Satyagraha couldn't have been more topical. The film comes at the time when there is widespread resentment of system failing in the country. Though panic button has not yet been pressed, it is widely perceived that if reforms aren't made sooner or later, there could well be a mutiny like situation, as is the currently prevalent in certain parts of the world.
Satyagraha demonstrates the possibility of that happening in the country, what with a bloody revolution threatening to take on the authorities if peaceful measures and talks do not fetch the desired results. In the process, it also makes a pertinent point that if silence is taken as submission, is bloodbath the way to make one heard loud and clear?
Let it be said at the very onset that the film does bear a stark resemblance to the series of incidents that had created a mini revolution of sorts in the country two years back. Though there are no direct references to the personalities who were the torch bearers of this movement, it is impossible to ignore the headlines that had made a mark in real life back then.
A veteran Gandhian (Amitabh Bachchan) going on an indefinite hunger strike, demanding Government to pass junta's orders (including an ordinance), a corporate bigwig (Ajay Devgn) standing next to him and applying non-violent means with focus on talks, a hot blooded youngster (Arjun Rampal) losing his patience with passive action stance, a top journalist (Kareena Kapoor) walking a sword's edge to choose between her beliefs and professional demands and a conniving politician (Manoj Bajpayee) who doesn't raise a finger but ensures that he gets everything with just a smile - it is a good mix of fact and fiction.
It is this very mix that results in Satyagraha being an entertaining 150 minute watch because as an audience, one can relate to the proceedings as the story pretty much belongs to the 'aam aadmi'. Yes, often it so happens that in an endeavour to tell a real life tale, the proceedings start seeming like a documentary. There is a threat on these lines that Satyagraha too faces when certain political and law related technicalities start surfacing. However, given the political background of Prakash Jha, it was inevitable that shares a deeper insight. Moreover, he succeeds in ensuring that the film doesn't stray off track.
This is made possible with some of the brilliantly written scenes that keep peppering the narrative at regular intervals. (Spoilers ahead) Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan's clash of ideologies on the dinner table with Indraneil Sengupta is terrific. Immediately after that the scene at the terrace leaves a lasting impression. Big B's outburst at the Collector's office, return of Ajay to the town, the mini-movement that he begins, his face-off with Arjun, Manoj Bajpayee's scheming ways, the apology that follows and very importantly, the announcement made by Big B at the podium is bound to meet with thunderous applause.
While one waits for a bigger revolution to ensue, there are a few jerks felt in the narrative post the interval point. The love story between Ajay and Kareena is patchy and the song on the terrace is strictly avoidable, more so since it brings the pace of the film down. Moreover, given the kind of persona that Big B carries, one expects him to fire away full cylinders at crucial junctures. However his 'anshan' results in the baritone going down which is the demand of the character but a miss for the audience.
However, with Ajay, Manoj and Arjun in there, the drama sustains, hence ensuring that the core of the film still remains rock solid. (Spoilers ahead) Particularly impressive are the scenes where the 'talks' fail, hence giving an impression of a point of no return. Later, with the drama intensifying, opposition leader Vipin Sharma coming into fray (he is just brilliant) and once the Army comes into the picture, 'Satyagraha' reaches an altogether different high with Arjun dominating the proceedings towards the climax.
Of course the film does end on a non-violent note but the sound of Satygraha continues to reverberate, mainly due to the 'connect' that it forms with the audience. Moreover, with Big B coming up with yet another towering performance, Ajay showing different shades of his acting facet (and in the process oscillating between turning vulnerable and offensive), Arjun doing well in his new found avtar (he has made his place as a reliable actor), Kareena and Amrita not trying to hog the limelight but making their presence felt and Manoj playing to the gallery, hence entertaining to the core, the film is a well packaged affair.
Eventually, more than the cinematic quotient, it sets one thinking that if a small town could decide a mutiny like this, how would the scenario be if a major city ends up picking arms!
Joginder Tuteja tweets@tutejajoginder