Movie poster for Satya
|Directed by||Ram Gopal Varma|
|Produced by||Ram Gopal Varma
|Written by||Anurag Kashyap
|Editing by||Apurva Asrani
|Release date(s)||3 July 1998|
|Running time||171 min|
|Budget||Rs. 2 crore ($400,000)|
|Gross revenue||Rs. 15.5 crore ($3,105,000)|
Satya (Hindi: सत्या; English: "Truth") is a 1998 Hindi crime film directed by Ram Gopal Varma with a screenplay by Anurag Kashyap and Saurabh Shukla. It stars J. D. Chakravarthy, Manoj Bajpai, Urmila Matondkar and Shefali Shah. The film tells the story of Satya, an immigrant who comes to Mumbai seeking his fortune but instead gets sucked into the Mumbai underworld.
Satya was released on 3 July 1998 and was also dubbed in Tamil and Telugu. Made on a shoestring budget of INR 2 crore (roughly $400,000), the film became a surprise hit at the box office, grossing INR 15.5 crore and becoming the 10th highest grossing Indian film of 1998. The film went on to win six Filmfare Awards, including the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie, and three Star Screen Awards.
Mumbai is in the midst of a turf war between many gangs, collectively referred to as the Mumbai underworld. In these circumstances, Satya (J.D Chakravarthy), a man without a past, comes to the city in search of a job. He finds accommodation in a cow-shed and employment as a waiter at the local dance bar. While working, he gets involved in a scuffle with a local goon Jagga (Jeeva), bag man for dreaded don Guru Narayan. Jagga takes his revenge by getting Satya arrested on false charges of pimping.
In jail, Satya gets into a scuffle with yet another member of Mumbai's mafia, underworld don Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpai), who is in prison pending trial for the murder of a prominent film producer. Mhatre is pleased with Satya's bravado and extends a hand of friendship. He arranges for Satya's release, as well as his accommodation in a chawl. Satya then joins Mhatre's gang and the first thing he does is kill Jagga in public using a gun presented to him by Mhatre.
Before branching out on his own, Bhiku Mhatre was part of a gang that included himself, Guru Narayan, Kallu Mama (Saurabh Shukla) and the lawyer Chandrakant Mule (Makrand Deshpande). Bhau Thakurdas Jhawle (Govind Namdeo), presently a corporator in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, was the gang leader. After Jhawle joined politics, the gang split into two, with Kallu and Mule joining Mhatre and Guru Narayan going his own way. But both gangs still maintained a relationship with Jhawle, and had also carved out their own territories which were off limits to the rival gang.
Jagga's assassination breaks the uneasy truce and Narayan reneges on his promise by attacking Mhatre's gang when they are on their way to extort money from a builder. Mhatre decides to kill Guru Narayan, but is forced to abandon his project at the last moment on orders from Jhawle who sees this as being detrimental to his political prospects - the municipal elections not too far away - as Guru Narayan's murder would have triggered a gang war. Meanwhile Satya, who has by now risen up the ranks and become a key decision maker in the gang, has met and fallen in love with Vidya (Urmila Matondkar), an aspiring playback singer who lives next door, but has not informed her of his underworld connections. At one point, he even threatens a music director and gets him to sign Vidya up for some songs, with Vidya being unaware of the entire episode.
When Mhatre fumes over Jhawle's orders to stay away from Guru Narayan, Satya convinces him to disregard Jhawle's orders and kill Guru Narayan. Mhatre's gang attack Narayan and his henchmen, and Mhatre and Satya finish off Narayan on the Jogeshwari railway station over bridge. Mhatre is now the unchallenged ruler of the Mumbai underworld. And Jhawle, knowing that he needs Mhatre's help to win the elections, patches up with him. This is when the city sees the appointment of a new police commissioner Amod Shukla (Paresh Rawal). Shukla and his force begin targeting Mhatre's gang through encounters. When Satya sees the situation getting out of hand, he convinces the gang that the commissioner has to go, and gets him killed. In response, the police crack down even harder on the mafia.
