Prakash Jha has always had a reputation of making serious movies on serious and topical issues. Some of his outstanding successes have been DAMUL, MRITYUDAND, GANGAJAL, APAHARAN. In each of these movies, his focus was clear: the message had to be driven home in a hard-hitting and undiluted manner. APAHARAN was made in 2005 and his next directorial attempt was RAAJNEETI in 2010. During that gap of time, perhaps Prakash ruminated on why despite his movies getting acclaimed by critics weren’t making the cash registers ring loudly. Having perhaps concluded that the box-office demanded star attractions, he tried to get a large well established star cast to work in RAAJNEETI; and the end result was certainly not in the same class as his earlier directorial attempts.
But the glamour bug doesn’t let go of the victim easily and the uneasy crossing between glamour and a serious topic (AARAKSHAN means Reservation) produces an even greater disappointment than in RAAJNEETI. But for the outstanding performance of Amitabh Bachchan in the role of an idealist head of a value based educational institution and an equally competent performance by Saif Ali Khan as a hurt Dalit, the movie would have fallen flat totally. The linkage between the reservation issue and how it has spawned the coaching classes commercialization could have been brought about in a more accented manner, but the pitfall of having a multi-star cast is that the director feels obliged to give each of his players sufficient screen space and thus begins to dilute the original message and the manner in which it gets communicated.
Thus we have Prateik Babbar, the fine actor in his weakest role till date; and Deepika Padukone playing a role which has no real demands whatsoever. Even the talented Manoj Bajpayee is a shade of his real self, thanks to the weak manner in which his character is drawn out. There are a few hard hitting dialogues which dot the screenplay and whenever we have either Amitabh or Saif delivering these punches, one is left with the feeling that more of these would have made the movie tauter.
The music and lyrics are equally lackluster; the eye for detail is also missing. How can one explain that when Saif makes a call from abroad to Deepika, Deepika’s mobile displays a local number? As a standalone movie and if one does not associate this with Prakash Jha, this movie would have been rated better. Normally movies which stir up controversies tend to do well in the short term, but in this case, I feel that the controversy will hurt this movie even more, although there is RAKSHA (Protection) in the title!
Prakashji, please do not drop Ajay Devgun in your next venture: he is lucky for you!
RATING: 2.5 out of 5
August 15, 2011