Power. The quest for its supremacy has seen many a battle throughcenturies bringing chaos, destruction, bloodshed, grief and loss.India's greatest epic, The Mahabharat witnessed cruel forces stand forwhat they seemed as right, against their brothers who, aided by amaster Strategist, outsmarted the great warriors. In the end, it neverwas about good or evil. It was about achieving victory… at any cost.Prakash Jha's audacious venture of Raajneeti treads this very path tore-incarnate the intricate battle for supremacy. An ensemble castcomprising of Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal,Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Naseeruddin Shah and an impressive lot ofothers play today's warriors in the great battlefield of Indianpolitics. <br><br>The back story of Kunti's 'first born', Karna leads us to the highstakes political game in the Pratap family after their supremo ishospitalized. The state is witnessing a transition in government andthere is more than one challenger within the family itself. The battlelines have been drawn and clearly, the thirst for power has corruptedeveryone involved. There is no good in this quest for victory. Aided byKarna, Duryodhan leads his charge against the Paandavs who are aided bythe experienced strategist, Krishna. After the fall of Paandu, theunited brothers of Yudhishtir and Arjun salvage their position withevery move, lie and trick outside the book as Krishna guides themthrough the battlefield. This essence of The Mahabharat has beenadroitly adapted to Raajneeti's political backdrop and all credit forits intricate development goes to writers Anjum Rajabali and Mr. Jhahimself. The scale is elaborate, the cast ensemble and the plotengaging but the execution of it all with the thorough script, wellpaced screenplay, masterful direction and flawless performances makethis a remarkable film. <br><br>Raajneeti is not for the faint hearted who solely indulge in slap-stickcomedies, heart warming tragedies, mushy love stories or any vampirechronicles. This is real, wicked, unforgiving and ruthless politics.But Jha doesn't make a documentary with this cast. There is a bit offilmy drama with women being impregnated after just one encounter, lovebeing compromised for the ultimate goal in battle and people being usedas pawns on a big chess board. At the same time, Jha is unforgivingwhile he portrays the brutally of battle. There are car bombs,assassins, gruesome beatings, bloodshed and profanity suited to thefilm's environment. It rarely fails to surprise you with every newconniving plot and strategy and the convincing performances by theactors who certainly are portraying dual characters. One being those ofthe film Raajneeti and the other being the celluloid reincarnations ofcharacters from The Mahabharat. <br><br>This is also a performance powerhouse. Naseeruddin Shah of course,excellent in his brief role, deserved more screen presence. NanaPatekar's simplicity in portraying the most important of characters isawe inspiring. He is indeed a mentor for the rest of them. It's been along time since we watched Manoj Bajpai in a worthy role and what alaudable performance it was! His defining moment was his speech afterShakuni Mama's incident. Ajay Devgan being Jha's favorite man maintainshis typical intensity in a solid act while Arjun Rampal delivers themost shocking performance which is also his finest yet. Watch him as hespeaks to his brother on his cell phone with bloody hands and you willwitness the intense actor in him. Sarah Kane in a brief role seemedquite seasoned already along with Nikhila Trikha (Kunti). Katrina Kaifhas proved her worth with Raajneeti. Jha instilled confidence inKatrina's mediocre dialog delivery and nurtured her to reach herepitome in the public speech she makes in front of thousands. She nowsheds the tag of the cute, beautiful new comer and surpasses many ofher peers showing her versatility in just the past year. Speaking ofwhich, the new force to be reckoned with is certainly Ranbir Kapoor.From being the lover boy, funny man, awakened man and salesman, heproves his mettle as the underdog who earns respect through actions.Whether he is playing chess on his BB or watching his game plan unfoldon the screen or calming an infuriated, impulsive brother, Ranbir showshis composure and caliber while making his presence felt in the midstof accomplished senior artists. <br><br>The musical score also has an ensemble cast here. With Pritam, AadeshShrivastava, Shantanu Moitra and Wayne Sharpe, the music is brilliant.The pop-classical Ishq Barse, the melodious Bheegi Si Bhaagi Si, theuplifting theme song - Dhan dhan Dharti by Shankar and Wayne Sharpe andAadesh Shrivastava & Shashi's outstanding Mora Piya are all excellent,even with their well remixed versions (Mora Piya 'trance' mix!). ButJha mercilessly edits the songs from the movie, only to keep a bareminimum when the screenplay could exhale. <br><br>Prakash Jha seemed to draw inspirations from The Mahabharat, 'TheGodfather', 'Kalyug' as well as the 'Sarkars' and in his distinctiveway, gave us an engaging, witty, hard hitting, intense drama that is adepiction of a democracy that works, but at a price. With real people,about 10,000 of them, Jha shot in locales that serve as the battlefieldwith superb cinematography by Sachin Krishn. His well researched andgripping script is the soul of this multi-starrer and his vision tobring the greatest epic to life just adds to the viewer's intrigue andawe element. One might even need repeated viewings in order to graspsome deeper dialogs. Minor dramatizations apart, Jha's work iscommendable simply because very few have succeeded with the scale andgrandeur of Raajneeti and while critics can dissect all they want, thisIS the most definitive and convincing version of The Mahabharat and theugly face of democracy.<br><br>- 8.889 on a scale of 1-10.