Satyameva Jayate 2 Review: Triply annoying than the last
Three John Abrahams descend in a disastrous Milap Zaveri film
Three years ago, a little-known indie art film called Satyameva Jayate was released. At least that’s how I remember it, given the toils and spoils of its sequel. Milap Zaveri is a director whose only true competition is himself. Only Milap can top Milap—and thus, by extension, one John Abraham beat another. Hence the ground for Satyameva Jayate 2, which is doubly loud, triply muscular, and eight times as insufferable.
Uttar Pradesh – and the rest of India in general – is in ruins; children are dying outside hospitals. State Home Minister Satya Balram Azaad (John) tries to push an anti-corruption bill through the assembly. He fails, recites a sad poem about the country, and leaves. His embarrassment is exacerbated by the fact that his wife, Vidya (Divya Khosla Kumar), voted against him. “It’s a politician who opposed the bill,” she tells reporters with a straight face. “Not his wife.”
Cast: John Abraham, Divya Khosla Kumar, Anup Soni, Zakir Hussain
Director: Milap Zaveri
Faring a little better in life (stay with me) is Satya’s twin brother, Jay, also played by John. A khaki-clad brute, Jay has what Urban Dictionary describes as Patriotic Derangement Syndrome (PDS). Thrashing goons at a function, he suddenly stops, transfixed by the ‘Jana Gana Mana’ that’s playing. Meanwhile, there’s a third John, a hooded vigilante, going about town. Is he Jay? Is he Satya? Is he the ghost of Mumbai Saga’s box-office performance back for revenge?
A double role is a natural magnet for brawny action stars. John, attempting a tripler, is hardly distinguishable across the turns. When Satya and Jay attend a wedding, in similar clothes, I lost track of which is which. Their father, Dadasaheb Azaad, was a slain reformer—without the crop of facial hair, he could just be one of the boys. It’s a blankly wasted gambit, the characters appearing more like clones than separate individuals.
The setting of Uttar Pradesh infuses the film with a sham urgency. Nary a newspoint is left out: rape, murders, the shortage of oxygen in hospitals. But while the film’s inherent narrative chaos might be a comment on the state’s affairs, there are also evasions. Lucknow, where the film was shot, is never named—it could well be called John-pur. Satya’s party is in power, yet he looks utterly helpless. The villains are usually businessmen or smaller politicians. The anti-corruption rants are so bad, they would've grated in 2011. The whole tone is excessive, exploitative, and exaggerated. Not very satya at all.
Milap, of course, would defend this wreck. Rhyming ‘murga’ with ‘durga’, he’d say, is exactly what audiences want. His filmmaking has devolved spectacularly over the years. He’s no Shankar, who can do exaggerated violence with a sense of terror and scale. John’s fighting style remains unchanged throughout the film. Once a patron of hard-hitting cinema (Vicky Donor, Madras Café), the actor now just prefers to hit people hard. Satyameva Jayate 2 nods to classics like Bulandi and Sooryavansham, but lacks their emotional force. The song sequences are patchily edited. The only two comic scenes feel like ad breaks.
Blame it on my empty stomach on a Thursday morning, but I had a surreal experience during the film’s climax. Satya and Jay, their faces bloodied and charred, started resembling identical pieces on a tandoori chicken plate. Their shirts—one saffron, one green—looked like chutneys served with the dish. ‘Appetizing’ is a descriptor I rarely use, let alone for a Milap Zaveri film. Today, though, I must accept defeat. Satyameva Jayate 2 made me hungry—in the worst way imaginable.