It was 2003 when John Abraham first burst into Indian Cinema with Jism. His debut feature earned him a Filmfare Award nomination and he solidified his status as a newcomer to look out for with 2004’s highest-grossing film Dhoom. And while the action star hasn’t become the next Khan, his films have largely done decent business at the box office.
All that, plus his lucrative endorsement deals have made Abraham one of the most recognizable stars of Bollywood. But despite his rise to prominence, the actor has largely done the same macho, confident, smirking protagonist roles and his latest feature while a bit less braggadocios, is more of the same.
Stretching past two and a half hour, Satyameva Jayate (Truth alone triumphs) is the kind of generic jingoistic nonsense that would turn even the most patriotic Hindustani off. The movie’s premise sounds promising and in more capable hands, it could have been a stellar political thriller on the seedy underbelly of the corrupt law and order of India.
The film details the story of vigilante Veer (Abraham) who goes around murdering corrupt cops and DCP Shivansh (the always excellent Manoj Bajpayee) who is tasked with apprehending him. Their paths continue to cross as they both carry out their missions.
The biggest problem with Milap Milan Zaveri’s feature film is that it doesn’t break any new ground. We’ve seen films about rogue vigilantes before (Mr. India) and seen films about corrupt cops getting punished by other cops (Wanted).
We’ve seen smarter films (A Wednesday, Special 26) that have given us more than standard action films against corrupt government officials. So keep in mind if you’re intending to see the film, you won’t be seeing anything new or exciting.
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Perhaps if Satyameva Jayate had made the most of what its meagre action-thriller plot, it could have still worked on some level. But the movie’s insistence on being, or rather attempting to be, more than what it is makes the film seem shoddy. The action scenes aren’t anything new and rely on Abraham delivering justice to the cops— Bollywood style.
Naturally, this means that before our hero tortures and kills the baddies, he also recites some very poor ‘heroic’ poetry, perhaps in hopes of torturing them mentally too. In keeping with most Indian movies, Veer is near indestructible, dodging hundreds of bullets, taking apart police van doors and tires and all while looking like an Indian Abercrombie model.
Though the film provides a backstory and motivation for Veer’s agenda, the film struggles to justify what would possess a man to go out and start burning corrupt cops and what toll (if any) that has on his humanity. Abraham lacks the acting chops necessary for him to add any levity to his dark and brood some Veer.
It would be remiss to say that our Desi audiences have grown bored of flawless, archetypal masculinity the way the rest of the world has. Unfortunately, a lot of the box office hits in Pakistan and India still contain the hyper-masculine heroes that have been phased out elsewhere, and if anything, this film should make us wonder why our audiences connect so readily to unrealistic male figures in films.
The other supporting actors are more or less the same. You know a film is bad when an actor of the caliber of Manoj Bajpayee can’t save it. And really, when each line of the film is so obviously “filmy” in all the wrong ways, there’s not much any actor can do.
The script isn’t a disservice to him alone, Aisha Sharma is wasted in the role of the traditional girlfriend of the hero, left on the sidelines without anything to do. For those looking for a good time, Satyameva Jayate isn’t the best option. The film is adrenaline-charged and loud with little to balance it.
The soundtrack is nothing worth raving about and the sound design is exceptionally irritating. The film’s fight sequences are subpar too. The biggest and most exasperating thing about Satyameva Jayate is easily its script which helps make the film pretty unwatchable. Anyone seeking quality entertainment should stay far away from this clichéd action flick.