Kajal Aggarwal in Satyabhama
Kajal Aggarwal in Satyabhama

Satyabhama Movie Review: An ambitious and layered thriller 

Even as Kajal Aggarwal delivers a stellar performance, it’s the well-paced and emotionally complex narrative that’s the real hero of the film
Satyabhama(3.5 / 5)

In Satyabhama, Kajal Aggarwal plays the titular character, a fierce yet determined cop who struggles to overcome one particular setback. Even as Satyabhama is compelled to revisit a chapter from her past life while tackling a missing case, it begins to haunt her through nightmares and she struggles to ensure that her determination does not tip over to obsession. Suman Chikkala’s Satyabhama is many things at once. It’s a complex mystery-thriller, and a drama that offers many quintessential mass moments like any commercial Telugu film would do. At the same time, writer Sashi Kiran Tikka and director Suman Chikkala manage to make space for dealing with themes like trauma, processing grief, and the idea of moving on.

Cast: Kajal Aggarwal, Naveen Chandra, Prakash Raj, Harsha Vardhan, Payal Radhakrishna, Neha Pathan

Director: Suman Chikkala

Satyabhama primarily works very well as a gripping thriller, almost a whodunit in its own way. Some sections of the audience might find the proceedings too complicated to follow, but writer Sashi Kiran Tikka manages to add a new layer of intrigue with each twist without getting too convoluted in his own creation. The film consistently gives you enough information to make you part of the puzzle-solving process, yet it holds back enough to maintain a sense of intrigue about the unfolding mystery. A small, cynical part of you might want to scoff at the endless web of details that open up with each passing scene, but Satyabhama remains steadily engaging in its narrative.

The film is pacey, of course, and director Suman Chikkala keeps things interesting on a visual level, even as the proceedings threaten to become too complicated. In an early chase sequence, Suman captures all the gun-toting action aerially, interspersing them beautifully with the central chase on the ground. At another point in the second half, the audience follows two threads simultaneously as two separate teams set out in pursuit of a crucial link to the missing person. The editing here is so slick that it gradually intertwines with the earlier chase and amplifies the overarching tension.

It is the writer’s decision to keep Satyabhama so plot-driven that when the handful of action sequences arrive, they feel earned and well worth the wait. It helps that Kajal Aggarwal shows great finesse in the action scenes, maintaining a great balance of believability and larger-than-life heroism, and bringing a touch of self-awareness as Satyabhama wriggles her wrist after every time she punches someone. Special mention to music director Sricharan Pakala for creating a moody background score, particularly in a post-interval fight sequence where every musical thud seems in perfect sync with Satyabhama’s kicks and punches.

There is only one brief stretch in the first half, where Satyabhama strays a little, throwing two consecutive flashback sequences amidst a tense narrative. But as we learn later, these sequences serve a major purpose in helping us learn more about these characters and their motivations, only to debunk our learnings by the end of it all. What doesn’t work in Satyabhama is the decision to bookend the story from a third-person narrator’s perspective, giving a conventionally mythical approach to a story that is inherently intimate at its core, talking about trauma and closure.

The makers of the film might have categorically stated that Satyabhama is not a woman-centric film, but don’t let this fool you. Satyabhama heads a special team named ‘She Teams,’ dedicated to solving crimes against women. The plot of Satyabhama itself sets in motion because a sensitive female cop extends support to a victimised woman, going beyond her limits—something a male cop would probably never do, not even in the films.

It’s hard to talk about Satyabhama without giving away spoilers, but in the final act, the film offers brief yet impactful insight on how women and men deal with a personal loss. While Satyabhama remembers the fear she once sensed on a loved one' face, another character remembers the pain they suffered and its cause. Sometimes, all of us carry home a different feeling even after going through a similar experience, and it's the choices we make in those crucial times that shape our humanity. Satyabhama works largely because of its ambition to explore existential ideas like this in the garb of a conventional thriller.

Cinema Express