Director: Milap Zaveri
Cast: John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma, Nora Fatehi, Amruta Khanvilkar
Milap Milan Zaveri’s Satyameva Jayate is a joke of a movie. Don’t go by the title. It is emblematic of anything but truth and triumph. Everyone involved in this disaster, including the producers who thought this could pass off as angry “social message” cinema, needs to be locked away. Straitjacketed no less, in a deep, dark dungeon, so that they can introspect about why they entered this field of trade. With nothing but a screen flashing images of John Abraham’s facial twitches.
Zaveri, he of crass-sex-comedies fame, and whose directing somehow outdoes his writing in terms of sheer awfulness, does the impossible here: he actually dumbs down the Sanjay Gupta school of action filmmaking. And makes it louder, and more grating, repulsive and slower. And infuses it with a psychology so singularly disturbing that I’m not sure how legal it is for such films to unravel on public viewing platforms.
The plot is dangerously daft. Vir (Abraham) is an artist who burns corrupt cops alive at perfectly deserted Mumbai locations. There is never a soul around. These cops are ghastly people – Islamophobic, racist, rapist, you name it. They say things that you’d expect cute schoolchildren playing villains with pencil-moustaches on stage to. From Abraham’s indecipherable expressions, it is highly probable that Vir loves the smell of charred human skin. Or not.
Zaveri, he of crass-sex-comedies fame, and whose directing somehow outdoes his writing in terms of sheer awfulness, does the impossible here: he actually dumbs down the Sanjay Gupta school of action filmmaking.
On his trail is DCP Shivansh (Manoj Bajpayee; needs an intervention), who cuts short his vacation to hunt down this perverse pyromaniac. His inner Sherlock Rathod awakens. He discovers that the first three immolations (most of them are of course pot-bellied Maharashtrian men named Patil, Bhonsle etc) happen in Santa Cruz, Andheri and Thane. S-A-T. With these three letters, the first term that comes to DCP’s mind is – you guessed it – Satyameva Jayate. Not Saturation, Saturday, Satisfaction, Satire, Satan or even Satish Kaushik. The killer is obviously eliminating cops in the most nationalistic pattern possible. Even psychopaths are patriotic these days, who knew?
Which means that the next police station (station translates to “thane” in Hindi – yes, an entire murder hinges on this ingeniously stupid wordplay) has to be Yari Road. Good luck guessing the next eleven. You can’t make this stuff up. The most disturbing part of the film is that it genuinely thinks it’s smart. These are full-fledged revelations, designed in the language of a creator utterly in awe of his cheeky intellectuality.
I forgot to mention Vir’s romantic life. He meets a girl at a cleanliness drive on Juhu beach, where she shames a local politician for holding the flag upside down. “What about the soldiers at our borders, or proud people in cinema halls standing up for this flag?” – she exclaims, as if Akshay Kumar were tickling her. She is then shown to be a veterinarian who puts ailing puppies to sleep. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere about Vir being an animal himself, and therefore drifting towards her – but I’d like to believe it’s too deep for the makers to have actually intended it.
In the end, this girl serves as yet another device in what the director imagines to be a gruesome update of Baazigar. But it’s not. She is no Kajol, Milap Zaveri is a single individual unlike Abbas-Mustan, and Abraham’s biceps alone outweigh Shah Rukh Khan. None of these are compliments.
There’s a twist at the interval of Satyameva Jayate that left me truly gobsmacked. Mostly because I couldn’t really believe that legitimate human beings are given millions of rupees to execute these ideas. With full consent. Without a gun to their heads. Or kerosene on their bodies. In 2018. The Gods must be crazy.