Raajneeti’s 167 Minutes of Good Intentions


Raajneeti is the story of Samar (Ranbir Kapoor), a nice young man almost done with his dissertation (“The Violent Emotional Subtext of 19th-Century Victorian Poetry”) who comes home for a week for his father’s birthday. Unfortunately, Samar’s family is involved in politics, the party leader has a stroke, and all factional hell breaks loose, at which point brother turns on brother and things start blowing up with great regularity. At 167 minutes of good intentions, Raajneeti has ambition to spare: To prove the obvious (politics corrupt, in India more than elsewhere), Prakash Jha’s film seeks out (and frequently achieves) moral ambiguity. Not a single character (besides the women, of course) is innocent, though the biggest shock is Samar’s brother, Prithviraj (Arjun Rampal), running around with a blood-smeared face like a cut-rate Patrick Bateman. The film’s never dull, but it’s also overwhelmingly loud, with enough explosions for a new Transformers and even the smallest punch turned into a sonic boom capable of destroying the Pyramids. The usual glossy Bollywood sheen dulls the moral impact, as do the frequent plugs for Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV. There’s also something close to a sex scene, no musical numbers, and a final shoot-out in a warehouse; par for the Bollywood course this isn’t, but it doesn’t succeed on its own terms, either.