Not a day passes when you don’t hear/read about rampant scams and corruption, dreadful and appalling crimes, shortage of essential commodities and thick-skinned and power-hungry netas going back on their promises. There’s no denying that you commence the day by reading/watching mostly miserable news in newspapers/news channels. Prakash Jha, a conscientious film-maker, has always emphasized on narrating stories that mirror actuality, raising pertinent issues that affect the nation. This time, in SATYAGRAHA, the proficient storyteller attempts to depict the anguish in middle class Indians and how this stratum of society is left with no choice but go on recourse to start a movement against corruption and the deceitful babus responsible for the mess.
The timing couldn’t be more appropriate, for SATYAGRAHA summarizes the mood of the ordinary man and the nation in general. Jha minces no words while flaying and condemning the fraudulent and unscrupulous politicians and the unjust system in a style that’s now synonymous with his brand of cinema — realistic, hard-hitting, forceful — that leaves a hammer-strong impact.
I wish to affirm that SATYAGRAHA has a striking semblance to Jha’s former proficient work RAAJNEETI, but I must also acknowledge that this is Jha’s most intensely political film thus far. Right from the abuse of power taking place around us to depicting the ugly underbelly of Indian politics, which, of late, has transformed into big bucks and business, Jha and co-writer Anjum Rajabali make sure they chisel and sculpt the screenplay around the present-day scenario, often borrowing from headlines and episodes that the spectator is acquainted with. In addition, like the well-intended political protest movement sometime back, SATYAGRAHA also portrays the fact that the movement/s ought to be well thought-out and structured to recover from the current scenario.
SATYAGRAHA deals with the movement of the middle class to re-negotiate transparency in democracy. It’s the story of a man who is a firm believer of Gandhian principles [Amitabh Bachchan], an ambitious entrepreneur who represents the modern India shining philosophy [Ajay Devgn], a social activist who aims to be a politician [Arjun Rampal], a fearless political journalist [Kareena Kapoor Khan] and a wily politician [Manoj Bajpayee] who uses every means to break the system.
Prakash Jha, one of the finest narrators of political themes, derives inspiration from a number of real-life episodes that occurred in the recent past, but SATYAGRAHA doesn’t take sides nor does it favor/denounce any particular politician. In that respect, it’s a standalone film that encompasses episodes such as the Anna Hazare movement, the murder of the whistleblower who exposed the road mafia and the telecom scam, besides highlighting the police attack on public and the candle light protests. Also smartly intertwined are intricate relationships amidst the backdrop of politics and corruption to make the goings-on more absorbing and engaging.
Executing a political thriller seems like a cakewalk for Jha, who, by now, is a veteran in this genre of cinema and executes a variety of sequences with aplomb. Note the point in the narrative when Amitabh is released from police custody after Manoj Bajpayee intervenes and the sequence that ensues. There’s another pertinent moment between Amitabh and Ajay — an emotional one, in fact — which gets you all moist eyed. Similarly, there are several episodes in the second hour that keep you thoroughly hooked to the proceedings… and that includes the culmination, which takes the film to its pinnacle. Besides, Jha smartly bundles in a couple of songs in the narrative, with ‘Raske Bhare Tore Naina’ [Aadesh Shrivastava] and ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ [Salim-Sulaiman] pepping up the goings-on, especially the latter which has truly strong words that reverberates one’s thoughts. Sachin Krishn’s cinematography captures the hues and angst with precision. Dialogue are piercing, intense and thought-provoking all through.
SATYAGRAHA is embellished with qualitative performances, with each actor grabbing eyeballs. Both Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn’s characters bear striking correlation to real-life characters, but the capable actors ensure they don’t come across as caricatures. Amitabh is incomparable and unmatched yet again, delivering a performance that’s easily one amongst his finest in the recent times. He’s fantastic and also the scene stealer. Ajay underplays his part brilliantly. He breathes fire where required and handles the poignant moments with extreme care, without going overboard. Kareena is effortless yet again, displaying a natural streak while interpreting her character. Arjun Rampal also stands out in a film that boasts of towering performers. That speaks volumes of his range as an actor of calibre and competence. Manoj Bajpayee is vicious and sadistic to the core, flaunting the evil streak to the optimum. Here’s another power-packed performance by this splendid actor. Amrita Rao sparkles in a noteworthy role, leaving a strong impression.
Indraneil Sengupta leaves a mark in a cameo. Vipin Sharma is tremendous yet again. Vinay Apte is top notch. Mugdha Godse doesn’t get much scope. Manoj Kolhatkar, Shireesh Sharma, Ajay Trehan and Girish Sahdev are noticeable.
On the whole, SATYAGRAHA is an all-engrossing, compelling drama that mirrors the reality around us. In fact, it’s yet another brilliant addition to Prakash Jha’s credible repertoire, who has created some of the most politically momentous motion pictures. For the splendid drama and the electrifying dramatic highs, I suggest you must watch this hard-hitting fare. Absolutely recommended!