By Subhash K Jha
Film: Satya 2
Stars: Puneet Singh Ratn, Anaika Soti, Aradhana Gupta, Amriyaan
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
MUMBAI: Spot the difference. It’s the same in all apparent details. Mumbai’s underworld caught in a compromising position by Ram Gopal Varma (RGV)’s prying probing restless camera into the mutilated lives of characters looking so scruffy and aggressive you wish they would leave aside the bloodbath and just take a bloody bath.
Yup, this is ostensibly a very familiar RGV territory. But hang on. There is something very different going on here. Strikingly rich and articulate in production design, Satya 2 is a startling original take on the evolution, collapse and restoration of Mumbai’s underworld in ways that question the economical paradigm of a nation on the brink of damnation.
Yes, we are talking about apna watan Hindustan where crime and corruption grow in direct proportion to the apathy of the powers that be. Given the incredible leap in atrocities against the ‘un-empowered’(to coin an anti-capitalistic phrase) where does the poorest of the poor go when his daughter gets gang-raped, his wife dies of adulterated medicine and his father cannot get his right – Rs 500 pension – without paying a bribe?
Stop right here. RGV’s film shows a devilish daring. It takes the underworld into confidence to build an anti-corruption empire that would feed the fed-up by paralyzing the super-privileged.
It’s a startling premise, and one that RGV is not able to work out into any tenable blueprint of socio-political reform. But the very fact that he is able to suggest a solution, no matter how implausible, to the current climate of desperate deescalation of morality, is reason enough to applaud this flawed but riveting drama of the doomed and the dangerous.
Beware of the hopeless. They have nothing to lose except their despair. This is the propelling premise of RGV’s neo-Satya’s plot. The narration is most of the time taut and tactile as we follow the new-millennium Satya’s journey from a village in Rajasthan to the vortex of gansterism in Mumbai.Ironically, the police force which is sturdily represented in the film doesn’t seem any different in its activities from the underworld.
There is one bitingly savage satirical interrogation sequence where the cops transmit electrical shocks to Satya’s best friend Naara (Amritriyaan) for information on the mysterious ‘Company’ that Satya has formed. During interrogation Satya’s friend dies and the interrogating cop thrashes the man who was handling the electrocution for overdoing it. Almost like an irate reveller blaming the deejay for the messed-up music.
You never know when that thin line dividing life from death and wrong from right is crossed. For all his swaggering self-appointed role as a messiah of the downtrodden Satya’s enigmatic empire comes crashing down, as it always does in all the movie-made morality tales.
Yup, it’s a familiar world of damnation and retribution. RGV gives the saga of gangsterism a new spin creating for the underworld genre of cinema an entirely new formula and folklore of survival. Gone are those crazy camera angles in RGV’s recent films that left us dizzy and disoriented. Vikas Sharaf’s cinematography captures Mumbai is stunning sepia tones suggesting decadence and rebirth in the same range of vision.
Visually, Satya 2 is RGV’s smartest and most eye-catching film in years. The shootouts on the streets of Mumbai that have been done to bludgeoning death in the past here acquire a new life. The sequence where Satya is shot at in an open cafeteria is specially brilliant in the way the editor cuts to the chase without getting out of breath.The under-construction buildings, a favourite haunt of filmy gangsters, is shot here with vigorous virility.
Some of the killings and torture sequences are gut-wrenching, and one gang-slaying of a rapist(non-sexual gangrape?) would have you diving under your seat.
But then, life is not for the squeamish. Not now. Not ever.
So many years after Satya spoke, a new cinematic language RGV is back in form displaying the sparks of brilliance that made the first Satya film a trendsetting experience. No relation to the earlier film except the one of Bhai-giri, Satya 2 sneaks slyly into Mumbai’s dark dangerous sinister and ominous underbelly. RGV’s eye for the migrant’s dismantled soul is unerring and powerful.
The performances range from the reined-in to the embarrassingly over-the-top. In the title role Puneet Singh Ratn’s restrained intensity aids the work’s aura of karmic catastrophe.
Puneet is no Chakravarthy. And this Satya is a very distant bloodbrother to the other Satya. Thank God for that.