Despite giving a string of few uninspiring films, the fan inside me wanted to watch Satyagraha for a simple reason, Prakash Jha. I walked out of the theatre, disappointed, the fan inside me, hurt.
As has been the case with all the films directed by Mr. Jha, Satyagraha too raises a social issue and showcases a common man’s fight against the system. What started off as a genuinely raw and intense and most importantly, real and factual based approach to film making has slowly started taking the turn towards a more predictable, convenient and a commercial approach.
Satyagraha too goes down a predictable lane, diverts from the main “mudda” and focuses so much on giving out a message that tackles the issue of corruption at a holistic level; it forgets everything about the minute yet indispensable details and hence what comes on screen is a product which is packaged very well but lacks the generic features.
Satyagraha is a story about Dwarkanath Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) who is a staunch follower and believer of socialism and his struggles to deal with a system which is corrupt and defunct to the core. It is a story about a man who is willing to let go various opportunities for his son as he wants his son to use his talent for the growth of the country. It is a story through which Mr. Jha makes us understand that the Ministers are PUBLIC SERVANTS.
Satyagraha is also a story about an over ambitious businessman Manav Raghvendra, who is a pure capitalist at heart and how he realizes his mistakes and joins the path of non cooperation adopted by Dwarkanath Anand.
With the support of a journalist and a local leader and a legal advisor, this team is able to create a revolution of sorts in Ambikapur where the film is set.
There are internal conflicts among the team members as well. Looks a lot like Team Anna. But the makers deny that fact.
This must, on paper, look like a script tailor made for some hard hitting and gritty cinema but it turns out to be a very shallow, over the top and unbelievable drama that carries on for more than 2.5 hours.
The film is flawed at almost every level. The film looks more of an advertisement of around 18 to 20 different brands that appear in the film through the concept of IN-FILM advertising. Any scene and every scene will make your attention shift towards strategically placed banners of various brands that have tied up with this film. So much so that it feels as if the Cinematographer planned a scene keeping the brand in mind and not what the script demanded. I counted about 14 brands myself. This took so much away from the impact of the film.
The characterization is flawed. All the characters are uni-dimensional. No scope for any complexity or personal conflict. Though A.B Sr, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai make their characters worthwhile thanks to some superb acting, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Amrita Rao portray characters that are written weakly.
Despite the entire nation being informed about the Ambikapur revolution and the incident having its impact on the State Cabinet, Kareena Kapoor is the only journalist from a media house covering the entire report on the Satyagraha. She becomes a part of the movement as well. What about journalism? God knows. The other journalists only appear when the focus shifts from the Satyagraha to other episodes.
Arjun Rampal’s character has no other job but to gather crowds and shout slogans. There is no value addition that he does to the script.
There lies a problem in the way relationships and bonds get established. Though the bond between Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn is pretty emotional, it is hard to understand Devgn signing off a 6000+cr company and distributing everything to the shareholders and becoming a part of the revolution. The way he dissolves the company will make the Finance enthusiasts scratch their head off.
Kareena and Ajay fall in love. When and How? I don’t know.
Like his previous film Aarakshan, the major problem here is that the film diverts from the topic way too often. The audience at times gets confused as to what is the issue Mr. Jha is trying to address. Too much emotional scenes thrown in the 1st half dampen the pace of the film. Then again an unnecessary romantic song, featuring Kareena and Devgn springs up from practically nowhere. What makes it worse is there is no chemistry between the couple.
There is an item number as well. God knows how that made any sense to Jha. There are 5 to 6 incidents through which Jha tries to portray the sad state of our democracy and as soon as you feel that the movie is finally coming to some conclusive point, an unnecessary track jumps up and puts you off!
Amitabh Bachchan is in fine form yet again. His walk, his dialogue delivery, his stance, everything commands respect. His character has shades of Gandhi. In a particular scene he is seen supported by two females (Kareena and Amrita) as he approaches to address a section of kids. So much similar to Bapu. Watch out for his scene with the district collector or the scene where he breaks down and loses his composure on the highway and you will know why he is called the Superstar of the Millennium.
Ajay Devgn delivers yet another good performance. Though his expressions are repetitive, he still does justice to his role. He also has a wonderful scene where he cries at the terrace mourning the death of his friend. Brilliantly enacted. Though it looked to me that he sleepwalked through his role because that is a character that he has been playing in almost all the films he has done with Prakash Jha.
Kareena Kapoor Khan gets the most flawed character to perform and she is strictly average at her performance. She is never able to justify her connection with the cause or with Ajay.
Arjun Rampal looks like he went into slumber after Raajneeti and got up and started shooting for Satyagraha. Trust me there is no difference in the way he has played the 2 characters. Probably because he did not have anything substantial or concrete in connection to the essence of the film.
Amrita Rao deserves more roles for sure. She looks comfortable throughout and stands her ground despite having a substantial amount of scenes with A.B.Sr as well as Ajay Devgn.
And make no mistake. Manoj Bajpai steals the show yet again. Though he has been playing the similar role in Jha’s films since Raajneeti, it is he who infuses some life into the film. Scheming and shrewd and totally under the skin of his character. Watch out for his dialogue delivery.
His confrontation scene with Mr. Bachchan is a highlight of the film where the audience gets to witness acting of a different level altogether.
Prakash Jha has made better films before. Damul, Apaharan and Gangajal were eye openers. But with this film, he loses the grit and the boldness which was a USP of his films. The issues that he tackles are current and relevant but the execution is flawed. I expected some ground breaking stuff from Mr. Jha but he chose to be reluctant and focused more on being politically correct. The climax scene was eagerly awaited but turned out to be over the top and over dramatised.
This does not mean there are no positives.
There are scenes which will surprise you. The way various issues have been selected is praise worthy.
The inclusion of social media is another good concept. His ability to handle the extras in the scenes is worth an applaud. There are thousands of extras present in almost every frame and they are handled well.
There is an excellent message that he tries to give, “Government officers are PUBLIC SERVANTS and since they are servants they are supposed to take orders from the public and execute them.”
The impact of the film, the core message, comes out in the Raghupati Raghav Raja Raam song, composed brilliantly and written amazingly by Prasoon Joshi. This 4 minute track was a hair rising experience but the rest of the film was a dampener to the spirits.
Satyagraha probably tries to do too many things at one time. It tries to be a social satire, tries to make a political comment, tries to showcase human relationships, tries to address the demons of the democracy but ends up as a film whose motives were uncertain. In the film, at times, it looks like as if the shots were taken from the stock shots of Raajneeti or Aarakshan.
Satyagraha is intention-ed well, but is caught up in the web of cliché and predictability.
What could have been a nail biting yet informative and factual cinematic experience turns out to be really superfluous. The audience doesn’t connect with the film and the game is lost there and then.
The fan inside me is hurt but wounds can always heal. Time to get back to the Damul, Mrityudand, Gangajal and Apaharan days.
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