This is not a Bollywood version of the acclaimed Philip Glass 1979 opera ‘Satyagraha’ (meaning ‘insistence of truth’) but it addresses the same theme of whether peaceful or violent protest is the better way to deal with oppression and corruption.
Retired teacher Dwarka (Amitabh Bachchan) mourns the sudden death of his son. Dwarka’s widowed daughter-in-law Sumitra (Amrita Rao) is unable to claim the compensation she is entitled to despite daily treks to the relevant authorities. Dwarka slaps an arrogant civil servant; he is imprisoned. Family friend Manav (Ajay Devgan) starts a campaign to free Dwarka via the internet and with the help of a wannabe politician Arjun (Arjun Rampal) and female journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor). As the movement gains momentum, the politicians panic.
Director Prakash Jha’s latest political thriller is an improvement over his last film ‘Chakravyuh’, a Gala Screening at last year’s BFI London Film Festival. Jha bases his stories on real life – namely the efforts of Anna Hazare, a popular social activist who went on a hunger strike in 2011 and succeeded in getting the Indian government to pass an anti-corruption law. His take on ameliorating this entrenched malpractice may be questionable at times, though, suggesting at one point that ‘going Gandhi’ may be a sign of cowardice today.
On balance, this is a generally accurate reflection of the current mood of those Indians who are fed up with the system and yearn for transparency in the world’s largest democracy. There are the usual bolly-oddities: an inordinate length, a romantic subplot with mushy love song and a saucy ‘item’ dance number. But there is much to admire, especially as the film questions the ‘India Shining’ idea, exposing it as more of a myth than a reality for the majority of the country's citizens.