Synopsis – DCP Shivansh has been tasked to catch Vir, the man behind police killings in the city. Both are eventually against the same enemy but divided by a fine line, the law.
My Take – While Indian cinema continues to find rave and accolades by appealing to the thinking people, there are still a major section of the audience who storm to the theaters just for pure entertainment, irrespective of the plot, a major reason why Salman Khan Starrers do so well. This film is question here is also another example of old wine in new bottle with every dialogue aiming to give you the coveted kick, all the while hurling the ‘how’s and why’s’ out of the window.
Helmed by writer-director Milap Milan Zaveri, whose filmography consists of a barrage of sex comedies ranging from Masti to Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum and his last directorial the Sunny Leone starrer Mastizaade, whose only intention here is to present a film that never takes itself too seriously and to entertain the latter said crowd. And without a doubt he succeeds, as the film manages to remain gripping from start to finish, packed with exhilarating action, thrills, music, performances, emotions and yes, dialogues, all held together by superb performances from John Abraham and Manoj Bajpayee.
The story follows Veer (John Abraham), a charcoal artist by day, and a serial killer/ vigilante by night, who kills corrupt police officers in the city of Mumbai. While he makes out time to return to his art and pursue a vet named Shikha (Aisha Sharma), his haunted memories of a troubled past keeps him fixated to punish corrupt police officers in a brutal fashion, similar to the crimes they commit in the power of law.
Baffled by the ghastly deaths, Mumbai police Commissioner Manish (Manish Chauhduri), decides to put his favorite, the righteous DCP Shivansh Rathod (Manoj Bajpayee) in charge of the investigation, who realizes that the killer has a systematic approach in targeting his victims. Hence begins a cat-and-mouse game that entails the two men who are on opposing sides of the law and are interestingly also connected to each other in more ways than it appears.
The opening minutes set the tone for what viewers can expect, a set of slow-motion action scenes, deafening background music, a high body count and heavy dialogue. You cannot complain that you haven’t been warned or be surprised that the unspooling film is unsubtle, preposterous, gratuitous, and, in most places, actually entertaining. It’s quite a grisly ride to the finish and along the route you encounter a range of hammy performances by the supporting cast, many chest-thumping moments and a story that takes many liberties but ties up all the ends. The plot disrobes the police and exposes the horrific level of corruption that is prevailing within the system. While the premise of the film is anti-corruption, it does have a patriotic tinge.
While the narrative is earnest, the plot, laden with cinematic liberties although credible, takes you by surprise. It seems like a Manmohan Desai fabrication with all the tropes of a good Bollywood masala film, which include an item number “Dilbar” pictured on Nora Fatehi. The first half of the film is done up in a slick and exciting manner which is intriguing and keeps you glued to the screen, while the second half that starts with the back story of Veer, off tracks the momentum set in the first half it does come back on track once the flashback is over. Here, director Milap Zaveri is certain that is he is here to give you some unbashed diversion which predominately was a noteworthy piece of the 70s, 80s and 90s. The one where the wronged legend went on a requital binge and mouthed shriek actuating lines. The sequence where Veer pummels a police inspector who has been torturing an innocent under trial in custody even as the young Muslim man’s mother kneels in prayer to her god is also a perfect example.
As a director, his best scenes are some of the murders, and the sequence wherein Shivansh meets Veer for the first time on reel. The sequence where the Muslim girl (Archita Agarwal) wants Veer to kill her tormentor is well handled as well. Bombastic dialogues (If God’s job is to look after mankind then his salary should be cut next month) and puns aside, Zaveri also writes in a classic (and surprising) interval point twist. The film also emerges as the obverse of Hindi films that celebrate the super-cop who breaks the rules while in uniform. Unlike Wanted, Singham and Dabangg, the villains here are the men in khaki, who are maiming, torturing and even killing the people they have sworn to protect.
Veer believes that they deserve what they get, and even Shivansh, for all his morals, is inclined to agree. Shivansh offers a nuggets of wisdom: the only way to stop the killings is either to catch the killer or get all the cops to straighten their act. In other words there is only one route – to catch the killer. Dialogue like this, and many other comments on corruption and the oath of the police force, are reiterated throughout, clearly designed to elicit applause and touch a nerve. Vigilante films have never worked in Hindi cinema, except for the Akshay Kumar led Gabbar – Is Back, again a South remake, and given that, this film works as a very basic entertainer of the genre known from the 1970s to the early ‘90s.
However, in most cases then, even the deliberate pandering to audiences was worked in organically and did not appear so deliberate that it became too calculated. Nevertheless, as in many covert copies of the old formulae, today’s generation of film buffs across the country’s small centers have taken to it simply because they have not seen anything like this before in the last two decades.
However what works against the film is the excessive violence and bloodshed. In the name of patriotism and system-cleansing, Veer, the vigilante, heaps bodies and burns bones to ashes without batting an eyelid. If you are flinching in your seat, no ambulance is on standby. Instead, things get gorier each time. There is one murder that takes place in the midst of a Muharram procession that is so bloody, you touch your eyes to see if you are shedding tears of blood. In the case of the cinematography, the action felt like an ode to a classic South-style action film with extreme close-ups and dolly shots with the dramatic background music to add to the effect. Also the romantic track between Shikha and Veer doesn’t work.
Coming to the performances, whether he is making a macabre charcoal painting or thrashing a shocked cop John Abraham does it all with sincerity, though he’s more at ease in the action scenes than the emotional ones. Watching him tearing open a car wheel with his bare hands and dodging almost a hundred bullets is like candy for action film fans. Manoj Bajpayee is all-in, as always, and adds gravitas to his part and makes a captivating rival for John in the film. Debutante Aisha Sharma (Neha Sharma‘s sister) has a decent screen nearness, yet winds up with an inadequately outlined part. Indeed, even Amruta Khanvilkar doesn’t get much extension to perform, while Manish Chaudhari tends to ham, especially in the climax, and is just okay. On the whole, ‘Satyameva Jayate‘ is an illogical commercial entertainer that manages to thrill and deliver forceful performances.
Directed – Milap Zaveri
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 140 minutes