one character could have been shown with some morality in him. Katrina Kaif has been given the get-up resembling Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in the end, without any reason. The scenes of physical intimacy are also unnecessary and they could have been toned down, if not removed totally. The thing Prakash Jha has emphatically shown is that our politicians consider political power as something like their fief.The look of the movie is realistic. The performances are admirable. Ranbir Kapoor has given an amazing performance in the role of the modern Arjuna. All others have done well. However, Manoj Bajpayee (the modern Duryodhana) appears quite theatrical and over the top which is clearly the director’s flaw as he is such a natural actor. Such movies do not need any songs. However the songs played in the background are quite good. Technical and production value aspects are admirable. The movie is too long, yet could not cover the Mahabharat story properly.

Frankly speaking, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Satta (2003) was a better political movie which was closer to reality than Raajneeti when we make an overall comparison between the two. Prakash Jha, however, has been able to underscore a significant fact – the canvas of the Indian politics is too large which has space for everything but one.

The public !

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
This entry was posted in Movie Review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An epic too big to be enveloped in three hours

  1. I started watching this movie and left after an hour…i found it very complicated.

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