Director: Milap Milan Zaveri
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, John Abraham, Aisha Sharma, Amruta Khanvilkar
Truth be told, Satyameva Jayate is an insanely terrible film — so bad that it spills over and kills the re-run value of Aamir Khan’s neatly wound TV show. Vigilante justice decked up as social change is a stock routine in Bollywood, but even after 71 years of independence, we are only reeling backwards.Vir (John Abraham) is a hooded avenger of systemized police corruption. He weeds out bent Mumbai cops and burns them alive with a matchstick. Vir is, in many ways, the mainstream brother of Harshvardhan Kapoor’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, except he tilts more Marvel than DC: a raging, punching, one-dimensional Firefist who always plays to the crowd.
Sadly, the crowd isn’t playing. Sick of John’s mechanized movements, they turn in hope to Manoj Bajpayee, who responds with an equally hammy performance. For the fourth time in a year (after Baaghi 2, Aiyaary and Missing), Bajpayee turns up in a film undeserving of his talents. His character, DCP Shivansh Rathod, is brought into action from a botched family vacation. Naturally, we must suffer his annoyance. A silly chase thus ensues, between cop and crusader, led on by inane twists and a backstory out of an Adarsh Balak comic strip. Efforts to weave in some romance are gutted by debutante Aisha Sharma, who delivers her lines so vapidly, even John is stumped.
In this regard, we must implicate the film’s writer-director Milap Milan Zaveri, whose decision to steer clear of sex comedies — a genre he pioneered in India with Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 and Mastizaade — has fetched him a major downer. The dialogues of Satyameva Jayate do bear his trademark touch (‘remand, demand’, ‘khaak, raakh’, ‘rokunga, thokunga’, ‘pitega, mitega’), but bereft of a comic or lurid setting, they quickly begin to grate. When out of quips or puns, John’s death-dealing monster quotes from the Mundaka Upanishad. “Showing off your history and Sanskrit?” DCP Rathod chides him on the phone. “Nope, just my 4G connection and access to Google,” comes the reply.
Riffs on religion, politics and feminism arrive on the heels of an item number (a remix of Sushmita Sen’s Dilbar Dilbar, soiled by Nora Fatehi), but much is lost among piling bodies and the campiest of action. A plot device involving names of Mumbai locales draws some urban laugh, but the fun stops where the local train does. For a film thumping its own patriotism, Satyameva Jayate unites us through only one common emotion: boredom. Insufferable and long, the film tires of its own tricks and goes up in flames.
This trial by fire is burnt toast.