Director: Milap Milan Zaveri
Cast: John Abraham, Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma, Nora Fatehi, Amruta Khanvilkar
Life is short so I’m going to give it to you straight – Satyameva Jayate is an excruciating film. It’s soul-crushing in exactly the same way that director Milap Milan Zaveri’s last film Mastizaade was. Except there the visuals – Sunny Leone in various stages of undress – were easy on the eye. Here there is blood and broken bodies and scorched flesh. By the end, I was fervently praying that after this, Milap goes back to making terrible sex comedies. Because his brand of patriotism is dangerous, grotesque and flat-out, unhinged.
We begin with John Abraham setting a man of fire. Through the film he inflicts various types of punishment on corrupt cops – he stabs one with a block of wood, pummels another with his fists like he’s kneading dough, whips another with his belt. All of which is okay because he is Vir, an artist by day and avenging angel by night. Vir wants to flush out the police force. Or as he so eloquently puts it – shapath li hai jinne khaki pehenne ka haq nahin unhe khhak mein milane ki. Basically he’s a serial killer with a conscience. Getting in his way is the righteous DCP Shivansh Rathod, played by Manoj Bajpayee. I’ll admit that for some time it’s fun to watch these two play a cat-and-mouse game and snarl at each other.
Then DCP Rathod has a Sherlockian moment when he figures out what the cop killer’s game is. At which point, Satyameva Jayate becomes unintentionally comical and almost so bad that it’s good. But the laughs don’t last. After the interval, the fun drains out completely. We are given a hackneyed backstory to explain why Vir is on a murder spree. The most creative thing here is how cops will die. An entire sequence is set during Muharram so Vir gets to both flagellate himself and decimate a lecherous cop. There is blood everywhere. If that doesn’t make you queasy, Nigam Bomzan’s cinematography will – the camera keeps circling furiously to underline the importance of the sermons being delivered. The top shot is another favorite.
Milap is not a man for subtlety. The mayhem is underscored by ear-splitting background music which seems like a leftover from a bad Ram Gopal Varma movie. The dialogue is designed to deliver punches, perhaps to compliment what John is doing. So a corrupt cop makes a deal while standing on the crime scene to ignore the killing of a poor man’s wife by a rich man’s rash driving. When the weeping man begs for justice, the cop says: kachre ko insaaf nahi milta kachra sirf saaf hota hai. There’s also an inexplicable sidetrack featuring newbie Aisha Sharma as a vet and Vir’s hobby – when he’s not burning cops or doing amateurish charcoal paintings, he’s taking wounded animals to her. He gets teary when a dog is in pain because he can’t bear to see innocent creatures suffer. I promise I’m not making this up.
John’s biceps do the emoting for him. His towering physicality is impressively showcased – there are even close-ups of his bulging muscles as he metes out justice. Which might be why Manoj decides to act for both of them – he grimaces and glowers and works hard to make this ludicrous material convincing.
It’s impossible. Satyameva Jayate is the sort of film that bludgeons you and leaves you drained and entirely cheerless.