Let go of your (ticket) reservations
The Mandal Commission’s Reservation Policy had created a furore at its announcement. Students and job seekers of the backward classes were to get preferential treatment in the government selection process, leaving the others (even the meritorious) feeling short changed. In this backdrop we have Amitabh Bachan, an upright, principled, head of a college, with no bias or casteism. But a proclaimed soft corner for socially and economically challenged students and his mentoring of Saif Ali Khan, a dalit, keeps him out of favour of the upper echelons of the college hierarchy. Where his principles will be questioned and how they will hold him in good stead forms the crux of the film.
There is no lull to herald this storm. The jibes, the confrontations, and proclamations on contentious issues like reservation and caste, from the word go, all move towards the epicentre of a squall. The inclement weather till the midpoint break warns you of the worst. If this was rough, you believe, it would surely blow your roof off further on. You are now prepared, closeted in your respective strong rooms. It’s from here on that the storm peters down to deceptively cloudy weather and all that greets your anxiety is a strong wind that doesn’t even threaten to break into a drizzle. The publicity cries hoarse that it is a film on the Mandal Commission’s Reservation quota for OBC`s and its aftermath. It eventually turns out to be a commentary on the commercialisation of education vis-à-vis heavy capitation fees and a burgeoning parallel education via expensive tutorials.
Amitabh Bachan, it appears, considers all his co-artistes edible that too with an expiry date. Why else would he gobble them raw, and in quick time, with almost every performance of his? His confrontations with Manoj Bajpai (a stellar performer in his own right who does manage to hold his own) and Saif (in the few scenes where he is allowed to) reiterate Mr.Bachan`s command over the medium, more so with the dialogues using more of Hindi than Urdu (A trait of Prakash Jha`s films). The performances are the film’s mainstay but it is a weak plot that lets them down. Deepika Padukone`s repertoire as a decent performer gets a fillip with her turn here. Her pleasant screen presence is also welcome. Pratiek`s name in the credits sure added a lot of weight. Pity, that was on paper only. Though one cannot grudge him this performance, it is the role, which didn’t require his expertise. The project probably got him some stars for his CV. Wayne Sharpe (Background score), too, gets neither the subject (Gangaajal) nor the canvas (Rajneeti) to show his mettle.
Clichéd friendships and betrayals, the expected volte face of characters at different intervals, an uninspired music score and a tedious post interval session do take away from the strength of the performances. Prakash Jha, unlike his earlier films is not in his element here, though his ability to highlight and intent to tackle varied social issues is appreciable.