Starring Ajay Devgan, Ranbir Kapoor, and Katrina Kaif. In Hindi with English subtitles. Rated PG.
Raajneeti, directed by Prakash Jha, begins with palpable kinetic energy. Within mere moments the plot brings together all the right elements of a contemporary political thriller—ideological struggle, corruption, political dynasties, passionate rhetoric, overly entitled male heirs, and strong female shit-disturbers. But once you settle into the film, it veers from its original promise and descends into a bloody and incoherent mess.
Watch the trailer for Raajneeti.
The film attempts to place archetypes from the Mahabharata within the present-day internecine regional politics of India, in a story not so subtly influenced by The Godfather. It opens with a battle of political wills between a leftist revolutionary, Bharti (Nikhila Trikha), and her father, an incumbent politician. The story quickly surges forward 30 years. Bharti is now transformed, through a marriage of political convenience, into an apolitical wife and mother in the family of one of her father’s allies.
When the elder of the two patriarchs (of the family and the political party that they seem to own) is incapacitated, the sons of both men begin a struggle for political power. The youngest son Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), a graduate student in the U.S., is the outsider. His brief visit home coincides with the political scramble and he, like Michael Corleone before him, gets pulled in.
The ensemble cast is strong and there are some surprising political machinations that stop your heart. This all makes the second half even more disappointing when the film abandons its focus on political intrigue in favour of sweeping violence that lacks both credibility and intelligence.
The biggest letdown of this film, however, is the characterization of the women who appear to he nothing more than political and sexual pawns to be shifted about at will. It’s a serious mistake that perhaps the filmmakers will remedy in the inevitable sequels.