Satyagraha - Review

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV (?)
quick review:

It's predictable, preachy and over-simplified yet, it engages because it's close to home.

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Wogma Review

With themes like bribery and corruption a film almost always has black and white characters. I doubt there is any other way to go about it. System - bad, common man - good. Politician - bad, idealist - good. In that sense, Satyagraha doesn't have any surprises at all. But, the unexpected comes in little packages every once in a while - in a one-off expression by Manoj Bajpayee or a slight deviation from what we have come to expect in such films from the characters. Not that it takes away too much from the predictability of the overall plot, even so.

There's another thing about films that take a stand on a social issue that in the writer's zeal to make the point, characters take about turns in their character graphs for no compelling reason. Satyagraha keeps away from any such temptations. This keeps the battle between good and bad very interesting because you are always waiting for the other side's next move. Also, the focus on the issue starts in the first few minutes and stays on till the very end.

Except of course, for a detour at Junction Romance. The one romantic sequence and the song that follows sticks out like a sore thumb, quite literally. The picturization of that song is so weird and out of the place for the film that you wonder if it was shot and squeezed into the film as an afterthought.

Fortunately, all through the performances are ace rate. Undoubtedly, you forget he's Amitabh Bachchan and worry about Dwarka Anand's blood pressure at the beginning itself, when you see his blood boil and bitterness at the unfairness of the system. Ajay Devgn looks a tad old for the age he plays but nothing like watching a man shed tears on screen to appreciate his performance, needless to say he does well. No one brings out your spite towards a negative character like Manoj Bajpayee. Kareena Kapoor, Amrita Rao, and Arjun Rampal lay their bits as usual. Nothing that sticks out as very bad or good.

Yet, Satyagraha stays interesting only because the issue is so close to home. Sure, you have seen it all - in films and in real life too. It manages to provoke you every once in a while because you do feel like slapping the arrogant policeman and your heart breaks when you see the hero do something self-destructive. Also, Satyagraha doesn't let its characters have it easy - they face opposition from outside and within their factions. Things do resolve themselves rather easily but the conflicts are brought up to point out that there are no easy solutions.

So engrossed is Satyagraha in making its point that they couldn't be bothered with technicalities like editing, cinematography, etc. Other than the fact that the screenplay is long-winded and takes a good two and a half hours to go through its business, there are things like sudden close-ups of actors, unnecessary songs that are extremely jarring, product placements and so on. However, there are times when the background score is subtle and invokes the intended emotion. At other times it is repetitive and too in-the-face for background music.

So, here we are, another 'message film aimed at the common man' later. You will clap when the villain is slapped, you will cheer at the heros' smallest victories and the stands they take. You will sit through the speeches even though they bore you, because you acknowledge the truth in them. Then what?

How about not bribing a law/admin official the next opportunity you are "required" to?

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: One tight slap and Lathi-charges - some of which turn gory. A brutal road accident.
  • Language: Clean. The F-word appears in writing thought the F is #-ed out.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A couple of kisses, a mild making-out scene.
  • Concept: Common man vs. the corrupt system
  • General Look and Feel: Serious political statement tone.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 2.5
  • Story: 3
  • Lead Actors: 4
  • Character Artists: 3.5
  • Dialogues: 3.5
  • Screenplay: 2.5
  • Music Director: 2
  • Lyrics: 3.5

Satyagraha - Trailer

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Comments (26)

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Fan:

Personally I find Prakash Jhalak films pretty flat, only exception being Rajneeti. That Rajneeti worked is thanks to the biggest and ancient epic Mahabharata on which it was based. Otherwise it would have also met the same fate as all other films.

Fan:

Sorry for typos in earlier post. The iPad is too smart for me.

meetu:

@Fan hmmm...I know what you mean. Though I don't mind them. I liked Chakravyuh and Gangajal too. :D

shaivi:

I was looking fwd to the movie but now will reconsider watching it.

kapil:

I second the thoughts shared by Fan. Praksh Jha just picks up some social issue and makes a pretty flat movie. Can't watch any of his movies after Aarakshan. All his movies are pretty basic except Raajneeti. He made Chakravyuh which I didn't see, but we already have marvellous Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi on that issue.

Anup:

the movie is made in a oversimplified method,,,,which a simpleman can easily understand unlike madras cafe which need brain to understand....
The political aspect in ignored a litl bit and only the revolution side is shown....may be a litl more research by prakash jha would have made the movie much better....

guddu:

Nice review Meetu , i want to ask u aquestion , with the release of serious films each week , do u think the bollywood ideology of moviemaking is finally growing up ?. Even if the makers are failing to execute it atleast they are trying.

