Satyamev Jayate 2 movie review: John Abraham film is an ode to patriotism, police and protein shake
Satyamev Jayate 2 is an ugly exhibition of appeasement filmmaking, using the most tired tropes in the history of Hindi cinema.
(Editor's note: Our critic's actual rating is zero. However, since our software does not support that numeral, the rating getting reflected is 0.5.)
What’s something new that can be said about director Milap Milan Zaveri’s annual assault on good taste? To repeat the same things about Zaveri’s films being dated, tropey and exploitative is like concluding John Abraham’s favourite dish is NOT Chhole Bhature. Even a Milap Milan Zaveri character could deduce that, using some rhyming scheme and alliteration. At this point, Milap Milan Zaveri is like that unruly kid running riot inside a gaming arcade, while his parents (the producers) pretend to look away, because he gets 90% (delivers hits) in his exams. The audience, like the other kids inside the arcade, have to suffer. Apparently, he has the box office receipts to prove that he has a section of the audience on his side, who continue to watch his films, thereby giving him the right to keep making films. So, I guess the rest of us can only implore him to try something newer, better. Going by his latest film Satyamev Jayate 2, Zaveri seems to be getting sucked in his vortex of ineptitude, only to (shockingly) make worse films.
The famous screenwriting maxim goes: show, don’t tell.
In Milap Milan Zaveri’s school of filmmaking, the adage is adapted to: show, close-up, music swells, close-up on lone tear-drop, tell in a line instead of a word, repeat yourself cos what if an audience member was responding to a text message in the middle of the dialogue?
Like most films in such franchises, nothing except the leading man remains the same. Also, Zaveri seems to have come up with the solution for the lack of John Abraham’s perfectly carved body adorning the screen. Why just settle for one John Abraham, when you can have three? And how about getting all of them to take their shirt off in successive scenes? Let’s just give everyone what they really want. Close-ups of Abraham’s biceps, chest, shoulder, triceps, let’s fill the screen with his topless scenes as he pummels through cupboards, shatters ribs, lifts bikes, stops choppers from taking off - all using his well-oiled biceps. This is still… the expected part.
The disgusting bit is how Zaveri co-opts nearly every newspaper headline from the last two years, using it for tasteless commentary and to fuel his plot. So, there’s a scene about kids being brought to hospitals because of a case of suspected food poisoning from the meals served at a madrassa, and note how the camera closes in on children vomiting blood. The hospitals have no oxygen supply, an obvious nod to the grim situation in the country during the second wave in April. Zaveri turns this into a plot-point for his hero’s vigilantism. He’s merely a visitor, who couldn’t care the slightest bit about those who lost their lives during those deadly few weeks. He will shop from their trauma, and use it to propagate the most problematic things in Hindi cinema: vigilante justice, mob justice etc.
What’s really vomit-inducing about Satyamev Jayate 2, is how Zaveri thinks he is smart enough to play both sides of the game. Even when Muslim children die, and Satya Azad (Abraham as the Home Minister of U.P) goes to visit the parents of the deceased, Zaveri sees that as his chance to differentiate between the ‘good, noble Muslim’ and the ‘evil Muslim’. Similarly, he tries to include a sequence that (on the surface) seems like an ode to the kisaan of this country (the farmer protests were presumably ongoing when Zaveri was shooting this film). However, you look closely and we notice how the conversation is about India’s first 50 years of corruption. Dadasaheb Balram Azad (also John Abraham) screams how he will celebrate India’s independence on 15th August, only on the day when there’s no more corruption in the country. Sounds eerily similar to what actor Kangana Ranaut said about how India got its independence in 2014, and how the independence in 1947 were alms in comparison.
Zaveri does the ‘noble’ thing by getting Jay Azad (John Abraham again!!! Who else were you expecting?) catching a Muslim woman’s Quran in front of a government office building. Some might ask why she was carrying a Quran and prayer mat in the first place. But he humiliates the babu, and delivers justice for the lone Muslim woman who gapes at him like he was an iteration of a Rajamouli hero. On the surface he upholds the secular fabric of the Indian constitution. But then, Zaveri also doesn’t shy away from overt Hindu symbolism in the film, where Durga puja proves to be a perfect setting to kill the asurs (read: villains).
There’s a Karwa Chauth scene too, which is Divya Khosla Kumar’s longest speaking part outside of the Instagram live, where she defended her spouse and T-Series owner Bhushan Kumar against Sonu Nigam’s allegations. A veteran of T-Series music videos, Khosla Kumar performs well in the songs. However, all her dialogue scenes seem to be playing at 0.8x speed. What does it say about a part when the tricolour gets more screen time than the leading lady?
There’s just no complexity in Zaveri’s characters. When they’re “evil”, they automatically mouth B-villain lines. Doesn’t matter whether they’re inside a legislative assembly, or in front of the press. An ‘evil’ doctor is shown clinking glasses to celebrate the death of a civilian patient, before gulping the whole thing. A ‘noble’ farmer’s first response after being stopped from killing himself is: how will I grow crops for this nation? In Zaveri-speak: the restraint in this film is as pronounced as the ‘b’ in ‘subtle’.
Satyamev Jayate 2 is an ugly exhibition of appeasement filmmaking, where a director is trying to tick off as many boxes of the audience he can appease, using the most tired tropes in the history of Hindi cinema. If I really wanted to see 138 minutes of three topless John Abraham flexing his biceps and grinding his teeth… no, I would never want that.
Satyamev Jayate 2 is available in cinemas.
Tatsam Mukherjee has been working as a film journalist since 2016. He is based out of Delhi NCR.
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