It's a huge star cast that Prakash Jha handles in his forthcoming Raajneeti, and sticky situations are absolutely unavoidable. As the minutes tick away, delaying a press conference he has called for the film's promotion, the director anxiously tries reaching out to his ensemble cast.

An hour later, he is the lone ranger, talking about his latest labour of love.The film, loosely based on the epic Mahabharata, talks about politics and beyond. “I am very happy with the way the film has turned out,” says Jha, adding: “For once, as a filmmaker I can say that there is nothing I have not done that I should have. Be it the special effects, technical aspects, or the scale of the project, I have not spared any effort.” And yes, “All actors have worked with complete dedication,” he says, as part of his cast, including Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Manoj Bajpai and Arjun Rampal, walk in.

Ugly side of politics

A story about the ugly side of politics, Raajneeti centres around the political Pratap family: the three men — Veerendra (Manoj), Prithvi (Arjun) and Samar (Ranbir), and Prithvi's wife Indu (Katrina). Nana Patekar plays a political mentor (Brij Gopal); Ajay Devgn (Sooraj) is a backward classes' leader, and Naseeruddin Shah is Bhasker Sanyal, a firebrand Leftist leader. “Politics is not a linear thing. Just so, my film is also not only about the politics of the state, but it deals with personal aspirations, greed, loyalty and betrayal,” says Jha.

Jha and his team started working on the film, reported to have cost Rs. 45 crore, six months prior to shooting it in Bhopal. The cast, if surprising in parts, is also very impressive. Naseeruddin, Nana, Ajay, Manoj and Arjun are all National Award-winning actors, with Nana and Ajay having worked with Jha on his previous projects. The surprises are Arjun, Katrina and Ranbir. The three actors have transformed themselves to fit into what could be their most demanding roles till date. “My actors may maintain that I have mentored them through their roles, but the truth is that they have worked very hard. Take Katrina, for instance. She is not a natural with Hindi, but worked to deliver her dialogues with perfection,” says Jha.

Asked how close Katrina's character is to Congress President Sonia Gandhi's, and Jha denies any resemblance, even though the draping of the sari and the accent seem inspired. “Please see the film and find out for yourself. Sonia Gandhi is not a character in our film,” he says.

While Ajay's absence at the press conference is justified as he is shooting for Golmaal 3 in Goa, Nana giving the event a miss raises a few eyebrows, especially following reports of a fallout between the two friends. Ask if Nana gave him grief on the sets of Raajneeti, and Jha laughs it off. “Nana never troubled me. He is like that. We have no problems.”

Social activist

Jha, who'd rather be referred to as a social activist than a politician (he had contested the 2002 and 2009 elections from Champaran, Bihar, on the ticket of the Lok Janashakti Party), says that he contested because he wanted to help contribute to the betterment of his constituency, and cannot be likened to any of the hardened politicians in his film. “You haven't seen me at the rallies of any party, have you?” he asks. “I don't believe in ideology or politics. I just wanted to be part of the process and be close to the resources, so I would be able to use them for the people. But now, I've no intention to be in active politics,” he adds.

Despite his turnaround on politics, Jha maintains that the field requires professionalism. “I am very serious about the issue, and am using my film as a platform for discussing the engagement of professionals in politics. I feel that till professional-thinking people join politics, the future is not too bright,” says Jha.

Jha's intentions may be serious, but he clarifies that he has made a commercial film for all to enjoy. “First of all, I want people to be entertained; then, definitely, I wish to be rewarded and awarded,” he candidly admits. “After that, if there is any change that my film brings about, I'd say it is purely unintentional.”