It’s been 10 years since Satya redefined the way Bollywood “looked” at Mumbai underworld. It established a new genre in Bollywood – Mumbai noir. Before Satya, most of the movies in which the protagonist has a negative character, showed us an honest, non-violent, Mr Nice Guy, who has a lovely middle class family, a nice girlfriend and lives a simple happy life. Then something really unfortunate and “unexpected” happens and it takes everything he loved away from him (or put it in jeopardy). Hence, he is left with no other choice but pick up and gun to either take revenge or save his helpless family.
Satya gave us a break from all that cliched nice-guy-harassed-by-society-and-becomes-a-bad-guy theme. Here the protagonist enters the underworld as if he is trying to find a purpose in his life!
We’re not even told why Satya came to Mumbai or where he came form. Does he have some skeletons in his closet? Does he have a family somewhere? Did he deserted them or did his family threw him out? Why? We don’t know. It’s irrelevant. The movie is not about what happened to Satya, it’s about what happens to Satya after he comes to Mumbai. And probably that’s what made Satya more interesting – the mystery and strangeness that revolves around him. (Director Ramu toys along with the audience about this. Satya is asked many times about his past and his family, but every time, we get vague answers. “Kya faraq padta hai?” is his reply when Bhiku asks him where he came from. “Mar gaye honge shayad.” is what he tells him when he inquires about where his parents are.) We see Satya staring blankly at the ceiling of his tiny flat, and outwards from his window. We wonder what he is thinking about. Perhaps there’s nothing but a vacuum, which will be soon filled with his next door neighbor, Vidya.
While his new friend Bhikhu teaches him how to operate a gun, Vidya teaches him how to smile and love. Satya learns both skills with ease, but we know that he is better at the former. He is simultaneously driven to two separate paths, one can lead to destruction and the other to happiness. Both Bhikhu and Vidya needed Satya. Bhikhu is a hot-tempered don who is no more than a puppet in the hands of don-turned-politician, Bhau. And Vidya is frustrated from her continuous struggle to make a living as a singer in an industry where “Kucch paane ke liye kucch khona bhi padta hai”. Satya completes Bhiku, the don of Mumbai underworld, as he helps him make strategic decisions.(“Hamara fayda unke dar se hai, unki maut se naheen.”) And he also completes Vidya who finds a friend and companion in Satya.
Many dialogues in this movie are aptly written and executed in such a way that it leaves an impact on the audience. (“Ek Jaayega, to sab jaayenge.”, “Mauka sabhi ko milta hai.”, “Karna hai, to karna hai.”, “Kasai bhi bakra tabhi katta hai jab log use khaate hai. Sirf Kasai pe kyon ungli uthaate ho?” etc.) There are some scenes in the movie which exemplifies Ramu’s genius as a director:
– Satya’s first murder
– Satya’s attack on that hafta-wasooli guy with a razor blade
– The sweet scuffle between Bhikhu and his wife
– Bhikhu’s proclamations as “Mumbai ka don” on a seashore rock facing the city (excellent location)
– Amod Shukla’s murder and Khandelkar’s reaction
– Satya’s escape from the theatre
– Bhau’s murder, Mule’s murder
– The final scene
The mood of Satya composed by Sandeep Showta is one of my most favorite movie themes. Ram Gopal Varma once said that Sandeep Chowta understood the character of Satya more than himself. Almost all characters are well defined and well developed. Chakravarty as Satya was a very good choice. The character of Satya needed a new face because strangeness was the main essences of his character. The character grows on you in the movie. Just like the other leads in the movie (Bhikhu, Vidya, Bhau etc.) the audience also looks at Satya initially as a stranger. We learn more about Satya as the other characters in the movie learns more about him. (Contrast this – choice of actor – with the choice of Ajay Devgan to play the character of Malik in Ramu’s other underworld saga – Company. There was no time for building the character of Malik in this movie as the movie was more about the ‘events’ rather than the ‘characters’. So Ramu needed an established actor whom the audience can take seriously from the very first scene.) And then there’s Bhiku Matre. Manoj Bajpai convinces you that no one could have played the role of Bhiku Matre better than him.
After Satya, there have been many more Mumbai noir movies that followed its footsteps. But any movie that’s based on Mumbai underworld is going to have some inspirations from Satya. In that sense, Satya is to Bollywood what Godfather is to Hollywood.