Film Review: Satya (The Best Hindi Movie Ever Made)

[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

The 1998 underworld flick is perhaps the best Hindi film ever made


satya 1Sometime 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.


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, satya_confrontationall of them, even the ones who would seem insignificant (to other filmmakers) have been fleshed out so well and portrayed so brilliantly.

satya 3Ram 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


bhiku mhatre 1Every 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 2Bhiku 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.

RGVSatya is original, perfect, superior and world-class


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.

satya 4Satya has the the most powerful and effective display of mental violence, so if any viewer couldn’t handle it, they should know by now what needs to be strengthened.

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.

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39 Responses to “Film Review: Satya (The Best Hindi Movie Ever Made)”

  1. November 6, 2009 at 03:40

    Super post! You made me wanna take out my DVD of Satya and watch it again right now. What the heck, I think I will.


  2. 2 Devdutt
    November 6, 2009 at 04:52

    Raat is still the greatest movie RGV ever made. 😛


  3. November 6, 2009 at 05:20

    I don’t think I can watch Raat alone again. Not even in the daytime 😛


    • 4 Devdutt
      November 6, 2009 at 06:26

      haha, in that case, you should watch Paranormal Activity! Alone, preferably after 11 pm. I


      • 5 Devdutt
        November 6, 2009 at 06:31

        ..didn’t find it all that impressive the first time around, but then I watched it again, and it was pretty creepy. Review that shit…in fact, start reviewing some fucking horror man! Face your fears! 😛

        Satya’s fucking gold, especially considering the kind of tripe that passes for movie making in Bollywood these days. I haven’t been able to sit through a single flick completely recently. And I’ve tried my luck with 5-6 different ones. It’s almost like basic editing and storytelling coherency went out of fashion.


  4. November 6, 2009 at 06:39

    I’ve been meaning to write about Cannibal Holocaust and Salo/120 Days Of Sodom.
    Salo is fucking disgusting! 😀


  5. 7 Janak
    November 6, 2009 at 09:17

    if you are already not going, then you need to start going to film fests.


  6. 11 Jenny
    December 12, 2009 at 06:00

    WHAT A REVIEW!!!! i hope the ending is not unhappy because it sounds like a powerful movie.



  7. 12 Swami
    September 23, 2010 at 05:25

    Watching this movie is like being punched in the face for 2 hours.


  8. 14 Anonymous
    December 26, 2011 at 12:35

    maar,maarmaar maar maar….


  9. July 17, 2014 at 18:11

    Remarkable! Its actually awesome post, I have got much clear
    idea concerning from this post.


  10. 16 Phillip Wand
    May 4, 2017 at 11:54

    I need to see this


  11. 17 Richard White
    May 27, 2017 at 09:34

    The whole love songs, dancing, sweet gazing into each others eyes loses a lot when one of the romantic lovebirds is a violent, nutcase torturer. Also this movie copies too much from Goodfellas and The Godfather. Otherwise its great, and constantly entertaining.


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