Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Release date:
August 15, 2018
Milap Milan Zaveri

John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Manish Chaudhary, Aisha Sharma, Amruta Khanvilkar

A violent vigilante out to clean the system by extra-legal means, a corruption-ridden police force, two good men with contrasting approaches to justice, a parent shamed in his prime, a son determined to restore his father’s reputation – we have seen variations of these elements in so many Hindi films in the 1970s and ’80s (some memorable, some terrible) that no amount of efficient direction is likely to have saved this film from its own triteness. As it happens, director Milap Milan Zaveri is also the writer of Satyameva Jayate, so he really has no excuse behind which to hide for this travesty he has subjected us to.

Satyameva Jayate begins with the back-to-back gruesome murders of two corrupt Mumbai policemen. A mysterious hooded figure (John Abraham) oversees both. The audacity with which these crimes are committed calls for the investigative skills of supercop Shivansh Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) who has a reputation for unflinching honesty in a deeply dishonest force.

Because the writing lacks imagination yet aspires to be both smart and profound, Shivansh makes an inexplicable leap of the imagination to arrive at a link – I will not tell you what – between the killings and the words “Satyameva Jayate” (truth alone triumphs) that are engraved on the national emblem. The handful of interesting surprises that the plotline does throw up are all confined to the first half. Thereafter, everything recedes into the background in the face of the film’s high-decibel soundtrack and dated, oh so dated, feel.

The repeated referencing of Lord Shiva and the juxtaposition of gory Moharram visuals against one of the killings lacks novelty. The only point at which the use of religious motifs in the film works somewhat is when the Destroyer of the Hindu Trinity finds a companion in the call of the muezzin, but here too the all-round loudness puts everything else in the shade.

At first when a character tells a cop, “Ab tujhe aisi maut maaroonga ki tu iss janam mein jalega lekin dard agle janam tak chalega (I will give you the kind of death the pain of which will last into your next lifetime)” it seemed like we were in for some fun 1970s/’80s-style dialoguebaazi, but it is one thing to revisit an old, enjoyable trend and quite another to Xerox it without an iota of innovation.

If by now you are expecting to hear that Manoj Bajpayee’s acting is the one bright spot in Satyameva Jayate then your optimism is misplaced. The usually stoic Bajpayee does not outshine the script as might be hoped in normal circumstances. Instead he – tragic but true – overacts. Earlier this year, Neeraj Pandey served up a strangely vacant thriller called Aiyaary, and Bajpayee had managed to find something within himself for his performance even in that film. In Satyameva Jayate though, he seems to have given up on life. While he is passable through most of the narrative, he hams to embarrassing effect in the climax.

Abraham, on the other hand, underacts no differently here than in most of his recent films, but he looks handsome as always and is repeatedly seen in bicep-baring ganjis, so I guess there is a redeeming factor after all. 

Amruta Khanvilkar, who was so impactful in a small but substantial role in Raazi earlier this year, is completely wasted in an insignificant satellite part in this film. Debutant Aisha Sharma, on the other hand, plays an important character who gets hardly any time on screen. She has a noticeable personality and very distinctive voice, so it would be nice to see what a better director might get out of her in a better film some day soon.

Milap Milan Zaveri is an established Bollywood writer whose credits include the screenplays he co-wrote for the box-office hits Grand Masti (2013), Housefull (2010) and Heyy Babyy (2007), and his directorial venture Mastizaade (2016) in which Sunny Leone’s bottoms and breasts had starring roles. From objectifier of women in these films, he switches to defender in Satyameva Jayate, providing confirmation of what feminists have said for decades: that men who speak of protecting women rather than supporting us should not be encouraged or trusted. Among the many clichés in this film are lines pedestalising women that are thrown at a potential rapist. Ho hum.

Satyameva, the truth alone, shall be told in this review. To say the film is shrill is an understatement. In fact, it is deafening both literally and in its tone. Abraham even gets a Sunny Deol moment when his screams rupture a tyre that has been placed around his torso to imprison his arms. To describe Satyameva Jayate merely as tired would be a kindness. In fact, the writing and execution are both exhausted, making it an exhausting viewing experience.

Rating (out of five stars): *

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
141 minutes 11 seconds 

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