Satyagraha (2013) *HQ*

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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.

Retired teacher Dwarka Anand (Bachchan) is an idealistic man. His engineer son Akhilesh’s buddy Manav (Devgn) is an ambitious capitalist. Manav cherishes his friend – who suddenly dies. Minister Balram Singh (Bajpai) announces compensation which Akhilesh’s wife Sumitra (Rao) cannot get despite daily applications before government babus. Incensed, Dwarka slaps an arrogant official and gets imprisoned. Manav starts a campaign to free him, using social media, roping in wannabe-bahubali Arjun Singh (Rampal) and journalist Yasmin (Kapoor). As hopeful students, hungry labourers and angry middle class citizens join, politicians panic. Will their moves derail the movement?

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.

There’s nothing unseen or novel in his story-telling this time around and hence despite addressing the plaguing issues of scams, corruption and lawlessness, the film fails to bear any impact. The dramatisation of the events rob Satyagraha of the realistic appeal that Jha’s films inherently possessed in the past owing to which neither does the situation hit you nor does it give you any message. Moreover, during the course of two and a half hours, the film ends up appearing way too preachy for your taste.

Amitabh Bachchan is like an old lion, whose roar is still respected and the veteran delivers a masterful performance as the dignified and incorruptible Dwarka Anand. Ajay Devgn, a favourite of Prakash Jha, is reliable as always when it comes to delivering an intense performance whereas Rampal and Amrita Rao have decent but short roles. Kareena does her part well, though her ‘holier than thou’ act gets on your nerves at times. Last but not the least, it is Manoj Bajpayee, who makes the film worth watching. As the sly Balram Singh, Bajpayee simply dominates every scene that he is a part of and elicits the maximum whistles and claps with his ‘comic baddie’ act.

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