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Satya is a gripping, violent and tragic story of the survival of the fittest in the murky backlanes of Mumbai. Ram Gopal Varma’s film poignantly brings to life the adage that those who live by the sword must die by it.

Into the heaving life of the masses appears one more cog in the machine. A young man named Satya (Chakravarty) arrives in Mumbai to seek a livelihood. He doesn’t care what work he does as long as it will help him build a life for himself. It quickly becomes apparent that the city can turn an honest man into a crook in a flash. But unlike the run-of-the-mill hero, Satya is no idealistic martyr. His aim is not to be honest, but to survive. Indeed, there are no heroes in Satya. There are only ordinary men and women, made extraordinary by their lives of violence and uncertainty.

Satya on proving that he is well-versed in the art of survival, is inducted into the gang of Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpai), a jolly and well-meaning family man who takes an instant liking to the new member. Satya quickly rises to prominence in the gang, which specialises in extortion from builders, and starts advising Bhiku Mhatre to chart his own course instead of bowing to the demands of other god-fathers.

Gang rivalry and internal treachery make for a tight and gripping plot, with the machinations of the police authorities striking an interesting balance with the violence of the gangsters. Satya moves from living in a slum to a one-bedroom apartment in a run-down building. In the apartment opposite lives Vidya (Urmila Matondkar), an aspiring singer who looks after her old parents. The initial meeting blossoms into love in a sweet, romantic way. While Satya hides the truth of his gangsterism from Vidya, his continuing involvement with killing and extortion sucks him more and more into the politics of the under-world. Finally, the cool-as-a-cucumber Satya realises that his career could put the woman he loves into danger, and he starts thinking of a way to escape. To reveal more would be to spoil the surprising twists and turns of this brilliantly crafted film.

Ram Gopal Varma’s excellent direction and Anurag Kashyap and Sauragh Shulka’s smooth script is supported by a talented line-up of actors portraying various characters of the underworld, such as Makrand Deshpande, Saurabh Shukla, Manoj Bajpai and of course, Chakravarty.

In particular, Manoj Bajpai who plays the pivotal role of Bhiku Mhatre, has delivered an award-winning performance with his ruthlessness, countered by his flirtatious, loving exchanges with his wife (Shefali Chaya). Chakravarty’s performance creates a poignant character in Satya, managing to simultaneously underplay his character and make his presence felt on screen. A deglamourised Urmila lives up to her role, but is largely overshadowed by the stellar performances of the rest of the cast.

A huge plus point for Satya is Vishal’s melodious soundtrack set to Gulzar’s lyrics.

Despite its grim tone, the film is likely to invite a great deal of identification from urban audiences, especially since it succeeds in creating the city of Mumbai as a living, breathing character in its own right.


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