Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth. (from Wikipedia)
The Story– as perhaps it was supposed to be.
Starts off by being about an upright, highly principled, truthful senior citizen called Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachhan), his son Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta) and the son’s friend Manav Raghvendra (Ajay Devgn).
Post becoming an engineer, Akhilesh decides to stay in his village Ambikapur and contribute towards its development by building roads and highways. He shares his father’s idealistic and truthful bent of mind. Manav on the other hand wants to be successful and rich in telecommunications and has no qualms about the means he will use to achieve this end. Dwarka Anand tells off Manav for his “greedy”attidue and makes his distaste for his capitalist, get rich quick very apparent. Despite this antipathy and their own ideological stands, and their world’s far apart, Manav and Akhilesh remain good friends and Akhilesh’s wife Sumitra (Amrita Rao) shares an affectionate rapport with her Manav Bhaiyya.
Tragedy strikes un-announced when an under-construction flyover collapses on Akhilesh’s watch and he discovers that the cement used is not the one he approved. He swears to uncover the reasons, but a dies in an unfortunate road accident involving a truck and another scooter.
A distraught Manav returns to Ambikapur for the last rites, in time to hear Home Minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) announce a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs. Sumitra decides to donate the money for starting a school for under-privileged children.This can of course only happen once the money is disbursed to her…and the process for that involves bribing endless officials to stamp, attest, forward or just look at her file. Her dejection causes her father in-law to react a trifle (though very justifiably) violently and he lands in jail….with no remorse for his conduct and ready to face his punishment. Manav rushes to their assistance but finds that the normal methods of bail-legal and bribery-illegal are not working. His corporate, marketing savvy mind then plans and executes a campaign to free his “bauji”…..which leads to other events and a satyagraha.
What starts as a manoeuvre to free Dwarka Anand by playing on public emotion, turns into a full scale crusade, lead by the man himself, now free due to public demand and the politicking of Balram Singh and others. He demands that claims and petitions of all the people be cleared in 30 days or there will be a protest. People involved in this crusade other than Sumitra and Manav are Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor Khan)-a no-nonsense journalist, Arjun (Arjun Rampal) – a local hooliganish leader and the top lawyer in Ambikapur.
Wily politics by Balram Singh include telling the residents about how Manav has made his money-by bribing where required and when even this back fires, disrupting gatherings and spreading mayhem. A peaceful campaign is soon disrupted by the wily politicians and ends up in un-precedented violence. End of satyagraha.
The film meanders all over the place. It jumps from plot to sub-plot to sub-sub plot but forgets to close loops. The characters are not fleshed out and some are just plain not needed- Arjun for one! Fasts unto death, public marches with sloganeering, emotional dialogues on the government being “servants” to the people, Facebook campaigns, candle lit vigils by photos. All of these and more are in the film. And “satyagraha” implies non-violence. There is not. The body language and actual language of the protesters constantly conveys aggression. They find their swords and sticks surprisingly quickly for all their ideology.
Bauji turns into Daduji over night and suddenly becomes a “neta” giving seasoned speeches and issuing ultimatums. He mellows from rigid idealist to doting father towards Manav quicker than ice would melt. As Daduji, the suggestions to him being Gandhi start and for me were a huge put off. It is a mockery of The Mahatma. Yasmin is a hot shot journalist but can afford to spend time away to a personal cause for a month! Why is Arjun a local goonda leader? There are hazaar such questions and no answers really.
Amitabh Bachchan– Does justice as usual to all the nuances of his character. Not his fault I guess that the Director has not quite decided what he wants the character to be!
Ajay Devgn – Is the best of the lot and gives his usual restrained, understated performance. One of the few characters with substance in the film.
Kareena Kapoor– Looks pretty and does well.
Amrita Rao- Is adequate.That was all that was needed from her in any case.
Arjun Rampal– was not needed in the first place but is also adequate.
Manoj Bajpai-Is exceptional as the slimy politician. He is the other character with a little more going for him.
Indraneil Sengupta– A small but well acted role.
The music is pleasant enough and as is with songs, grows on one with time. The one thing which did touch the heart-strings is the version of raghupati raghav raja ram by Prasoon Joshi. Conveys so beautifully the angst of us common people. Do listen to it. An ideal anthem for a revolution which is much needed. http://youtu.be/1Q4nLbEDiiY
Mr. Jha- several stars, a huge montage and a title of “satyagraha” alone do not make for a great film. Or movement. The movie disappoints, all the more so because it comes from you. And I wish you had left Bapu alone.