Reviewing the Reviews: Serious critics give ‘Satyagraha’ 1-2.5 stars, rah-rahs upto 4.5

02 Sep,2013

By Deepa Gahlot



Director: Prakash Jha

Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareen Kapoor


Prakash Jha doing his patented small-town politics, issue-waving films, draws a line between the serious critics and the ones who provide the rah-rahs for the purpose of providing 4 stars ratings for ads.


The serious critics ripped the film apart and give it 1 to 2.5 star ratings, while the rah-rahs went up to 4.5.  So audiences confused again and will either go check out the film themselves on opening weekend, or wait till is shown on TV.


In a line, Jha took a topical theme and made a hash of it, but is saved by the stars.


Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express ranted, “The trouble with cobbling together your film’s plot from current headlines is glaringly evident in Satyagraha, Prakash Jha’s latest take on What Ails The Nation. It becomes a case of putting on celluloid events that have just finished unfolding, and are still unravelling in front of our eyes: if it is happening in real life, why do we need a reel version? Especially a version which doesn’t add anything of significance to the narrative: it’s all been-here-seen-this-and-that before.”


Sanjukta Sharma of Mint was scathing: “Jha is more a pamphleteer rather than a director here. Besides the blinkered view on the politics of the common man, he is surprisingly blind to some film-making basics. Lighting by cinematographer Sachin Krishn could suit a TV soap opera. Editing is slack. The production design of this film is so poor, that even if there are some weighty scenes and some snatches of moving performances, you are unlikely to notice them.”


Vinayak Chakravorty of India Today is a little kinder. “Raajneeti got it right. Aarakshan messed it up midway. Chakravyuh looked like Prakash Jha was not even sure of what he was doing. The writer-director’s fetish for cocktailing topical realism and box-office friendly masala continues with Satyagraha. A comparative analysis of Jha’s recent oeuvre becomes essential because in look and rendition Satyagraha reminds you of every film the director has made Raajneeti onwards.  If the Prakash Jha film in itself has become a formula, his latest does not break the pattern. The film is well-intentioned film, its message relevant. Unfortunately, not every well-intentioned film with relevant message leaves an impact. Satyagraha is more Aarakshan than Raajneeti in quality.”


Sarita Tanwar of DNA made a valid point: “The thing that troubles me is: why make a fictional version of a subject like this? The only valid reason seems to be to not piss off the powers that be. To ensure a release. Admitting this is based on the Anna Hazare movement would have meant many hurdles. From political pressure to censor trouble to say the least. So director Prakash Jha chooses to call this a drama/love story, thereby defeating the whole message/point of making a film like this. You can’t make a film about what is wrong with the system, while surrendering to the system. It is a cop-out.”


Anupama Chopra of the Hindustan Times commented: “If good intentions were enough to make good movies, Satyagraha would be a masterpiece. Prakash Jha is one of the few directors in Bollywood who has consistently championed political cinema. His rage at the rotten state of the system has simmered through his movies for nearly three decades. But from the National Award-winning Damul in 1984 to Satyagraha, his stories have become increasingly simplistic, star-driven and heavy-handed.”


Rajeev Masand  of IBNLive expressed disappointment too. “With Satyagraha director Prakash Jha once again raids the headlines, this time turning his gaze on the growing public resentment towards the deep-rooted corruption in the system. Jha borrows liberally from real events and the lives of real people, including famed anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Andolan he inspired. Unfortunately Jha’s heavy-handed direction turns this well-intentioned drama into a plodding sermon.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror wrote: “Prakash Jha came a full circle with his brand of cinema with Gangaajal in 2003, returning to what put him on the map in the first place with Damul (1985). He gave himself a mandate – activism through mainstream cinema – and embarked on a series of films on remarkably diverse subjects ranging from the Bhagalpur Blindings case to the state of education in the country, from an assessment of Indian dynastical politics to the Naxal quandary; always subtly offering to weigh in on a position that may not be the prevalent opinion.  But Jha’s films try too hard to sell themselves in this escapist market. Whether it’s the item song or the melodrama – in the last decade his style has been too consistent, and hence predictable – there’s reluctance to evolve.”


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