In a heart-wrenching moment in the climax of Prakash Jha’s political thriller Satyagraha, Amitabh Bachchan’s character questions, “Humne yeh kaisa desh banaya hain?” The line lingers in your head and haunts you for a very long time after the movie is over.
In a country where corruption is so deeply entrenched in our system as well as in our collective psyche, scams get unearthed every day and politicians are frowned upon for the sorry state of the nation, Jha dares to portray a sincere story to reflect the angst, frustration and helpless of the aam aadmi through this movie. But the director weaves the plot in a rather over-simplified manner that makes the film entertaining in pieces, but in its entirety the picture doesn’t quite look thought-provoking and almost always comes across stupendously preachy.
Interestingly and ironically, Jha is the same man who gave us some really dramatic and gripping tales in the past like Gangaajal, Apaharan and Raajneeti. But going by his last venture Aarakshanand now Satyagraha, it seems the intelligent director repeatedly resorts to an easy formula of casting many actors in his movies and layering his stories with subplots where romance, action, heroism, tragedy and drama are all rolled into conveniently crafted commercial packages.
Satyagraha asks many pertinent questions on many levels and also sends the right message – the road to a corruption-free state is not an easy one and the required changes won’t happen overnight. Jha portrays the story and uses the potentiality of his actors to the best of his ability, but fails to give us a film that can stimulate the audience’s minds. At best Satyagraha offers everything readily on the platter and Jha does not hesitate to spoon-feed the audience with utmost sincerity.
What’s the story of Satyagraha?
Retired teacher Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is an idealist whose engineer son Akhilesh dies in a road accident. Minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) announces compensation, which Akhilesh’s widow Sumitra (Amrita Rao) struggles to get in spite of making daily rounds to government offices. Angry at the way in which the corrupt babus operate, Dwarka slaps an arrogant high-ranking official and gets imprisoned. The late engineer’s closest buddy Manav Raghvendra (Ajay Devgn) – a self-made money man – comes to Dwarka’s rescue.
A local wannabe politician-cum-goonda Arjun (Arjun Rampal) and star reporter Yasmin Ahmed (Kareena Kapoor) join the fray. Together the team uses the power of social media to spur a political movement that soon snowballs into a corruption hatao aandolan. But the path to a clean and corruption-free state is straddled with many challenges, dirty politics and blood-bath. Can peace processes and talks alone bring about the much-needed change in the system? Or do non-violent protests, rebellion and revolutionary ideas go hand-in-hand to bring about the change?
Why should you watch Satyagraha?
• Watch Satyagraha for the explosive performances from Manoj Bajpayee and Amitabh Bachchan – strictly in the same order. While Bajpayee plays this scheming politician- showcasing his guile and venality with absolute ease, Bachchan plays this morally upright and idealistic Anna Hazare-inspired character with brilliance.
• Ajay Devgn conveys a range of emotions by using just his eyes coupled with his terrific screen presence. Arjun Rampal, Amrita Rao and Kareena Kapoor should have invested more into their respective characters emotionally.
• Satyagraha reflects the uncontrollable anger and restlessness of a nation sitting on the democratic time bomb that is about to burst. From the degrading moral values to the brazenly corrupt system to the collapsing economy, Jha portrays the plight of the aam aadmi with a simple plot.
What hasn’t worked in Satyagraha?
• Kareena Kapoor’s passionate television reporter is too pretty to look at. Even when the city is burning and a civil war of sorts erupts, the babe looks all dolled up – not a streak of her paper straight hair out of place. The rest of the characters saunter in and out of the frame in linen, khadi and authentic traditional outfits, perhaps to hammer into your head that this film is a socio-political drama.
• Though Big B has delivered one of the finest performances of recent times, his character seems to have a hangover from his earlier films such as Aarakshan, Sarkar and Mohabbatein. A humble teacher from a small town using his rich baritone to sound like a superhero is hard to digest.
• The chemistry equation that Ajay and Kareena share is highly unconvincing and even looks stupid at times. Watching the two romancing each other in a song in a movie that is necessarily a political thriller is laughable.
• Since the film boasts of an ensemble cast comprising many mighty stars, it seems the director was busy making sure that each character gets substantial screen time rather than getting his screenplay right and editing sharp.
• Except for the Raghupati Raghav track, the other songs are not particularly hummable and seem oddly placed.
• Jha happily plugs in a brand of Basmati rice and cement each in a movie that deals with ideologies and questions capitalism.
All in all, director Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha is a film made with a noble intention to create an impact, but the not-so-tight execution of a flat storyline with loopholes the size of lunar craters leaves you with the empty feeling you get after watching a strictly okay commercial entertainer!