December 7, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Raajneeti

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Raajneeti, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is yet another interesting-sounding film I found out about completely randomly through Netflix's "New Releases" RSS feed, which I highly encourage you to subscribe to yourself, a popular Indian political drama that features not a single bit of singing or dancing, coming out right at a time when I myself am trying to learn a lot more about contemporary India than I did before.

The reality: Pretty good, actually, although I suspect that people's opinions are tied directly to how little or much they already knew about the day-to-day details of Indian life before watching it. Because to tell you the truth, the script for Raajneeti (Hindi for "politics," although perhaps better translated as a B-pic movie title like "Rule of Law" or "Affairs of State") is fairly hackneyed, a cross between The Godfather and a Victorian potboiler only set not among the mafia but within a family-led regional political party, which for decades in India's corrupt history has been basically the same thing; and to be frank, the most interesting part of it for me as a clueless American was simply in how the movie transcribed the little details of daily Indian life, as well as the stunning cinematography which shows off a vast and varied cross-section of the Indian population. So if such details are less exotic for you, you're bound to find the film a lot more tedious and melodramatic, a movie that relies on such lazy tropes as extravagant violence and surprise familial revelations to keep things ticking along; but if you're a typical American like me, it's well worth the time of renting and watching, a veritable primer (through lightly fictionalized metaphor) on the history of Indian politics from the 1970s through now, as well as further proof to the old argument that the arts in India right now lays roughly in the same place as it did in the British Empire in the late 1800s (because seriously, many of the plot pivots in this movie could've been taken straight out of a Charlotte Freaking Bronte novel). Fascinating from a cultural aspect, although don't say I didn't warn you about its objective quality.

Strangest piece of trivia: Just six months in, this is already one of the highest-grossing films in Indian history, and became the third Indian production this year to lead financially on its American opening weekend among all limited-release films.

Worth your time? Kinda

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:28 AM, December 7, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |