Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Raajneeti

More pulpy than political, this Godfather-ripoff Hindi electoral drama is a candidate for oblivion in U.S. theatres.

June 7, 2010

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/141362-Raajneeti_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

After an abominable opening sequence, with a fast-talking narrator spewing a parade of so many names and interlocking relationships you need a scorecard, the sprawling Hindi political drama Raajneeti (literally, "Politics," contextually, "Affairs of State") squanders whatever high-minded notions it originally may have had and devolves into a pulpy potboiler—parliament elections by way of The Godfather. Blatantly: One character awakens not with a bloody horse's head in his bed, but his bloody gay lover. The Michael Corleone character, complete with WASP girlfriend, tries to get out but gets pulled back in, and sees his heir-apparent brother killed at his car by the family's rivals. One character even paraphrases a signature line from The Godfather Part II, instructing, "This is politics. Here, keep your enemy close to you."

This might certainly play well in India, where the admittedly Godfather-inspired Sarkar (2005) was a critical and commercial hit. But the highly specific milieu of Indian parliamentary elections carries a resonance that's lost on mainstream U.S. audiences—who, as well, hear the term "Bollywood" and expect musical sequences. Raajneeti being in no way a musical, the only big chorus-dance number, taking place naturalistically at a nightclub, gets as truncated as those expectations. The film is also a modern-day telling of the ancient epic poem Mahabharata, further cementing its Indian sensibilities and diminishing its American cinema viability.

To be fair, so does its wild potboiler of a story. A young woman (Nikhila Trikha), 27 years ago, had an out-of-wedlock baby with a leftist leader we hear no more about. The baby is put, Moses-like, into a basket on the river by the woman's brother, Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar), a political power-behind-the-throne in a region of the country that’s unclear here. The child grows up to be the charismatic Sooraj (action star Ajay Devgan, seen here in 2007's Cash and 2008's U Me aur Hum), who wants to run for election to represent the lower castes. Ah, it's our movie's hero! Whoops, no, just one of a tangled cast of characters whose story arcs virtually all end badly if they even make it to the end of the film.

As succinctly as possible: Political party leader Bhanu Pratap (Jehangir Khan) suffers a stroke and hands power to his younger brother, Chandra (Chetan Pandit), and Chandra's son, Prithvi (Arjun Rampal). This enrages Bhanu's scheming son, the villainously mustached Veerendra (Majoj Bajpai), who recruits Sooraj to help shore up his uncertain power base. Meanwhile, Prithvi's younger brother, visiting American Ph.D. candidate Samar (Ranbir Kapoor, star of 2009's terrific Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year) must stay in India after Veerendra has Chandra killed. Rich party girl Irdu (Katrina Kaif) must marry Prithvi instead of Samar, whom she loves but who doesn't love her, and car bombs go off, and a crooked police chief get beaten to death with a baseball bat, and the three main women characters each get pregnant after having sex once …it all eventually becomes so ridiculous and over-the-top violent that there is nobody, nobody, to root for. By the end, you're almost rooting for the villainous Veerendra simply because all the nominal good guys turn out to be even worse.

Played too straight to enjoy as satire, too seriously to enjoy as campy fun and too insularly Indian to mean anything to Americans, Raajneeti at least has a historical distinction of having some of Bollywood's most graphic sex scenes—which is to say, not very.


Film Review: Raajneeti

More pulpy than political, this Godfather-ripoff Hindi electoral drama is a candidate for oblivion in U.S. theatres.

June 7, 2010

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/141362-Raajneeti_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

After an abominable opening sequence, with a fast-talking narrator spewing a parade of so many names and interlocking relationships you need a scorecard, the sprawling Hindi political drama Raajneeti (literally, "Politics," contextually, "Affairs of State") squanders whatever high-minded notions it originally may have had and devolves into a pulpy potboiler—parliament elections by way of The Godfather. Blatantly: One character awakens not with a bloody horse's head in his bed, but his bloody gay lover. The Michael Corleone character, complete with WASP girlfriend, tries to get out but gets pulled back in, and sees his heir-apparent brother killed at his car by the family's rivals. One character even paraphrases a signature line from The Godfather Part II, instructing, "This is politics. Here, keep your enemy close to you."

This might certainly play well in India, where the admittedly Godfather-inspired Sarkar (2005) was a critical and commercial hit. But the highly specific milieu of Indian parliamentary elections carries a resonance that's lost on mainstream U.S. audiences—who, as well, hear the term "Bollywood" and expect musical sequences. Raajneeti being in no way a musical, the only big chorus-dance number, taking place naturalistically at a nightclub, gets as truncated as those expectations. The film is also a modern-day telling of the ancient epic poem Mahabharata, further cementing its Indian sensibilities and diminishing its American cinema viability.

To be fair, so does its wild potboiler of a story. A young woman (Nikhila Trikha), 27 years ago, had an out-of-wedlock baby with a leftist leader we hear no more about. The baby is put, Moses-like, into a basket on the river by the woman's brother, Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar), a political power-behind-the-throne in a region of the country that’s unclear here. The child grows up to be the charismatic Sooraj (action star Ajay Devgan, seen here in 2007's Cash and 2008's U Me aur Hum), who wants to run for election to represent the lower castes. Ah, it's our movie's hero! Whoops, no, just one of a tangled cast of characters whose story arcs virtually all end badly if they even make it to the end of the film.

As succinctly as possible: Political party leader Bhanu Pratap (Jehangir Khan) suffers a stroke and hands power to his younger brother, Chandra (Chetan Pandit), and Chandra's son, Prithvi (Arjun Rampal). This enrages Bhanu's scheming son, the villainously mustached Veerendra (Majoj Bajpai), who recruits Sooraj to help shore up his uncertain power base. Meanwhile, Prithvi's younger brother, visiting American Ph.D. candidate Samar (Ranbir Kapoor, star of 2009's terrific Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year) must stay in India after Veerendra has Chandra killed. Rich party girl Irdu (Katrina Kaif) must marry Prithvi instead of Samar, whom she loves but who doesn't love her, and car bombs go off, and a crooked police chief get beaten to death with a baseball bat, and the three main women characters each get pregnant after having sex once …it all eventually becomes so ridiculous and over-the-top violent that there is nobody, nobody, to root for. By the end, you're almost rooting for the villainous Veerendra simply because all the nominal good guys turn out to be even worse.

Played too straight to enjoy as satire, too seriously to enjoy as campy fun and too insularly Indian to mean anything to Americans, Raajneeti at least has a historical distinction of having some of Bollywood's most graphic sex scenes—which is to say, not very.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here