I was introduced to Prakash Jha’s brand of films when I watched Gangaajal in a packed auditorium. The film suddenly catapulted Jha to my list of film makers to watch out for. And ever since, I have keenly followed his journey till Satyagraha. But I strongly believe after whipping up a terrific tale of betrayal and lies in the form of Rajneeti, he kind of lost the plot. His wishy washy tales of dirty politics are becoming repetitive and if he does not shift genres pronto, he shall turn into another Madhur Bhandarkar. But thankfully with Satyagraha, he comes full circle. Because with Satyagraha, he is back with his talisman- Ajay Devgn. And it is Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpayee who keep you gripped for 150 odd minutes. I shudder to think what would have happened to the film in the hands of lesser actors…The answer lies quite simply in Jha’s last 2 films: Aarakshan and Chakravyuh. Jha was never really known for being subtle. He always ends up cramming up the latest headlines into a script and mixes it and serves it red hot. What made his films like Gangaajal, Apharan and Rajneeti extraordinary were the actors.
Coming to the plot, it is a no brainer really. A retired school principal and chief of a small town, fed up with the system of governance, slaps the collector of his zilla.
Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is a man of staunch Gandhian principles. A retired school headmaster, Dwarka inculcates the same values in his son Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta) — an engineer.
When Akhilesh is killed, minister Balram Singh publicly declares a hefty amount in compensation for Akhilesh’s widow, Sumitra (Amrita Rao).
Despite this, Akhilesh’s father and his widow receive nothing. Eventually, after Sumitra is humiliated in the government office, Dwarka Anand seeks a meeting with the openly corrupt and arrogant collector, whom he ends up slapping which leads to him being put behind bars.
Akhilesh’s best friend Manav Raghavendra (Ajav Devgn), an extremely ambitious entrepreneur with capitalistic values and a man Dwarka Anand disapproves of, returns from the USA and gets the best lawyers available to ensure the release of his deceased best friend’s father.
Unable to do so through legal channels, Manav resorts to building a social campaign that spirals into a bigger protest against the system than any of them could have imagined.
As a script, it must have sounded as a dynamite of an idea but when watched on screen, it appears like leftovers from powerful films like Rajneeti and No One killed Jessica.
Nevertheless, as I said not all is lost. Amitabh Bachchan manages to breathe fire and look the part of a man on hunger strike and delivers a delicious performance. Ajay Devgn nails it with those killer eyes which seem to have a language of their own. But the trump card is Manoj Bajpayee. As the home minister, he is maniackly evil and he lights up every frame he appears in. Other stalwarts like Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal have very little to do and manage to pull off that little bit well. It is Amrita Rao who has been wasted in a two bit role which does nothing for her career.
The film has a couple of good songs and eye catching cinematography by Sachin Krishn which keep you interested in the proceedings.
But coming back to Prakash Jha, its time he channelizes his creative forces in a different direction. There is so much he is capable of and I am sure, he will be equally brilliant in a completely new genre. Case in point- His last romantic film Dil Kya Kare. Will the real Prakash Jha stand up please????