Film Review: 'Satyagraha' is a bad script with good actors

Friday, 30 August 2013 - 11:34am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The film could have been so much more had it taken the Madras Cafe route and made an honest, hard-hitting film.

Rating: **1/2
Directed by: Prakash Jha
Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai and Amrita Rao

What it's about:
If you ask me if Satyagraha is based on Anna Hazare and his whole movement, I will have to say yes. Even though everyone connected to the film has denied that. There are just too many coincidences for me to call this film a work of fiction.  Yes, large dollops of fictional elements have been added to the script but it's too easy to guess who is playing who here. Dadu's aka Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) fight against corruption is no different from Anna's movement, then there is his 'deputy' Manu (Ajay Devgn) who could easily pass off as Arvind Kejriwal. The whole political scenario at that time, the support of the opposition, the police action, the participation of the youths, the maligning of the party members, the disillusionment of the public, and finally formation of the party…We witnessed all this not too long ago..

What's good:
Satyagraha has all the ingredients for a good film. A subject that is still fresh in people's minds, a big star cast, a huge budget, a big banner. Director Prakash Jha takes up the issues (corruption and dirty politicians) that plague this nation. There is enough anger/frustration amongst people, if Satyagraha's purpose was to reminds us that nothing changed even after the movement, the rallies and the noise on the social network, it succeeds.  The film will make you angry and make you feel helpless, powerless…it's all too real.. too close home. Maybe that it the director's intention. Which is why he should have done this docudrama style. It would have been more effective and relevant.  Drama and emotions are the director's strengths and he excels in the scenes between Dwarka-Manu, Dwarka-Sumi (Amrita Rao) Manu-Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor). Some times an actor lets a script down, at other times the script lets an actor down. Satyagraha belongs to the latter. It is laden by superb performances by it's cast.  Ajay Devgn is in his comfort zone, yet another subdued and impactful performance but this role has a seen-that quality, Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpai are brilliant but it is Amitabh Bachchan who stays with you. Don't ever let this actor convince you he has already delivered his best performance. He just betters himself, and leaves you speechless and more than a little in awe. Kareena is sincere but let down by a poor role.

What's bad:
The thing that troubles me is: why make a fictional version of a subject like this? The only valid reason seems to be to not piss off the powers that be. To ensure a release. Admitting this is based on the Anna Hazare movement would have meant many hurdles. From political pressure to censor trouble to say the least. So director Prakash Jha choses to call this a drama/love story, thereby defeating the whole message/point of making a film like this. You can't make a film about what is wrong with the system, while surrendering to the system. It is a cop-out. Satyagraha could have been so much more had it taken the Madras Cafe route and made an honest, hard-hitting film. The bollywood-isation of the film is what ruins it. Another thing that jars in the film is Kareena's character. For some reason she is seen smiling through out the protests/rallies while filming them. Her hair is perfectly blow-dried, face too made up,  which would have been fine had she been reading news in a studio, and not part of the ground team doing a report. But that is the least of my grouses with her character. She moves into the house of the person who she is covering, is seen on stage with them, becomes part of the movement…all while filing stories! A journalist can never do that. The reporting has to be unbiased, irrespective of the reporter's personal view on the subject. And which channel will allow one of their reporters/editors to openly align themselves to a campaign? What else is wrong?  The songs. This film did not need songs. Certainly not actors lip-syncing them. The film begins with a song in which the item girl gyrating in bar dancer attire, the crowds are dressed in a trendy nightclub ensemble -- WTF moment.

What to do:
Watch it for Big B's performance. It would be a shame to miss that.

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