Anup:

The movie is in a very simple form,,,,unlike madras cafe which needs brain to understand,,,,a litl bit more research by prakash jha could have made it better,,,,the game plans of politiance are litl bit missing....

vishal:

...throughout the movie I empathizes with Amita h's character... In fact felt a couple of times to slap manoj bajpayi real hard ...and in the end felt good...and then I read a few reviews ..and agreed with most of the flaws that were pointed out ...so if the motive is to enjoy a simple good/bad story with decent performances satyagrah can be watched but in case idea is to get intellectually stimulated or or motivated to start practicing it the moment you are out of theatre...then it can be skipped... Btw I actullay got motivated post watching RDB ...

mac:

Surprised not to find mention of two gory scenes under the violence column. One the brutal accident and the other being the bodies of murdered policemen.

ankit :

gud work amitabh bachchan nice movie

meetu:

@Shaivi Yeah, maybe you can wait until it's out on TV/DVD

@kapil Well, true. But, I don't think I can call Satyagraha flat. And anyhow, just because we have a marvellous film on a topic, should other people not make another film on it at all?

@Anup yeah, the complications are kept out. I guess the point was to get us worked up without overwhelming us with how difficult it is :D

@guddu Thank you! Well, maybe. I some times feel, such films were always made, they just didn't get the exposure that they do get now.

@Vishal I guess if such a film makes you feel for or against some characters they have done their job, haven't they?

@mac thanks for pointing out. I will add them immediately

@ankit :D

Nishant Wadhwa:

(((Spoiler Alert)))Generally Prakash Jha's films boils ones blood but this one is pretty flat. The film is loosely based on the recent past and tries to explain why Arvind Kejrival formed an "Aam Aadmi Party".

But IMHO the attempt is pretty lame. No character ever shines in the movie. Only Manoj Bajpai does "some" justice to his role.

meetu:

@Nishant Interestingly, I loved the fact that no character shines; that there are many heroes; that there was equal weight to almost all the main characters. But, yeah, I can understand why you thought it was lame, because it is rather simplistic.

Fan:

Watched the film. I must admit that it was a massive snore festival. I had a tough time staying alive despite a brilliant cast, my favourite being Mr. Manoj Bajpayee but all others being equally fantastic. However they were let down by the script and direction.

Heavily influenced by Anna Hazare, AAP, Kiran Bedi. Shades of Singham (slow motion appearance of Mr. Ajay Devgn when home minister's brother is arrested), lots of shades of Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.

And what about the kissing scene? Not at all needed. And despite Ms. Kareena not wanting to do it why was it forced in the most inelegant manner on the audience? Idem for item number - totally imposed on audience.

mac:

my pleasure.

meetu:

@Fan ouch!

Suman Chakraborty:

Direction: 2
Story: 3
Lead Actors: 4
Character Artists: 3

Dialogues: 3
Screenplay: 2
Music Director: 0
Lyrics: 0

- See more at: http://wogma.com/movie/satyagraha-review/#sthash.VqyavFia.dpuf

meetu:

@Suman yep, I'm not surprised.

rizwan:

Meetu! I used to agree with every review of yours but this thime, I am very disappointed with your review. Prakash Jha is a fine director and I have liked all of his movies but Satyagraha is just a flat moive. It has nothing which is different or unique. The performances by Ajay, Amitabh and Kareena are below the mark. The love affair between Ajay and Kareena is just our of my understanding. The "bhook hartal" by Amitabh in the end seems more irritating.

meetu:

@rizwan oh. Thank you for your feedback. As I acknowledge in the review, I like such type of films.

TimELiebe:

@Meetu, actually we were impressed by the quality of the acting overall. It reminded me that all of these people can be extremely good actors, but seldom get the chance to be.

We also thought the story, while clearly a melodramatic "little man against Big Power" story, went places a comparable American film would never have considered, and within its storytelling limits was a smart and fairly believable look at the rise, splintering and partial fall of protest movements. A few of our members, who'd been active in American antiwar and social justice causes when they were younger, really felt this movie got it right, in the same way Rang De Basanti did.

Sure, the plot's pure Capra-corn for about two-thirds of the way - right down to the hero's Dark Moments of the Soul before he rises back up against the Corrupt Big Bad Guys! But we all felt that the story carried us along to the final third which Frank Capra would have never dared to try, and a hopeful but not heroic ending that clearly pointed the finger how much the Government needs cleaning up. (Do Indian movies make the corruption obvious for popular consumption, or is it really that out in the open?)

Anyway, we liked it a lot, and I didn't think it would be worth looking at.

Oh, one last thing: What does "The BMD is a communal party" (that was the translation Netflix gave us) mean? We Americans are confused....

meetu:

@TimELiebe I am sorry, can you elaborate on the "The BMD is a communal party"? I don't understand what it is a translation of.

TimELiebe:

I think it's Arjun Rampal's "street element" revolutionary who tells Ajay Devgn that the "BMD Party" approached them offering support, and Devgn's character originally rejects them with that line, Meetu.

They were later described as "Nationalist troublemakers", if that helps any?

Someday, I should probably just break down and learn to speak Hindi....

meetu:

@TimeLiebe aah. While I understand the phrase conceptually, I am in no way qualified to define it technically. Wouldn't even know where to begin.

Having lived in the US for a few years though, I find it both unsurprising and yet fascinating that you didn't understand the phrase.

Sorry, I know I am being of little help here.

TimELiebe:

Sorry, I know I am being of little help here.

No problem, Meetu - I think it's one of those things like some of our comments about US politicians that make sense to us, but no sense to anybody outside the US.

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