The fraught times in which we live have allowed a purveyor of smutty comedy to emerge as some kind of a subversive. Who would have thought?
Milap Zaveri’s vigilante drama Satyameva Jayate is straight out of the 1980s, but some of moments speak (in their own cockeyed way) to our fretful present. The price of petrol is moving heavenwards and so is grubby-handed police inspector Damle, snarls burly cop-killer Veer (John Abraham).
Another sequence has some of the most bizarre intercutting seen in the movies yet. Veer pummels a police inspector who has been torturing an innocent undertrial in custody even as the young man’s mother kneels in prayer to her god.
The opening minutes set the tone for what viewers can expect – slow-motion action scenes, deafening background music, a high body count and aphoristic dialogue. You cannot complain that you haven’t been warned or be surprised that the unspooling film is unsubtle, preposterous, gratuitous, and, in some places, actually entertaining.
Veer is an artist of charcoal drawings who inhabits an apartment with an enviable view in Mumbai, but he leaves his digs ever so often to send corrupt police officers to their maker. “Patil ho ya Qadri, sab ki ek biradri,” Veer observes. Whether it’s Patil or Qadri, they’re all of the same ilk. Zaveri cut his teeth as a writer before directing the sex comedy Mastizaade (2016), and he ensures that Veer slays through dialogue as well as deeds.
Alarmed by the series of deaths, Mumbai police commissioner Manish (Manish Chauhduri) sets the only honest man left in the force on Veer’s trail. Shivansh (Manoj Bajpayee) quickly arrives at the method in Veer’s madness. In a movie with only a handful of characters, it isn’t hard to divine the twists that Zaveri keeps dreaming up. A post-interval section that unearths the reasons behind Veer’s actions is a massive misfire in a movie that is needlessly stretched to 141 minutes and comes to life only when death is being served.
John Abraham lumbers through the action scenes with minimal facial movement and maximum exertion of his pectoral muscles. Manoj Bajpayee plays his vigilante hunter with a mix of melodrama and parody. He yells at the top of his voice when required and is at his professional best in the scenes that defy logic.
The movie never takes itself too seriously, even as it emerges as the obverse of Hindi movies that celebrate the super-cop who breaks the rules while in uniform. Unlike Wanted, Singham and Dabangg, the villains in Satymeva Jayate are the men in khaki, who are maiming, torturing and even killing the people they have sworn to protect. Veer believes that they deserve what they get, and even Shivansh, for all his morals, is inclined to agree. A tighter movie with a more credible plot and better performances might just have convinced us too.