With the recent releases of Astitva, Nidaan, and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai failing to make waves in Bollywood, Mahesh Manjrekar resorts to his sure bet, Sanjay Dutt, who delivered him rave reviews and awards for their film, Vaastav. Manjrekar loves touching on subjects that others shy away from in tinseltown, and opts to venture towards the creative, irrelevant of how it is accepted in the box office (e.g. Astitva). After breaking free from the action hero mold, venturing towards comedy (Haseena Maan Jayegi, Khoobsurat), Sanjay Dutt has also been treading creative territory, resulting in Vaastav....and now Kurukshetra.
Kurukshetra revolves around a virtuous police officer who is feared by evil (imagine that, in an Indian movie, the gundas, the many many corrupt politicians, and badmaash all fearing !). Prithvi Raj Singh (Dutt) upholds his duty as D.S.P. with highest regard, the perfect imaandaar officer. Those who fear him also begin to admire him...yes, the gundas actually begin to respect the one who beat them to the pulp. One who comes to this realization is underworld don Iqbal Pasina (Mukesh Rishi), whose pasina initially pours buckets at the sight of Prithvi. Iqbal evolves from Prithvi's enemy to an ally to fight evil. Conflict arises when Chief Minister Babu Rao Deshmukh's (Om Puri) brat of a son, Ambar, and a fellow brat friend, Rohit, rape a young girl, Geeta, in a hotel room. Prithvi is determined to bring the rapists to justice for their wrongdoing and in doing so, evokes a political twist.
Enter Sambhaji Yadav (Shivaji Satam), leader of the opposing party, who in his own interests, decides to aid Prithvi and his new chamcha, Iqbal in their battle against a very powerful, very corrupt Deshmukh. Deshmukh goes all out in trying to save his son's worthless skin, resorting (not that it's anything out of the ordinary) to rishwath and other standard political games.
And what about the heroine? Prithvi is married to Anjali (Mahima) and also live with his sister, Aarti, both of whom make up his close-knit family, besides being married to his duty first. Amazing how the name Anjali picked up after the success of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai...
This storyline has been used over and over again and just by the plot, one can hardly say that this is one unique movie (as, say, Astitva). But we must keep in mind that oftentimes, it is not the actual plot that we cinemagoers are concerned about, since there are only so many different storylines we can spin for the 900 some movies we release each year, rather, its how the plot is executed is what counts. This plot has been taken by directors so often and the end result is that the movie failed to make an impact because the director and crew adopted the storyline and did not know what to do with it when it was in their hands.
This is not the case this time around. Manjrekar handled this flick with the same sensitivity as Astitva and cautiousness of Vaastav. How the movie plays out, the dialogues and delivery, the fast-paced, well-edited scenes, the intensity of the situation evoked by the main characters and their interactions, are all up-to-par and sets this film apart from the run-of-the-mill cop-gunda flick. The manner in which each character is etched, mainly Dutt, and the realism that emerges from the movie allows the audience to connect and relate to the film, not by situation as much as by ideas and thoughts.
Acting-wise, Dutt shines as a determined cop, much like his Mission Kashmir performance, both of which are commendable. Mahima had a small role and was average. Om Puri and Mukesh Rishi play their roles well, evoking excellent scenes between the three (Dutt included) of them. Songs were not an integral part of the movie and it showed, considering the music itself was not a major drawing force initially and did not add much more to the film beyond some necessary breaks.
Overall, the film is at the calibre of Vaastav and requires a mature audience to understand and appreciate the seriousness and intensity of the film. If you in the mood of some realism and can accept that the movie may not have the sweetness of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or the punchlines of Haseena Maan Jayegi, this movie may just be for you.