Remember that time in Delhi when over a good few days Anna Hazare held sway over Jantar Mantar? Slogans flew thick and fast, voices were raised, the aam aadmi wanted their rights and how.
Then there was another side of the ‘I am Anna’ movement, the crazy bikers who roamed city streets, driving at break-neck speeds, scaring pedestrians and other drivers. I remember the latter more clearly and thus Hazare and his team, his antics or his ideology, never really fascinated me.
While Satyagraha is a movie based on current times, basing the entire movie on what we have seen at India Gate and Jantar Mantar over the last two years kills it somewhat.
Based in Ambikapur, the story of Satyagraha revolves around Dwarka Anand (Bachchan), whose honest-engineer son Akhilesh gets murdered (perhaps a reference to the slain NHAI project director Satyendra Dubey); as is the fate of whistleblowers. The government offers compensation to his wife Sumitra (Amrita Rao) which she just cannot get her hands on.
Then there is the slimy neta Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) who plays all the cards to his advantage. Anand slaps a government official and gets jailed. His son’s friend Maanav (Ajay Devgn) joins hands with local leader Arjun Singh (Arjun Rampal) along with feisty journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor) to get him out. And the battle begins.
While Jha plays it safe by picking actors he has worked with before, we have to give it to the director – he knows how to make them work to his advantage. While Rampal comes across a tad bit flimsy in his role, Kareena flits in and out of her role of a journalist.
Devgn and Bachchan steal the show. The ravaged, tired face of Dwarka Anand stays in your mind. Devgn’s character, which doesn’t seem to be modeled on Arvind Kejriwal’s, is one character that holds promise but unfortunately Jha does not flesh him out.
The movie works because it takes a relevant argument, thought and action plan to the silver screen. It leaves you disappointed as you are constantly reminded of the Anna Hazare-Kejriwal split and the broom wielding Aam Aadmi Party, the impending 2014 polls and just want to walk out.
Satyagraha doesn’t work because Jha should know better than to make it all so black and white.