[During my wonderful time at Buzz18, the editor asked me to write a DVD Recco but published my write-up as an opinion piece because I couldn't stop gushing about this film and its maker. I thank Janak for taking me for "Satya". I wrote this in 2008, 10 years after the film was released.]
Rediscovering RGV’s Satya
DECADE OF AGGRESSION
Sometime in 1998, a dear friend dragged me to a nearby theatre to watch a film that had been getting rave reviews from all over. I wasn’t too keen on watching a film, and didn’t feel like watching a movie filled with mostly unknown faces. Even more because my friend’s interpretation of the reviews made it sound like a boring, artsy flick made to impress critics. Despite my protests, I was arm-twisted into spending a couple of hours watching a movie I didn’t want to, just because my scheming friend had already bought two tickets in ‘black’. Ten years on, Ram Gopal Varma‘s Satya remains the best Hindi film I have ever seen.
TECHNIQUE AND BRUTALITY
How do you show an ordinary man who comes to Mumbai, the city of dreams, with absolutely no intention of becoming a movie star or an industrialist, getting sucked into and later taking control of the underworld? J D Chakravarthy was perfect for the role of Satya, mainly because he didn’t look like a Hindi movie hero. Bearded and plain-dressed, he could pass off as a normal man you’d see on a local train. How he suffers the misfortune of meeting Jagga and his men and getting beaten up by them, being framed and jailed and the subsequent scuffle with gangster Bhiku Mhatre, an event that reshapes Satya’s destiny.
How do you detail the characters who become important parts of this man’s life and the story? Not just Satya (the protagonist) or Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpai, the actor who walked away with the accolades), but every single character, all of them, even the ones who would seem insignificant (to other filmmakers) have been fleshed out so well and portrayed so brilliantly.
Ram Gopal Varma must’ve had a razor-sharp vision for this movie, for everything is in place. Be it the editing, the screenplay, the dialogues, the script or the performances, Satya remains an unparalleled force in cinema, and not just Hindi movies.
Manoj Bajpai is to Satya what Amitabh Bachchan is to Don
BOLLYWOOD KA KING KAUN? BHIKU MHATRE!
Every single character in Satya has been portrayed so well. There is not one character who has overacted or has been underused. RGV has made such good use of his actors, even the ones with small roles, that they remain etched in your memory forever.
Be it Bhau Thakurdas Jhavle or music director Romu Sagar or even Jagga, they all are not acting in the movie, they are interacting with you through Ram Gopal Varma‘s film.
Bhiku Mhatre’s relationship and interaction with everyone around him has been shown so well. Be it his first meeting with Satya, or him talking to his lawyer and other gang members or Bhau, Bhiku Mhatre remains the lovable gangleader one can relate to even if one has nothing to do with the underworld (except glorify RGV films, heh). Bhiku slapping his wife and getting slapped in return, the scene where Bhiku and his wife Pyaari are eating out with Satya and his girlfriend, Bhiku Mhatre’s perception of the world and his way of reacting to life, his hatred, his surprise, his anger, his affection, his infectious laughter…all these things make Bhiku Mhatre so endearing. Show me a person who wasn’t saddened by Bhiku’s shocking and abrupt end in the movie and I’ll show you a bloody liar.
Bhiku Mhatre. It’s not at all easy to praise Manoj Bajpai’s performance because one would run out of superlatives pretty soon, but the man has delivered the performance of a lifetime with the role any actor would kill for. Manoj Bajpai is right up there with Amitabh Bachchan, and definitely higher than almost every ‘star’ around today. What AB is to Don, Manoj Bajpai is to Satya.
PERFECTION, THY NAME IS RAM GOPAL VARMA
If all the best scenes in Satya had to be written about, it would take this writer a few hundred pages. If every moment of cinematic brilliance of RGV’s magnum opus had to be highlighted, it would take a few years and even those many wouldn’t be enough. And the ones who go all-out in praise of this film are the ones who have actually understood RGV’s Satya, and have recognised the filmmaker’s over-the-top genius, underplayed in the most brilliant fashion.
What is so perfect about RGV’s Satya? That RGV has not tried to make it perfect. The characters in Satya have their flaws, and that is what makes them so believable. Every dialogue in Satya is worth its weight in gold, and it truly is stuff one should bow down to in praise of RGV while experiencing the magic of watching a movie as alive as Satya.
He has been very clever with the editing, leaving gaps so we can engage our minds in activity for a change, and then he stuns us into silence and awe with his perfect execution of each and every frame of the movie.
The background score by Sandeep Chowta is mindblowing! Everything is perfect and it stirs up such an atmosphere! Chowta’s background score, like the film, will haunt you forever.
Saurabh Shukla, Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Varma wrote a script tighter than a gnat’s ass and Mr Varma hypnotised us by extracting super-performances from all his actors, giving them top-class dialogues woven around mesmerising performances by all. Oh yes, RGV has also paid tribute to Amitabh Bachchan in the most awesome way possible. Before the legend started acting for him, that too.
Till 1998, there were countless who believed a 1975 Bollywood flick (starring AB, incidentally – and lifted almost frame-by-frame from a Spaghetti Western) defined originality, superiority, perfection and world-class filmmaking.
And then Ram Gopal Varma made Satya.