Prakash Jha’s brand of cinema is typically described as hard-hitting and realistic; a dramatic, but serious form of cinema with a message or a social comment. Today’s big release, Satyagraha is no different and is compelling cinema of the same genre as his earlier socio-political films – as Damul (1984), Mrityudand (1997), Gangaajal (2003), Apaharan (2005), Raajneeti (2010), Aarakshan (2011) Chakravyuh (2012). As in many of his earlier films, Satyagraha stars actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Manoj Bajpai and Arjun Rampal.
Satyagraha – Well Worth the Watch
Film – Satyagraha release date 30 August 2013
Starring – Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai, Amrita Rao
Producer – Prakash Jha, Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapoor
Director – Prakash Jha
Story/Screenplay – Anjum Rajabali, Prakash Jha, Rutvik Oza
Music – Salim-Sulaiman, Indian Ocean, Adesh Shrivastava, Meet Bros Anjjan with lyrics by Prasoon Joshi
Plot –Amitabh Bachchan plays the retired teacher Dwarka Anand who lives his life via his ideals of truth. His son Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta) is an engineer working on a government highways project and his son’s close friend is Manav Raghvendra (Ajay Devgn). Amrita Rao plays Akhilesh’s wife, Arjun Rampal is local ruffian with political intentions and his heart in the right place and Kareena Kapoor is a TV reporter. Manoj Bajpai is the local politician.
Manav is a go-getter; his capitalistic attitude in complete contrast to Dwarka Anand’s idealism. There is a change in Manav when his cherished friend Akhilesh is unexpectedly killed and a set of circumstances where Dwarka Anand has cause to slap the District Collector land the older man in jail. Manav starts a social campaign; a modern Satyagraha propelled by Facebook pages, viral videos and tweets to get his deceased friend’s father out of jail. Rampal’s character, an erstwhile student of Anand, lends support and muscle in terms of physical numbers to the campaign.
What started as a way to release an old man from jail becomes a people’s movement against corruption in the system and against government apathy. I love a film that makes me cry, which makes me clap my hands when justice wins and when baddies get their just dues – this film does all this and more!
The characters are finely etched and layered and all the actors do a really creditable job. Amitabh Bachchan, always the consummate performer, does a great job – authoritative and dignified when required; vulnerable and feeble towards the end when he is shown to be on a fast to the death. Ajay Devgn is good as the go getter who makes things happen – he plays a nuanced role; that of an unscrupulous businessman who does that is required to get the job done, but who ultimately puts loyalty above all. The romance angle between him character and Yasmin Ahmed played by Kareena is a trifle forced and seems out of place in the general narrative of the movie; particularly the time wasted over the song.
Arjun Rampal’s character as the fiery mobster fighting for a just cause is very well done too – he is understated but effective. Manoj Bajpai as the corrupt, manipulative, lying politician with a coterie of crooks is beautifully swinish and as usual does a great job. The movie is well paced and plausible, with a subtle back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys and a story that doesn’t drag.
The parallels between historical fact and the movie are obvious: The upright, high principled Dwarka Anand with his willingness to remain in jail, and later fast unto death, recall Mahatma Gandhi to mind; particularly with the repeated refrain of Raghupati Raghav Raja Raam playing in the background throughout the film.
Then of course the parallels with the Anna Hazare movement and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party are obvious too: the ground swell of spontaneous public support to the anti corruption movement, overtures from mainstream parties, gatherings at Ram Lila maidans, police brutality, political spinelessness, and later factions within the anti-corruption movement all of these happened in fact and are reflected in celluloid in this film.
The music is competent but doesn’t stand out for its melodic brilliance or originality. The Raghupati Raghav refrain is impactful but not exactly new and as a long term fan of Indian Ocean – arguably India’s best fusion band, I liked their song Hum Bole The. Janta Rocks is a good, rousing song too; however the other songs weren’t as memorable. The songs that required the actors to lip synch, seemed awkward and not in keeping with a serious film such as this. While they weren’t entirely superfluous to the story, some of the songs sounded a jarring note.
This is a good movie, a worthy attempt to make an important social comment and a good piece of highly watchable cinema with a well told story, excellent performances and a good script. To my mind, the movie was a about 15 minutes too long; and may have been better for a slightly tighter script and more judicious editing. That said, I am fully recommending Satyagraha as your cinematic fix for this weekend.