Satyagraha Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

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!

Rating: 4 Stars

  1. yakuza 9 years ago

    4.5 Stars by TOI ..

  2. yakuza 9 years ago

    4 Stars by Business Standard …

  3. yakuza 9 years ago

    Kiaara Sandhu ‏@KiaaraSandhu 8m
    Exclusive,,@ajaydevgn & #KareenaKapoor ”#Satyagraha” took BUMPER OPENING in UAE. All Noon Shows are Packed.

  4. raj 9 years ago

    @yakuza – chalegi to ajay devganka bhala hoga, bachchan ka nahin.

  5. yakuza 9 years ago

    Bachchan ka ab kaun sa bhala karna chahte ho tum ?

  6. sputnik 9 years ago

    Satyagraha Review by Anupama Chopra

  7. sputnik 9 years ago

    Satyagraha Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 2

    August 30, 2013

    Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai, Amrita Rao, Indraneil Sengupta

    Director: Prakash Jha

    With Satyagraha director Prakash Jha once again raids the headlines, this time turning his gaze on the growing public resentment towards the deep-rooted corruption in the system. Jha borrows liberally from real events and the lives of real people, including famed anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Andolan he inspired. Unfortunately Jha’s heavy-handed direction turns this well-intentioned drama into a plodding sermon.

    Amitabh Bachchan stars as Dwarka Anand, a principled school teacher in Ambikapur, who not only stands up for what he believes in, but verbally pummels anyone who doesn’t fall in line with his strong views. At one point, his son’s friend Manav (Ajay Devgan), who is staying at their home, must pack up his things and leave in the middle of the night for clashing with the old man’s ideology. Rather extreme, don’t you think?

    When Dwarka is arrested for assaulting a district collector some years later, Manav returns to help. Along with a youth leader (Arjun Rampal), he mobilizes a truth-seeking movement led by Dwarka, who demands that the local government clean up its act and empower the people. Their campaign gains momentum when prominent TV journalist Yasmin Ahmed (Kareena Kapoor) reports from the scene. Even as Dwarka, or Dadu as he’s rechristened by his swarm of supporters, goes on a hunger strike to protest the government’s inaction, smarmy minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) tries every trick in the book to scuttle the movement.

    Like Aarakshan and Chakravyuh before it, Satyagraha too suffers from Jha’s tendency to overstuff the film with too many ideas. In his attempt to hold a mirror to our troubled times, Jha alludes to such varied incidents as the 2G scam, whistleblower Satyendra Dubey’s murder, and Arvind Kejriwal’s alignment with Anna Hazare’s cause, linking the events with a not-always convincing thread. Apart from this, the director dilutes the film’s core issue by throwing in a gratuitous romance between Manav and Yasmin, as well as an excuse of an item number for the opening credits sequence. And in what has become another Prakash Jha staple, his characters don’t talk to each other, they speechify with lofty dialogue.

    The story flounders as the drama builds up, and collapses like a house of cards in its clunky, overblown climax. Satyagraha, which starts off as a realistic film, gets shrill along the way and, disappointingly, offers no satisfying resolutions at the end of this long slog.

    There are, however, some strengths in this endeavour, notably in the way Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai approach their roles. Bachchan infuses Dadu with righteous anger and heart-wrenching pathos, while Bajpai, saddled with the part of a caricaturish politician, evokes the required contempt. Ajay Devgan, as the ambitious entrepreneur who finds his calling in social reform, delivers a committed performance. Kareena Kapoor, and Amrita Rao in the part of Dadu’s widowed daughter-in-law, are sincere, yet stuck with boringly-sketched characters, and Rampal ably reprises the role of the hot-headed political leader he played in Raajneeti.

    In Satyagraha, Jha effectively meshes the urban angst witnessed on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook with the ground realities of India’s heartland, but the plot subsequently loses its way. Sadly, the director’s storytelling has become so hackneyed that his cinema now merely pays lip service to issues instead of making a stronger comment.

    I’m going with two out of five for Satyagraha. It may be coming from a good place, but it doesn’t know where it’s going.


Leave a reply

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?