4 out of 5
Six years ago my friend, Dalih, and I had this wonderful idea of making a modern day adaptation of the epic Mahabharata. We even decided who would be in our imaginary casts, and we both agreed the actors must be the people who made us swooned. In 2010 of course Bollywood had won the race. Damn you, Prakash Jha!
Raajeneeti means “politics” in Hindi. The story sets in one of the states in India as it focuses on the dirty plays of local politics. All of the characters represent important people in Mahabharata, although some of them are being portrayed to switch side. The allegory of Kaurava and Pandawa is represented by two brothers: Bhanu and Chandra Pratap who are leaders of the strongest political party. Chandra is married to Bharati who plays the role of Kunthi. Unbeknownst to him, Bharati actually has an illegitimate son whom she gave away right after she delivered him. With Chandra she has two sons: Prithvi (played by Arjun Rampal who makes my heart flutters whenever I see him) and Samar. Prithvi definitely is the allegory of Arjuna; handsome, ambitious, and a womanizer. While Samar is the Yudhistira of the family; quiet, intelligent, but capable of making heartless decisions. Playing as the representation of their nemesis Duryadhana is Verendra, the son of their Uncle Bhanu who is also vying for the position of the party’s chairman as it is a guaranteed position to be the state’s chief minister. If Prithvi and Samar have Brij Gopal filling the role of Bhisma the advisor (in Raajneeti the representation of Bhisma is in Team Pandava), Verendra has Suraj who is the illegitimate son of Bharati although nobody knows, thus making Suraj the Karna of the story.
As everybody knows that nobody is clean in Mahabharata, even the knightly Karna. Suraj is represented as the hero of the lower caste, someone who rises from dirt into the pedestal of state power, serving as Verendra’s most trusted man, but still keeps his ruffian and goonish ways. On the rival side, Prithvi serves as the brawn of the party whilst Samar serves as the brain. Gentle Samar slowly reveals his darker colour. But the story of Mahabharata is not complete without Drupadi. Beautiful Indu is Drupadi of the story. At first she looks like a victim stuck between the brothers. Since childhood she has been in love with Samar who doesn’t love her back as he has a girlfriend back in New York. But when their party’s in dire need of funding, Samar proposes to Indu who happens to be the daughter of the state’s richest millionaire. But Indu’s father prefers her to marry Prithvi, the leader of the party. Fearing if either Indu or Prithvi refuses the proposal she will be married off to Verendra and this means Verendra will get the funding, the two of them reluctantly agree. Indu’s role becomes more significant after the tragedy that strikes the family, here she starts to become more like Srikandi the warrior princess. The allegory of Sonia Gandhi, India’s adopted foreign politician, is portrayed by Indu and Sarah, Samar’s American girlfriend. Sarah finally finds out what her boyfriend is actually like and decides not to take part. But somehow she makes some compromises that end in tragedy. Then Indu rises to power the way Sonia Gandhi did in the 80s, leaving Drupadi and Yudhistira the last people standing, similar to the epic.
The twist of the story is exciting and keeps you guessing. But one has to admit that some of the scenes are bit choppy and cliche. But so far it is one of the best mainstream (non-singing dancing) Bollywood films ever made.