Kurukshetra (2000)


Kurukshetra (2000)
Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Mahima Chaudhary, Om Puri, Shivaji Satam, Sayaji Shinde
Director: Mahesh Manjrekar
Music Director: Himmesh Reshammiya
Synopsis: Honest upright officer battles waves relentless waves of corruption,….again!


Mahesh Manjrekar has been very busy of late. With the success of Vaastav, he seems to have taken a vast array of subjects and the fruits of his efforts were seen recently in the masterful Astitva and the miserable Jis Desh Main Ganga Rehta Hai. Kurukshetra, his latest effort, falls somewhere in between both those films.

ACP Prithviraj Singh (Sanjay Dutt) is an honest, upright and fearless policeman, determined to bring criminals to book and to do his duty without interference and without bowing down to the corruption which lives in every corner of our society. Married to the lovely Mahima, the disgruntled wife bemoaning the fact that her husband has little time for her, the film starts with his transfer to a new police station where he sets about trying to dismantle the criminal underworld that exists within that belt.

His first shot is Iqbal Pasina (Mukesh Rishi) who is involved in all kinds of criminal activity including drugs. The film gets a shot in the arm with the arrest of the Chief Minister’s son for the rape of a girl. Prithvi sees to it that he does not bow to the pressures of the CM (Om Puri) but soon enough, gets his transfer orders. The CM arranges for the rape victim to be murdered. Prithvi vows to fight the transfer order but is replaced by the very corrupt Patvardan (Pramod Moutho), one of the CM’s cronies. The whole idea behind the transfer is that the CM’s chosen replacement would destroy the file of the rape case. However, one of the police constables gopi (Shivaji Satam) has removed the offending statement from the file and has given it to Prithvi. Patvardhan beats a prisoner in police custody to death and Prithvi is blamed for this. Unable to get the statement from Prithvi, the CM and his various cronies, the police included try their utmost to threaten and put pressure on Prithvi to give them the statement. But Prithvi will not relent. He is determined that justice be done.

Kurukshetra is old wine in a new bottle. Sadly, it does not throw up any new or interesting ideas neither does it approach its subject in anything but the usual Bollywood fashion. In some respects, there was a realism in Vaastav which was is lacking completely in this effort. Yes, there are characters here which are very real. Gopi, played superbly by Shivaji Satam is your typical ordinary man, trying to make ends meet by being on the take on the side for it is the only way to survive. He is a decent man, not out to make big bucks but to be able to support himself and his family which is simply not possible on his salary.

The chief Minister, a vulgar and morally bankrupt man, spewing abuse and using his power as a personal tool, is brilliantly played by Om Puri. The only character which smacks of déjà vu and one that is over the top, is that of Sayaji Shinde. His ultimate choice in the film is actually unbelievable and unconvincing. Perhaps it is the director’s way of showing how degenerate the human being is, faced with the prospect of power and money but he makes this point with no great effect…and we have seen it all before. But the subject of politics and corruption is an oft repeated one and the viewer is not given anything new to chew on. This is mainstream Bollywood and one wished that the film could have been more in the vein of more realistic films like Sarfarosh or even Vaastav to have made any kind of impression.

At the end of the day, its just another good guys against the bad guys kind of film. Manjrekar keeps a smooth flow but one feels that film almost peaks soon after Prithvi’s suspension. Instead of racing along to a thundering climax, we end up with a bit of a whimper, a tame, disappointing and utterly predictable finale. And what does Manjrekar actually want to say at the end of the film? What is the moral of the story? Same as usual…the might of the corrupt politicians can only be combated with violent response. The decaying system does not allow for anything else.

Manjrekar has written the story and the screen play but has not infused any great power or novelty into the theme. Whatever power the film generates is due to its excellent performances and Sanjay Dutt’s magnetic presence. Dutt has come a long way from his earlier days and now chalks up another excellent performance after Mission Kashmir. He is now a controlled and sensitive actor, commanding attention. Mahima spends much of the film with glycerine in her eyes although it does not sully her make up. To be fair, I make that remark only because I think she is an actress of tremendous potential who is lost in pancakes of make up and detract from what she is able to deliver. Mukesh Rishi also comes up with a good performance. His character is there to show that there is some honour even amongst small time criminals as compared to the very corrupt but “decent” politicians in our story.

Musically, the film is just OK with Sukhwindra making an appearance in many outfits singing a song with a thudding beat…but fortunately, there are only four songs and this helps to keep the film reasonably pacy. Two songs are shot against glorious countryside in Switzerland. All in all, Kurukshetra is a letdown if one associates it with the standards that one is expecting of Manjrekar. But it’s worth a peek for Sanjay Dutt and a most deliriously wonderful performance from Om Puri.