Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Satyagraha: A Letdown

Director: Prakash Jha
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal, Amrita Rao

Prakash Jha’s much anticipated Satyagraha with its multi-starrer cast slumps in critical circles creating only a minor cinematic splash. While the performances of Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn are commendable, a half baked script and unexploited potential present a string of vapid scenes and at best trophy supporting actors.
Dwarka Anand (Bachchan), a school teacher begins a Satyagraha movement when he lands in jail for slapping the collector. Manav (Devgn), an opportunistic businessman, has a change of heart when his friend and Anand’s son Akhilesh dies in a brutal accident. Along with Arjun (Rampal), a student leader, Akhilesh’s wife Sumitra (Rao) and Yasmin (Kapoor Khan), a journalist, he becomes the brain of the movement.
In a movie in which events tumble one after another like rolling pins, moments of stillness add an element of grace to the pace of the hurtling narrative. After his son is brutally killed, Dwarka Anand finds Sumitra, his daughter-in law, sobbing in the dead of the night and consoles her in silence. Another surprising non Prakash Jha-esque scene sees an emotional Anand reluctant to let Manav go after he has already lost a son.
The muddled depiction of private and public space has openly carried out dialogues cut in medias res and continued in private over a cup of tea. The mob appears and disappears like a poor magic trick just to provide numbers.  Balram (Bajpayee) the corrupt minister becomes the single point of evil and a uni-dimensional character.
One can equally disparage the portrayal of the media when Yasmin interviews villagers with her shades on and repeatedly instructs the cameraman on how to do his job. To add insult to injury, she announces her decision to give up the President’s entourage to cover the movement as if there are no bosses and deadlines in the world of journalism.

In the end, it becomes a game of spotting every headline-making piece of news and identifying characters with real life figures such as Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Yet, that recognition does not add anything to film which is neither a poignant reflection of reality nor a bold narrative taking off from it. It is at best a recapitulation of all that has occurred in the public space so far. 

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