Monday, November 29, 1999

Power Point

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Raajneeti might peek into the murky world of Indian politics, but its director Prakash Jha remains optimistic about our democratic systemPrakash Jha stands by his words: his film doesn't bear any resemblance to any character, living or fictitious. Yet Raajneeti depicts every problem that plagues this country — be it the shameless and desperate fight for power by the politicians, the used and much-abused system ridden with loopholes; the power brokers and game changers and the hapless victims caught in the quick sand of corruption and deceit; and the unassuming billion plus population holding on to its only right — vote. With Raajneeti, Jha has penetrated into the lives of those who inherit power, those who snatch it, those who challenge it and those who are unwillingly catapulted into it. Jha, along with Ranbir Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai and screenplay writer Anjum Rajabali gathered to talk about their film after an elaborate promotional event at DAV College Sector 10, Chandigarh. We caught up with Jha and the others and the following is an excerpt from the interview:Tell us more about Raajneeti.Jha: Raajneeti is a story based on politics. It's not a moral lecture but a film about the rise and fall of destinies, a story based on characters from the Mahabharata, the epic that is one giant source of knowledge, incidents, drama, has weight which I have transfered to Raajneeti.Having contested elections yourself what is your political stand?Jha: Politics to me is development, a way to do some good and sow the seeds of growth. I have never been part of any political party nor propagated any ideology. I have worked for my constituency for development and better infrastructure and contested elections to enhance access to resources. Politics is everywhere: between husband and wife, siblings, friends, colleagues, or a boss and his subordinate—it's all pervasive. It is an integral part of our lives and we need to participate in it.This is one of your most ambitious projects and it has a grand star cast.Jha: Indian cinema is a star-driven medium, and hence, the use of a star cast was crucial. All those who participated in the rallies were also real actors — 8,000 of them — from folk and street theatre and acting schools. They were trained for nine months. We had a 103-day schedule in Bhopal but thanks to the professionalism and cooperation on the actors' part, we finished in 102 days.Rajabali: The research on political parties and their mannerisms was easy as the story came first, with politics forming the backdrop. Prakash is a veteren in filmmaking and politics and I relied heavily on him for information.We couldn't help but notice the strong use of political legacies and party symbols coloured in red, with a white angular handshake screaming rashtravadi. Can you tell us why?Jha: Ah, for that you have to watch the film.There have been speculations that Katrina Kaif's character is based on Sonia Gandhi. Is it true?Jha: Not at all. I am a responsible filmmaker. I will never take the risk of making a film on the life of someone as big as Sonia Gandhi. Katrina is an Indian in this film, playing the daughter of an Indian industrialist.Isn't Ranbir Kapoor somewhat young for this part?Jha: I made the first draft of Raajneeti in 2004 and signed Ranbir immediately after Saawariya. He was the first and only choice.Ranbir, are you interested in politics? And what is your character like?Ranbir Kapoor: Well, for starters, I was never into politics, but after doing this film, I have started keeping a track. My character is the outsider who is visiting his family— who are very political— during holidays and before he knows, he gets sucked into the world of politics.Manoj, tell us about your character.Manoj Bajpai: Bihar, where I've been born and brought up is a place that lives, breathes, eats and drinks politics. Every person has an opinion on everything and Raajneeti explores that. It's a family saga with the essential dramatic elements: greed, power, love and betrayal. I play Viru Bhaiyya, a character who inherits power. He comes closest to Duryodhan in Mahabharata.What do you think about our Twitter-happy country, busy talking politics on social networking sites?Jha (laughs): You know, we all look at politics from a negative angle. While Raajneeti is about a thought, about behaviours and the insatiable hunger for power and what people do to achieve that power, I am, on the contrary an optimist in real life. I believe in the democratic set-up and the youth of this country. Ours is a very young country, a very young deomcracy and every year a large population of young people become eligible to vote. They have options and opinions, and I think we are certainly going in the right direction.

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