Saturday, August 31, 2013


Truth Or Dare

Remember what happened in real life—the anti-corruption movement initiated by Anna Hazare first lost steam with all the infighting and political ambitions coming to the fore, then fizzled out altogether. The public that came out in support of the movement with all the tokens in place—Gandhi caps, T-shirts, Facebook pages and Twitter handles— gave up and returned to apathy.

Instead of capturing and shaking up this mood of cynicism and hopelessness, Prakash Jha makes another tub-thumper of a film, that takes up issues, over dramatizes them and then drops the flaming ball into cold water.  Not that anyone expects a film to provide solutions, but the solution it comes up with, should not be one that has so clearly failed in real life.

Retired school teacher Dwarka ‘Daduji’ Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) believes capitalism is bad; an argument early on in the film, with his son’s friend and rising telecom entrepreneur Manav (Ajay Devgn) establishes their points of view.  One does wonder, however, at the rather lavish home of Daduji, also, the film doesn’t seem to worry about how people who give up jobs to join a cause make a living, but they are all dressed in street chic.

Daduji’s idealistic engineer son is killed in a road accident, the home minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who is also the MP from the district of Ambikapur where the story takes place, announces a Rs 25 lakh compensation. The money never reaches the widow Sumitra (Amrita Rao), who wants to start a school for the poor with it, and she is given a humiliating runaround.

Daduji strides up to the sneering collector and slaps him, for which he is arrested. Manav uses his IT skills and palm-greasing savvy to start a Free Daduji campaign. Local student (?) leader Arjun (Rampal) joins up with his supporters, and TV journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor), gives up a junket to Japan with the PM, to cover ‘Ambikapur is burning’ stories. The evil Balram Singh uses charm, threats, skulduggery to derail the growing ‘revolution’ against corruption at the collector’s office.

All of this is relevant and topical in many ways, but it occurs in a fictional town with fictional political parties exchanging insults and cutting deals. The so-called revolution covered by one TV channel does not seem to have any repercussions outside the district, leave aside the state or country.

Prakash Jha’s last few films have dealt with reality in mofussil India, and he has to be commended for that, but they have seldom gone into in-depth exploration of the issue he picks up. Satyagraha too is more noise and bluster—starting well and then deteriorating into embarrassing melodrama.

If it weren’t for seasoned actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpayee (convincingly slimy), the film would have sunk into its own quicksand of good intentions and confused treatment. That said, if people were really angry, they would not need a film to fire up their outrage, and if they did need a catalyst, then Satyagraha would fall far short.


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