Satya 2 is Ram Gopal Varma’s latest take on the state of the Mumbai mafia. Satya, released in 1998, was a landmark. It redefined Hindi cinema and helped create Mumbai Noir, a school of dark, gritty movies that explored the underbelly of the city.
This film has no connection – either in quality or in narrative – with the first. Only that here too, the lead is called Satya. And he comes to Mumbai empty-handed and through sheer guts and wits becomes an underworld power centre.
The new Satya, played by debutant Punit Singh Ratn, is a man who believes that takat ki asli power usse chupane mein hai. So even after he becomes the kingpin, he continues to ride in autos.
Satya is a man of few words and many scowls. He rises to power by using his brains. People start dropping like flies, including a news anchor; somehow Satya makes his head explode. Varma builds him up as a ruthless mastermind. Incredibly, Varma tacks on an interpretation of Satya as a much-needed modern-day Robin Hood who is creating a more just system within the existing corrupt one and merely redistributing wealth.
It’s morally specious and unintentionally comical. While the men kill and glower, the women serve tea and flash skin. Anaika Soti, one of the leading ladies, does a version of the chirpy village belle. She is so vapid that I start missing Nisha Kothari, Varma’s erstwhile muse and heroine of that disaster, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. The one bright spot here is Punit, who despite being made to deliver dialogue in slow motion, retains some screen presence. Watching Satya 2 is like being bludgeoned. I say, stay at home and revisit the original.