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This Satyagraha fails to stir the heart

Anuj Kumar
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In Satyagraha (top), Prakash Jha builds on the heavy dose of histrionics that news channels serve day in and day out; and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters lacks the punch to keep viewers engaged
In Satyagraha (top), Prakash Jha builds on the heavy dose of histrionics that news channels serve day in and day out; and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters lacks the punch to keep viewers engaged

SATYAGRAHA

Inspired by last year’s anti-corruption movement that shook the political system, Prakash Jha brings a dramatised version of the events. But it seems only the format of the camera has been upgraded! What we saw through television cameras is captured on a cinematic scale here. Unlike the government, there is no surprise in store for us as Jha fails to stir our imagination. Nor does he add much to our understanding of the issue. And for a political film it is like losing your deposit at the hustling.

Instead of adding nuance or an urge to find details behind the high-pitched sloganeering, Jha seems to be building on the big dose of histrionics that news channels serve us in our living rooms. He might call it a piece of fiction but you can easily figure out who is portraying whom from Anna Hazare’s team. However, as far as faces from the government side are concerned, he has played safe.

No doubt, in a country hit by scams, the idea is relevant but in terms of cinematic art, Jha follows his set pattern — only the issue changes, the story-telling method remains almost the same. Even his principal cast also remains almost the same. Competent players like Manoj Bajpayee can turn a fresh leaf, but poor Arjun Rampal is found out. With unabashed placement of rice and vest brands, Jha seems to be marketing urban angst. The insistence for truth seems sponsored. And with a slogan like Janta Rocks, the danger of being trolled by the Twitterati is imminent! Despite a strong cast, the mood looks theatrical where characters don’t converse, they rather sermonise their inherent traits. The pace at which he is churning out issue-based commercial cinema, Jha is in risk of being bracketed with Madhur Bhandarkar as another headline-hunter.

It starts as a father-son story in a fictional small town, where a retired school principal Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) loses his honest engineer son (Indraneil Sengupta) in a dubious accident. When the local administration seeks bribe for releasing the compensation announced by the Home Minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), Dwarka gives the local collector one tight slap. It spirals a movement as his son’s businessman friend Manav (Ajay Devgn) joins hands with Dwarka and a top journalist Yasmeen (Kareena Kapoor) changes her priorities to cover the fight against corruption in government offices.

Jha and his co-writer Anjum Rajabali are known to capture the small town value system rather well. Here, Bachchan’s rant on the morality of the market and measuring success by profits make sense. So does Manav’s understanding of urban youth. They go to private schools and work in private companies. Their only interaction with the government is in the form of the taxes they pay or the licences they need. So, they demand matching services. But as has been the case in their last couple of films, the issue gets oversimplified and is not weaved well enough into the story. In the second half, when the movement gets out of hands it rings a bell, but the emotional swell seldom pierces the heart. Otherwise, how can visuals of abject hunger and self immolation fail to curdle our blood? We see a lot, feel very little.

It is the performances that somewhat redeem an uneven script. Both Bachchan and Devgn, despite looking a little haggard, make solid impact with their eyes as Jha provides them some quiet moments to excel between all the bluster. Devgn has got the most rounded character as the well-educated tycoon who develops concern for his countryman but by the end Jha also turns him into a simplistic type. The saving grace is unlike Aarakshan, he doesn’t trample other characters to create space for Bachchan. It is Manoj Bajpayee who actually steals the show as a slimy politician who consistently smirks at the audacity of the public to hit back. He hits the right notes, required for such an overtly dramatic script.

It is hard to believe Kareena Kapoor Khan in the role of a hard-boiled journalist, with an unlimited supply of kohl. As Yasmeen, she doesn’t seem to know her job profile. Is she there to cover a significant story or is she part of the movement? Or is it an editing glitch? A romantic track is snuggled in as Yasmeen seems in a hurry to get hooked to Manav. Talking of detailing, in Ambikapur, the fire brigade vehicles have Bhopal written on them!

Yes, it reeks of sameness and Jha desperately needs to reinvent himself but then when many of us can turn up again and again for Rohit Shetty’s gags, why not try Jha’s contraption of newspaper headlines and editorials. At least it is relevant to us!

PERCY JACKSON:

SEA OF MONSTERS

Good-looking teenagers having a ball in the midst of a computer-generated imagery. It seems we have been to this ‘cool’ universe of half- human and half-animal characters. Yes, things haven’t changed much in the world of Percy, the perky son of Poseidon. Those who follow the adventures of Percy must know that in the first part, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief , Percy (Logan Lerman) had taken his rightful place in the pantheon of demigods.

Without heeding much to the past, director Thor Freudenthal strides ahead with Percy finding half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith). Together with Tyson, who happens to be half-Cyclops, he takes on half-blood Luke (Jake Abel), who is eager to resurrect the dead god Kronos. Riding on Percy’s effortless camaraderie with his friends, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the message of working as a unit and the need to believe in parents are neatly slipped into the script, which is a rather simplified form of Nick Riordan’s fantasy adventure series.

But then the franchise is fuelled by effects. Be it the metal bull or blue green sea horse, Freudenthal plays with the imagination of the target audience. The remarkable detailing of one-eyed Cyclops and scorpion dog catches the eye. However, as a one-horned creature made of hot coal, Kronos lacks the menace we anticipate in the pages. Also, after the initial euphoria of the effects settle down, the narrative lacks the punch to keep you engaged. Logan is not bad but lacks the charisma to rise above the pitfalls of the script and the monotony of the special effects.

Don’t suggest on your own, try it only if the kid in the house is getting restless!


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