Sunday, February 15, 2015

Satya (1998)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Writers:  Anurag Kashyap, Saurabh Shukla, Ram Gopal Varma
Cast:       J.D. Chakravarthi, Manoj Bajpayee, Paresh Rawal, Urmila Mantodkar, Saurabh Shukla
Language: Hindi

Film follows the activities of Satya (Chakravarti), a man whose background is not entirely given, who comes to Bombay in search of a job and circumstances lead him on to become the right-hand man of a middle level gangster called Bhiku (Manoj Bajpayee). Bhiku is the hot-tempered one and following Satya's advises he moves up the food-chain that is Mumbai underworld. This brings them under the scanner of Police as well as their new rivals in the mafia world. In between all this he falls in love with his neighbor (Urmila) whilst keeping the nature of his profession a secret from her.

I am a big fan of RGV's 'Company' and many have told me that his previous underworld film 'Satya' is a superior and grittier film. With Anurag Kashyap involved with its screenplay, making his film debut, it promised much. Got to say that overall it is a good film but 'Company' is far better, at least based on my memory of watching it some ten years back. Satya portrays a far more lower level of underworld in Bombay and in that sense it is grittier. The cinematography was done by a foreigner called Gerard Hooper who seems to have not done much work besides this. The way Bombay is captured is in a magnificently bleak and realistic manner and Danny Boyle had cited RGV's 'Satya' and 'Company' along with Anurag Kashyap's 'Black Friday' as influences for how he filmed his Oscar winning shite bag 'Slumdog Millionaire'. What is great about Satya is its supporting cast and where it is let down by a huge deal is the acting of its main protagonist, played by J.D. Chakravarthi. That and RGV's propensity to adhere to Bollywood conventions in the form of some unnecessary songs and overbearing & manipulative soundtrack. It is certainly very different compared to the normal Bollywood fare but the fact that it kind of stands in the middle doesn't do it any favors when not put in a historical context. It has been bettered by the likes of Anurag Kashyap himslef leaving Satya looking a bit aged in terms of its storytelling. The last one hour of the film is quite good after the arrival of Paresh Rawal in the role of a tough Police Commissioner. 

My main problem with Chakravarti in this film is with his dilaog delivery. It might be a case of his character being someone from South India, the polished sounding delivery (at least to me) didn't sit well with me. It didn't really reflect the nature of the character and this can be contrasted with how Mohanlal handled the situation in 'Company'. Since he portrayed a South Indian character he used his own voice giving legitimacy to his  very average Hindi fluency and vocabulary in that film. Company's average and cliched story-line is masked a great deal by its overall production quality as well the main cast who were all good, even Ajay Devgan. The moralising tone of Satya's ending was much more jarring when compared to its slow buildup in Company. It was not as if RGV was a small fry in Bollywood since he had already got his big breakthrough with 'Rangeela' and so he could have been a bit bolder.

Overall it is a good watch without being anything more than that. I feel like watching Company again. Got to say that the much maligned figure of Priyadarshan, who is notorious in the Hindi speaking world for his shitty Hindi remakes of Malayalam films, had made superior Bombay underworld films involving Mohanlal much before the likes of RGV began to ply their trade in Hindi film industry. He might not have conveyed the same authenticity but he made up for it with superior storytelling. 

Rating: 3/5