Satya : a mafia story or a family melodrama


When I was done with my work yesterday, I thought of watching a movie. I didn’t have any particular movie in mind. I had been watching world cinema for a while but this time, I wanted a change. I didn’t want to watch a movie this time which was full of discourses on life and death. Yet I was not prepared for watching a movie which would have a low content value. It was like going for a healthy soup for a change instead of having full course of Chinese herbs. I didn’t anticipate that this soup was going to be a movie called ‘Satya’ directed by Ram Gopal Varma.

As I was always a great admirer of mafia movies, I thought of just to watch two or three scenes of Satya and then see if it was anyway near to ‘The Godfather’, a greatest mafia movie ever. ImageI also wanted to accomplish an aesthetical comparison of Satya with a French mafia movie titled ‘A Prophet’. I have watched other mafia movies also, both in Indian and foreign languages, but I have never come across a mafia movie like The Godfather or A Prophet. What I really liked about The Godfather was its true representation of American way of life. Don Corleone was not just a gun-trotting, bad-mouthing gangster, but a firm believer in family values. Though he had become a billion-dollar, Rolls Royce owner don, his middle class values were intact. He was powerful enough to challenge the police system of his state, yet he preferred to play by the rules of the game. Today if we are anyway familiar to Marlon Brando, it is only because of this movie. He won Academy award for best actor for his performance in the movie.

A Prophet is definitely not best cinema from France but it is surely among one of the best movies released in 21st century. French have very classy tastes when it comes to cinema and I think France the only country in the world where movies are watched in palaces (theatres are like palaces). A Prophet is about an Algerian immigrant in France, blamed for inciting violence against the police, and hence imprisoned. He faces hatred from fellow jail-mates because he has an Arab origin. ImageMuslim jail-mates also dislike him as he doesn’t grow beard and like to be left alone than participating in religious discussions. He is an outcaste. Movie is a beautiful depiction of an inner struggle of a man, who knows that he is not a wrongdoer but society suspects him to be one. Jacques Audiard, who directed this movie, opens up layers of pseudo-religiosity, fake solidarity and pathological hatred from our daily lives. This movie too was received with critical acclaim and won many awards at Cannes Film Festival.

It was not that I was watching Satya for first time. I had watched it long ago when I had no exposure to world cinema and was not aware of cinematic senses. This time, watching Satya was like a revelation for me. I found a very realistic representation of middle class life of Mumbai, over-crowded and over-burdened yet very lively. The protagonist of this movie, Satya has no knowledge of his parents. He has nothing to lose, he considers death not more than a deep sleep. He is close observer yet he remains detached. He rarely speaks but his eyes reveals everything. Bhikhu Mhatre has sense of humor, he loves his friends like a child loves her toys. ImageFor Bhikhu Mhatre’s wife, love and hate are not dichotomous. Even her hate for her husband seems to be overflowing with love. They all laugh, cry, joke, drink and dance. There is no pretention. There may be some disagreement, but when right chords are touched, music is just amazing. There are no rules and if there is any, it is made to be violated. For me, Satya is only mafia movie, which is so emotionally loving. I find no parallel of this kind of mafia movie in Hindi cinema and in a pan-Indian scenario, only Tamil movie Nayakan has the same social values but overarching presence of Kamal Hasan makes it less interesting. Nayakan too won a national award for Kamal Hasan. 

What I find interesting is, movies like Satya has more social and cultural values than movies like Satyagraha which are labelled as a socially oriented cinema but have little social and cultural values. I just don’t agree with filmmakers who differentiate between styles of meaningful cinema and mainstream cinema. You can be a mainstream film-maker yet make socially-relevant cinema like Jean Luc Godard did in France. Now I am thinking of watching more Indian movies, just to see if I am able to create any new meanings out of it.