The socio-political Satyagraha, directed by Prakash Jha is out. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee and Amrita Rao, we give you the lowdown on whether this makes for good revolutionary cinema or not!
Satyagraha revolves around the struggle of Dwarkadas Anand (Amitabh Bachchan), who is thrown into jail when he slaps a collector. This was because he and his daughter-in-law (Amrita Rao) failed to get compensation that was lawfully theirs… the money that the government had awarded the family on his son Akhilesh’s (Indraneil Sengupta) death. Dwarkadas aka Daduji refuses to apologise and the only way to get him out is to start a satyagrah or revolution but through the Gandhian route of ahimsa (non-violence) and the internet.
This endeavor is led by Manav (Ajay Devgn), Akhilesh's friend and an affluent businessman, who is victorious in getting Daduji out. However, on his release Daduji decides to voice his seven day janta's protest against a government gone corrupt. In this struggle of the aam aadmi to stay adrift in a system that is corrupt and unfair, he is joined by Manav and Arjun (Arjun Rampal).
Joining this band of satyagrahis is journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor Khan). There are, of course, a lot of political twists and turns but what transpires in the end is that despite all the morchas, ann shann and what not, which results in the death of a pivotal character, Manav decides to form a political party to fight the corruption monster.
True to the spirit of making topical films, like his previously released Chakravyuh and Aarakshan, filmmaker Prakash Jha returns with Satyagraha which deals with scams, corruption galore and how it is now time for a social awakening. There are sequences of hordes protesting against the government, swaying to the film’s politically charged track, holding candlelight vigils or standing strong against the barrage of water cannons more than once but none of these rouse you or strike a chord with you!
In fact, the film teeters between topical and tiresome.
"People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people". This V for Vendetta epigram should have epitomized what Satyagraha is all about but sadly, it doesn’t. The intentions of the maker are sincere but a plot that doesn’t hold the viewer lets him down. What also doesn't help the film is its dull music. Except for the title track, the songs are out of sync, though an evident attempt to connect with the youth. Also, the insane number of random brand endorsements is glaring and belittle the message of the film.
While the frail-looking Amitabh Bachchan may remind one of Anna Hazare, the actor gives a power-packed performance. Once again, it is him with his sheer screen presence who grabs eyeballs. A thundering rebel one moment and a fasting patriarch of a rapidly growing social revolution the next, it is his sheer intensity that holds the viewers attention.
Ajay Devgn, on the other hand looks tired, bored and irritated. It's as if he thought, 'chalo bhai role ko haan kaha hai toh kar hi lete hain'! Arjun Rampal’s role could have been done by anyone. For the most part of it, he looks like he has no clue what he is doing but since he is there, he might as well enjoy it! In a couple of scenes you can see a bewildered and befuddled smile on his face. There is also a suitably grim Amrita Rao in a supporting role. Kareena Kapoor Khan plays a journalist and looks pretty as a doll while she's at it. Enough said. Manoj Bajpayee’s subtle, conniving intonation of the 'bhrasht neta' is marvelously flawless.
Satyagraha, as the title suggests is about the protest of the people of a democratic nation against corruption. It is relevant to the current disillusionment amongst the populace, and that itself could be the reason the audience makes a beeline for the theatres, in the hope that the film holds answers anti-corruption vigilantes couldn't offer. However, the only answers available are clichés.