Sunday, September 8, 2013

A revolting experience

Film: Satyagraha

Director: Prakash Jha

Satyagraha, Prakash Jha's recent endeavour to take up a socially relevant topic and make a film about it, raises the same question as his previous films Chakryavyuh and Aarakshan did. Why? An overburdening series of topical events woven haphazardly into a dramatic narrative, Satyagraha too trivializes a rather deep issue of revolution.

The charges against the film are similar to his previous films. Watering down the intensity for the masses, the film further dilutes its contexts with unnecessary item numbers and romantic scenarios. Set in a town called Ambikapur, somewhere in Central India, the film addresses the rampant corruption that exists in the system and how the people's representatives are detached from the common man himself.

Jha uses his technique of archetypal characters, each of whom stand for a section of society and takes the story forward. Amitabh Bachchan plays Dwarka Anand, an idealist, fondly referred to as Daduji. Ajay Devgan is Manav Raghavendra, an opportunist and the face of modern India. Kareena Kapoor plays Yasmin Ahmed, a tough spirited TV journalist and Arjun Rampal plays Arjun, a youth icon committed to becoming a leader. Manoj Bajpai, who plays Home Minister Balram Singh (the nemesis), is a personification of all the corrupt practices in politics.

After a half-decent build-up in the first half of the film, the film ends up being a victim of some rogue screenwriting. The satyagraha itself, falls on the backdrop of a series of political moves which turns this film into yet another Rajneeti without the obvious parallels to Mahabharat or The Godfather.

The multi-starrer film has some unintentional moments of irony. Amitabh's opening scene in the film sees him curse the officers of 'Alliance Power' a private company that provides electricity. And Ajay Devgan, who in Yuva fought the misgivings of the system by entering it, comes to that very conclusion at the end of this film, after all is lost.

With a loose narrative which doesn't engage you, the film fails on multiple levels. It fails to reflect the gravity of the situation; it fails to put forth the commandments of the philosophy of satyagraha (aside from a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the town's main circle and a fast-unto-death plot point) and it fails to create the atmosphere of urgency, by lingering on the unimportant scenes longer. Let alone the story, the setting of the film lacks cinematic singularity, which we more recently saw in Dibakar Bannerji's Shanghai.

The film has to be discarded primarily for its immature stance and secondly for it being titled Satyagraha. If someone wishes to watch this film to learn about the spirit of non-violent revolution, they'd gain more knowledge by simply looking up the word on Wikipedia. If films could change society instantly, this film would take us one step closer to being naive.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Published in DNA (Pune) on  August 31, 2013

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