Political dramas and power play in Hindi cinema
[dropcap]“P[/dropcap]olitics is not a game. It is an earnest business” said the legendary leader Winston Churchill. The business of running a country, a business which is often marred by personal profits rather than the well being of society at large, is how politics is often defined. The political picture, especially in a country like India that has several political parties thriving, may not be rosy but is laced with several intriguing layers. Leadership, rivalry, motivation, treachery, power play and many other facets associated with politics have served as inspiration to many filmmakers. Over the years films have tried to capture various aspects of the socio-political sphere in the country, some have come close to depicting reality while the others have restricted themselves to fictitious imagery. However what is surprising to note is that inspite of such a buzzing political backdrop, not many films have been made in this genre. Whether it is the fear of creating controversy or the uncertainty of public response, Hindi cinema has more often than not taking the route of escapism.
We start with films that portray political aspirations and family relations where the personal relations often take a backseat in the quest for power.
Raajneeti: Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti takes you into the murky world of politics where position and power take priority over relationships. The film has traces of the Mahabharata and even the iconic Godfather owing to the way in which the game of power and familial ties has been treated. It is embedded into the current political milieu with its almost real-like events and the tight screenplay that keeps throwing conniving twists at you. Prakash Jha does a fantastic job of putting together a stellar star cast with some of the best in the industry – Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor and he even gets out a commendable performance from Arjun Rampal. Definitely one of the few compelling political films that keep you engrossed.
Aandhi: Gulzar’s Aandhi was a cult movie of sorts with it’s share of controversy. It was said to be loosely based on Indira Gandhi’s life and caused much uproar and was even banned from full release during the Emergency. Aandhi is a film where political aspirations, ego clashes and patriarchal values lead to a family’s disintegration. Revolving around a woman politician, the film focuses on all that transpires in the world of politics – the hand in glove relations between business tycoons and political leaders, the mind games and expose of corruption and how this takes a toll on personal relationships. Gulzar cleverly moves the narrative between the past and present and the audience get to experience a generous dose of emotion and human drama. The music of the film is iconic and reverberates with the same intensity even after all these years. Gulzar gives us a fine film against a political backdrop that was accentuated by the memorable performances of Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen.
Satta: From a simple woman to one catapulted in the world of politics after marriage, Satta shows an exemplary transformation of the woman protagonist in a manner seldom touched upon in Bollywood. It surpasses Hindi film convention to portray a lady that is not dependent on a man rather she conducts them in the way she desires. Here we have a larger-than-life heroine placed in the ugly world of politics in a patriarchal society and yet she manages to hold her stance and discover her own identity. The dialogs, especially coming from a woman protagonist are fiery and are delivered with matching grit. Madhur Bhandarkar chose his cast with conviction, bringing out the best in Raveena Tandon and Atul Kulkarni adding to the perfection. The director believes in taking the road less traveled and once again proves that it can lead to success, Satta being proof of it.
Then there are films set against the political backdrop prevalent in the hinterlands of our country.
Shanghai: Dibakar Banerjee gives us a searing political thriller that showcases the sorry state of affairs prevalent in our country. The movie aptly portrays the selfish interests of those at the helm of things, their manipulative network and the implications of their acts on the commoners. The screenplay of Shanghai is based on the novel Z by Vassilis Vassilikos but Dibakar Banerjee treats it with his characteristic style to perfection. Set in the heartland, the film etches details with beauty yet a lot is left to the viewer’s imagination as the filmmaker doesn’t believe in going overboard. An eclectic cast brings alive Dibakar Banerjee’s directorial genius. Abhay Deol with his south Indian accent, Emraan Hashmi breaking away from his stereotype roles, Prosenjit Chaterjee, Farooque Shaikh and Kalki Koechlin are all fantastic. It is a top notch film that brings new sensibility to the genre, it may not have raked in the moolah at the box office but wasn’t short of critical acclaim.
Shool: Criminalization of politics has always been rampant in our system and Shool portrays this underlying nexus. Set in Bihar it revolves around an honest cop trying to fight the system. We may have seen several films in the genre but E Nivas’ film shines owing to its riveting and authentic portrayal of the political scenario in the Hindi heartland. It has a rustic charm which is contrasted by the stark realities that exist in these areas. Manoj Bajpai is an extraordinary actor and he pulls off this role too with equal robustness. The antagonist Sayaji Shinde is brilliant too and has an edge of his own. The film is not without flaws but E Nivas’ direction coupled with some brilliant performances make it one of the good films in the genre.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi: Set against the backdrop of the Emergency period and the Naxalite movement, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi traces the lives of three young people who are caught in the turmoil of love and politics. Sudhir Mishra leaves no stone unturned in creating an engaging narrative that reeks of realism. The protagonists add a distinct flavor to their characters be it Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh or even Shiney Ahuja. The director gives us an unapologetic view of the socio-political scenario prevalent in the period and captures entwined human emotions with eloquence. Though Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi may not be classified as a regular commercial film it is one that is truly unadulterated and worthy of a watch.
And lastly are the films based on youth politics that try to ignite the power of the youth, which if channelized can help bring about a drastic change in the political functioning of this country.
Yuva: In Yuva we get to see an unusual combination of youth and politics alongwith Mani Ratnam’s touch of impeccable craftsmanship. The film has an intriguing storyline that strings together the lives of three young men and how things undergo a drastic change after one incident. What sets the movie apart, making it a cult film, are the characters that are brought to life with intrinsic details and personalization. The film does revolve around the men but the women too have their own aspirations that are depicted well, if not brilliantly. From middle class aspirations to criminalization of politics and a message that encourages the youth to get actively involved in the state of affairs, Yuva delves into all of it.
Gulaal: Anurag Kashyap’s Gulaal is a hard-core drama that revolves around unabashed student politics. It is set in the Rajputana state of Rajasthan and captures the hunger for power, rivalry, violence, seduction and all the nuances that make up a raging political scenario. Anurag’s ingenious treatment, the taut script and the bold yet quirky characters (the filmmaker is adept at this) give us an undiluted view of politics that are prevalent in universities. The color palette is distinct with the red of the gulaal as a leitmotif that adds its own flavor to the film. The dialogs are packed with a punch and so are the performances which include talented artists like Kay Kay Menon, Piyush Mishra, Abhimanyu Singh, Deepak Dobriyal and the likes. Gulaal is plot-heavy, showcases brutality and arouses morbid curiosity, all of which keep you hooked on till the very end.
Haasil: Yet another grim take on student politics, Haasil revolves around two warring political gangs in a university. Tigmanshu Dhulia depicts stark youth politics and the extent to which it supersedes all boundaries. Caught in this dirty game are two young lovers and a host of selfish ambitions. The narrative has several dark undertones intertwined with moments of humor, the dialogs are subtle but punchy and though the violence may seem too heavy, it all comes together beautifully with Tigamanshu’s skilled treatment. Adding to this murky drama are the power-packed performances. Irrfan is brilliant and so is Ashutosh Rana while this can safely be called one of Jimmy Shergill’s best performances. Though the film wasn’t a huge success it has got its due for being one of the few realistic political dramas in Hindi cinema.