By Subhash K Jha
Film: Satyameva Jayate
Director: Milap Milan Zaveri
Starring: John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Manish Choudhary, Aisha Sharma
Rating: ****(4 stars)
It is easy enough to ridicule 'Satyameva Jayate'. God knows, it renders itself vulnerable to severe slamming. It wears its jingoistic patriotism on the sleeve and every other visible part of its canvas, growing more and more shrill with every frame and dialogue.
Yup, these kinds of tactless films get easily trolled, or stoned as we earlier used to refer to the savage lynching of crude cinema.
But hang on. "Satyameva Jayate"(SJ) is not designed for those who dug their grey cells into Newton and came out feeling like alumni on a space odyssey. This is a film for the masses, the commoners who everyday have to face discrimination and corruption on the streets where a lot of people don't just work but also live sleep and defecate.
Road rage for them is not about a dent in their gleaming cars. It's about survival.
For all its sins of loutish characterization and aural extravagance the film throws a very opportune question at us: why do we tolerate corruption in our system on such a hideously aggravated scale? Is corruption part of our DNA? The corruption in the police force, which this film, takes on headlong, is specially worrisome. If a society doesn't have law enforcers who do their jobs honestly, the law-breaks are bound to be on a rampage.
Early on in this lengthy anti-corruption diatribe swathed in a flag-fluttering fury, a street hawker's wife comes under a rich man's wheel. He moans, wails and pleads for justice while the cop on duty cackles and taunts, "You are trash and trash needs to be treated like this.
Too crass for your tastes? Well, let me tell you I've seen a cop react exactly this way to a destitute man's lamentation on the street. Truth can often be much cruder than fiction. The film takes that path without apology, as a disgruntled raging vigilante Veer(John Abraham, clenched and implosive) takes on himself the responsibility of eliminating all corrupt cops from the Maharashtra police.
I am not sure if Bihar, UP and other states are on Veer's mopping map in planned sequels. But for now he goes about the business of finishing off decadent cops with the zeal and guile of a clumsy assassin who has taken a crash-course in mass killing.
The ritualistic slayings are gruesome and in many ways, apt. That's the disturbing part of a film whose steep volume of violence ought to offend. But doesn't. The killings pile on and so does the outrageous level of grisly blood-flow. But you really can't blame the film for its excessive brutality when it is all around us. But yes, the bad acting by many of the actors, some reputed names, could have been avoided.
My favourite high-drama moment in the film is when a young Muslim boy is being tortured by a sadistic cop to confess to a crime he hasn't committed. The sequence is designed as a pseudo-religious symphony rendered shrill with religious zeal. Later there is a sequence in a Moharrum procession where John, fashionably bloodied, finishes off a lecherous cop.
The sequences of cop-killing are designed in bright voluptuous crimson colours. You can't miss the film's zeal or the persuasive powers of the two principal performances. John Abraham and Manoj Bajpai as the two adversaries play off against each other effectively. They know this is the time to drop all subtleties and they get to that task with full-on enthusiasm.