Sunday, May 22, 2011
At a creative workshop I attended a couple of years ago, I recall the participants being asked to write a summary not exceeding a page of their favorite story. Given that it was an advertising workshop meant to throw some light on the process of creating stories around brands, this seemed like an appropriate beginning. While I brushed across my movie collection and handpicked The Pursuit of Happyness as the story to write about, I was surprised that a good number of people had chosen the epic tale of Mahabharata as the story of their choice. Often touted as the greatest story ever in our nation, what surprised me was that those people thought that the story could be summarized in a page. Not for nothing, is it called an epic. Can an epic be summarized in a page ?
When Prakash Jha, the man behind gritty movies like Gangajal and Aparahan, set about to make Rajneeti I wonder how many times he must've asked himself, ' Can I summarize an epic within a movie? ' When a story as complex as Mahabharat is compressed into a movie, the most important part becomes the writing process because one needs to carefully select the right sub-plots, the right dialogues and most importantly the right ending for the movie to leave a memorable imprint much like that TV series that we all grew with. With Anjum Rajabali as his co-writer, Prakash Jha just about managed to cull out the right elements and when that version moved on-screen, his stellar star cast did not let him down either.
Yet what doesn't seem to work for Raajneeti, is the context that the writers choose to set. Karna's abdication by Kunti- a crucial and most poignant part of the story is given a lame background of a night of passion. The friendship between Duryodhan and Karna is barely embellished to justify both of them willing to give up their lives for each other. Having said that, there are more than a couple of scenes that light up the screen- Manoj Bajpai's stirring political speech in front of an audience is exactly the kind of stuff that set the cash registers ringing and made this movie the third highest grosser of 2010. Nana Patekar as Krishna, Ranbir Kapoor as Arjun, Ajay Devgan as Karna and Manoj Bajpai as Duryodhan were seamless in essaying these iconic mythical characters. Katrina Kaif did well in a role of substance and for a change wasn't just around as the hero's arm-candy.
The west is known to make their legends and stories bigger them showcasing them on television and movies and on-screen adaptations galore from Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes. It is a pity that for our greatest story, there are too few attempts that have been made in India. Its complexity notwithstanding, we require more and more filmmakers to bring it alive on-screen. After all, a teenager of today will know nothing of B.R. Chopra's magnum opus and for that Prakash Jha deserves all credit. While this one might've lacked the finishing touch, at least, Prakash saw it through.