Satyagraha Movie Review

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Satyagraha_Poster[1]Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha brings to the forefront the following questions: Can violence ever be avoided when fighting for one’s rights? How powerful is non-violence in the face of violence? The film explores Gandhi’s philosophy of ‘satyagraha’ in a modern day context. Gandhi’s presence shadows the film throughout through Amitabh Bachchan’s character (Dwarka Anand; Daduji) and also through photographs of Gandhi in the backdrop at poignant moments. The parallel between Daduji and Gandhi provokes not only the realisation of how disappointingly corrupt India has become, but the question: will it take another Gandhi to destroy this corruption in India? To a certain extent, yes. But the ultimate message of the film comes across as, real change can only come through masses united. Daduji’s ‘team’, is comprised of Manav (Ajay Devgn), Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor Khan), Arjun Singh (Arjun Rampal) and Simran (Amrita Rao).

Firstly, we are introduced to Manav and Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta). Visiting his friend Akhilesh before he ties the knot, Manav falls into the bad books of Akilesh’s father, Dwarka Anand. This sets the foundation and the challenges of what’s to come. We are taken three years ahead to where Manav has established himself as a strong, successful businessman abroad. However, Satyagraha truly begins once Manav is forced back to India by circumstances. Through the twists and turns, lies and deceit, Satyagraha becomes a challenge between the Government and the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man). As the story delves deeper, more and more corruption rises to the surface. Satyagraha seeks to unravel how one can claim their right and what it will takes to get there.

The film itself was ‘satisfactory’. With a huge star studded cast, expectations were very high. There is that extra ‘oomph’ that was expected, completely missing from the film. It just did not hit the emotional chords as was expected. Some scenes felt clichéd and the twists and turns turned out to be predictable. It also felt as if there could have been more done to build a rapport between the audience and the characters- apart from Daduji. The female characters in particular seemed underdeveloped with not much screen time. Performance wise, Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai outshone the rest of the cast. Bachchan’s performance is remarkably powerful, particularly during the second half. Bajpai fits the bill entirely and executes his sly, two faced character to the tee. Ajay Devgn, Amrita Rao and Arjun Rampal gave an average performance but nothing out of the ordinary. Kareena Kapoor Khan on the other hand gives the script a kick that it lacks through her spunky journalist character. She glows on screen as she has never done before.

A strong point is the cinematography which is most powerful during emotional scenes. For instance, the eruption of violence leaves Daduji helpless. The cinematography in this scene is brilliant where Daduji’s vulnerability and the tragedy is emphasised. As he wanders through the streets set on fire, this is reminiscent of Gandhi during the India/Pakistan partition. References to social media, such as Twitter feeds enveloping the screen during key events adds a different dimension by highlighting the power of the media and reflecting a feeling of unity. The cinematography also comes alive during the songs- in particular, ‘Janta Rocks’ and the romantic ‘Raske Bhare Tore Naina’.

It is important to understand what Gandhi meant through the term ‘satyagraha’. Translated loosely as ‘truth force’, or ‘soul-force’, Gandhi had adapted the term during his stay in South Africa. The essence of ‘satyagraha’ was ‘sacrifice’ and ‘suffering’ that came from inner strength. It was the role of the satyagrahi to practice non-violence to evoke a moral awakening in the oppressor. Although sacrifice and suffering is prevalent throughout the film, something was lacking with the portrayal of the latter aspect- the moral awakening. It felt disheartening that despite the fact that the film has some brilliant characters who strive to make change, the main oppressor (the government), seems untouched in the end. Instead, it became fuelled by revenge and the film became a story resulting into a game of blackmailing and outsmarting. The film ends with some ray of hope: that ‘satyagraha’ still holds a power that cannot be matched by institutional power. However, the slogan of the film ‘the Revolution has begun’ seemed more powerful than the actual film, which felt somewhat incomplete.

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