Cast: John Abraham, Divya Khosla Kumar, Gautami Kapoor, Harsh Chhaya
Director: Milap Milan Zaveri
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
An idealistic home minister who turns into a murderous anti-corruption crusader and his top-gun twin, a dreaded cop who is assigned the job of nabbing a killer on the prowl, aren’t the only roles that John Abraham takes on in Satyameva Jayate 2. The lead actor also turns up in an extended flashback in the second half of the film in the guise of the siblings’ upright father who uses a farmer’s plough as a deadly weapon to attack a moneylender and his goons. That adds up to three John Abrahams, two too many.
But hang on, the triple dose of John Abraham isn’t the worst thing about Satyameva Jayate 2, written and directed by Milap Milan Zaveri as a follow-up to his 2018 hit that pitted the same lead actor against Manoj Bajpayee. The writing is insufferably poor. Everything else in this maddening mess of a movie, from the acting to the sound design, is excruciatingly slapdash. The ear-splitting background score is intent on drowning out everything in sight. It succeeds. All this adds up to a film so execrable that it makes Sooryavanshi look like a shimmering masterpiece.
The shoddy cinematic qualities are only one aspect of Satyameva Jayate 2. The film also peddles dangerous ideas about instant justice and patriotism. No Hindi film in living memory has misused the tricolour as brazenly as Satyameva Jayate 2 does. The film invokes the national flag for the purpose of justifying extra-judicial means of punishing the corrupt. In the bargain, all that it does is sully the fair reputation of the world’s largest democracy.
None of this is, of course, unintentional. The film goes all out to prove that this nation was a basket case all these years and has been in need of a thorough overhaul for many decades, a line of thinking that the troll army of a particular political hue has been pushing. The violent methods of bringing law-breakers to book, Satyameva Jayate 2 suggests, are wholly justified because in the process of draining the system of all traces of corruption, some collateral damage is inevitable.
The film unashamedly invokes Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. A wall in a cop’s office has photographs of the Father of the Nation alongside portraits of Subhas Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Chandrashekhar Azad. But do not expect any serviceable political acumen from the writer. Furthering a fascistic political line, the screenplay tom-toms the notion that nothing is more important than national interest – Tan man dhan se badhkar Jana Gana Mana, the principal male characters thunder at different points in the film.
As long as this nation isn’t rid completely of corruption yeh Azaad azaadi nahi manayega, say two of three truculent characters played by John Abraham. Their family name is Azaad. That is how imaginative this film is. Everything it wants to say, for whatever it is worth, is hammered in with the subtlety of a bulldozer. So, the three righteous men who resort to not-so-righteous ways to prove their point are all ‘Azaad’. One son is named Satya, the other Jay – hence the title of the film.
The sequel has no links with the precursor in story and character terms. Not that it would have benefited in any way had it taken off from where Satyameva Jayate ended. Coming to think of it, Satyameva Jayate 2 could not have been an extension of the 2018 film because then there would be no John Abraham in it.
More than free-spirited the three Azaads of Satyameva Jayate 2 are free-fisted, flexing their muscles at will, bashing up people, and hollering and hectoring their way through one-sided clashes. Their adversaries – doctors, industrialists, politicians, small-time crooks – are sitting ducks. They blow them away effortlessly. In one scene, literally so.
As Satyameva Jayate 2 opens, an anti-corruption bill is defeated in the Vidhan Sabha. The Opposition votes against the proposal. A few coalition partners play foul. What’s more, the home minister’s wife (Divya Khosla Kumar) joins the naysayers. Isse kehte hain democracy isi liye mera desh mahaan, a pejorative voice pipes up, suggesting that it might be time to put democracy on hold and let the vigilante hero ride roughshod over constitutional principles.
Home Minister Satya Balram Azad (Abraham 1) delivers a fiery speech in response to the defeat on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha, throwing in a tendentious reference that puns on a Khan and a khandaan of terrorists. Outside the House, he announces his resolve to take the law in his hands and not rest until all forms of corruption are weeded out from this land. He goes around punishing those in cahoots with the wrongdoers. Gruesome deaths follow.
Supercop Jay Balram Azaad (Abraham 2) is deployed to nab the marauding killer. Cut to a college where a girl is being harassed by a bully. It is Independence Day. The ruffian is bent upon abusing his freedom. The police officer arrives in the nick of time. As the cop proceeds to pulverize the goons after shedding his uniform and revealing his six-pack, the National Anthem begins to play. He stands at attention. The hoodlums attack him. He doesn’t budge an inch. But as soon as the anthem ends, the invincible lawman jumps back into the fray and finishes the job.
Amid the khadi versus khaki confrontation, Satya and Jay’s mother (Gautami Kapoor), a victim of an accident that occurred two decades ago, lies comatose in a private clinic. Family friend and current Chief Minister Chandraprakash Sinha (Harsh Chhaya) stands by the brothers though thick and thin.
A girl dies in front of a hospital because the doctors are on strike. Forty madrasa students lose their lives after eating contaminated food and ending up in a government health facility that has no oxygen cylinders. A martyr’s daughter is rudely turned away by an official when she seeks her father’s pension.
A newly-inaugurated flyover collapses because it was built with substandard material. A young woman is gang-raped by three politically-connected men. She sets herself on fire in full public view. Satya Azaad is always at hand to help the meek. He has a way of cornering every culprit and dispensing his brand of on-the-spot punitive action.
It would be an understatement to describe Satyameva Jayate 2 as a massive misfire. It is an unmitigated travesty of a film. The soundtrack is shoddy and ear-splitting. The dialogues are not only embarrassingly cloying but also clearly the handiwork of a third-rate rhymester. The characters do not speak, they howl. There are gems of unbridled silliness galore as the characters spout ludicrous lines. There is nothing to beat the one that places baap ka tope next to maa ki kokh. The rhyme is appalling, the delivery terrible.
That about sums up the film. Satyameva Jayate 2 redefines infantile in a way that even 1980s Bollywood filmmakers could not have in their wildest dreams.