The municipal elections are held and Jhawle wins thanks to Mhatre's muscle power as well as public anger on the brutal methods adopted by the Mumbai police in its fight against organized crime. In the midst of this, Satya and Vidya decide to catch a movie. Inspector Khandilkar (Aditya Shrivastava), on the basis of a tip off that Satya is present in the cinema hall, surrounds the premises and orders that all doors be shut. Satya fires a gun, and this triggers a stampede which results in the death of many people. Satya and Vidya manage to escape, but the man who was not afraid of death now fears for Vidya's life. He decides to quit the underworld and reveals his decision to Mhatre, who decides to send them to Dubai where they would be safe.
Jhawle holds a party to celebrate his victory and invites Mhatre, Mule and Kallu to attend the same. During the party, Jhawle shoots Mhatre dead for having disobeyed his order not kill Guru Narayan. Jhawle sends Kallu along with Mule to kill Satya. Satya, who is not aware of Mhatre's death, runs off to Vidya and manages to lie to her one last time, when the cops arrive. Satya escapes, but Khandilkar spills the beans in front of Vidya. Kallu Mama returns to his headquarters, kills Mule instead of Satya, and informs Satya about Mhatre's fate.
Satya takes his revenge by murdering Jhawle at the chowpatty where Ganesh idols are being immersed into the sea on Anant Chaturdashi, but suffers a bullet wound in the process. Satya returns to Vidya's house to meet her one last time. But she refuses to open the door. Meanwhile Khandilkar arrives to arrest him. Satya manages to break open the door, but Khandilkar shoots him multiple times. Satya collapses a few inches away from Vidya's feet, and breathes his last.
There are two different versions of where the idea for the basic plot for Satya came from. In a 1998 interview to the Indian Express, Varma says that he got the idea for Satya from a criminal he met in a court. The man was charged with multiple murders, but found the time to fall in love with a lawyer when he was attending court. The man told Varma how he committed his first murder. At the end of his encounter, Varma held on to three things - "it took him half an hour to brace himself before the killing, he had high fever for three days after he gunned down his first victim. And the fact that he is in love with somebody." According to a post on his blog about his films on the underworld, a man used to live in the same building as one of Varma's friends. And the man and the friend would sometimes bump into each other in the lift, and exchange pleasantries. Later, Varma came to know that the man had been arrested for a murder he had committed somewhere in Karnataka, and had been an absconder all this time.
Varma's views on the underworld do not conform to those depicted in mainstream films. He says that the unlike their portrayal in films like Deewar and his own Shiva, as men who rebel against injustice, gangsters are anything but. They are people with a violent streak. "I read a book called The Criminal History of Mankind where the author describes a criminal as child who refused to grow up. He doesn't abide by the laws of society. If he has physical strength, he uses it, if he doesn't, he becomes cynical and blames society all the time," Varma says. So in Satya he decided to treat killing as another nine-to-five business, with the gangster having a family and children. He too would have his fears, would feel pain, would be just as human as anyone else.
In late 2006, Anurag Kashyap, script writer of the film, wrote two posts on his blog that gave an incomplete behind-the-scenes account of the making of Satya.
|“||How it began..Ramu was making Daud..there was a new actor he was working with..it was manoj bajpai..i was there when he took that shot of Paresh going crazy and Manoj appearing from behind the door..Ramu fell in love with the shot..he fell in love with the actor..he fell in love with his intensity..he wanted to make an underworld film with him..he wanted to put Howard Roark in the underworld..thats how Satya started..||”|
Varma had hired Kashyap to write the script but did not trust him with the dialogues; he wanted someone more mature (Kashyap was twenty three) to work on them. So he went to noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar, the man who had penned the script and dialogues for the cult classic Ardh Satya. But Tendulkar was unwell, and hence Saurabh Shukla, who also got to play Kallu Mama in the film, got the job. Kashyap and Shukla went to Varma's farmhouse in Hyderabad where they spent the next few days writing the script and dialogues, before returning to Mumbai.
The shooting began in Mumbai in 1997 August. On the third day the unit was shooting the scene where the character played by Sushant Singh demands a hafta from Satya and gets his cheek slashed in return. According to Kashyap, after considering Singh's performance, Varma said now i know what my film is all about and he trashed the script. But then music tycoon Gulshan Kumar was assassinated and the changed circumstances required that a new script be written. Varma's original idea had an ending from a James Hadley Chase novel. In the final version of the film, that ending remained..Howard Roark didn’t.
Satya was shot on a limited budget with a cast that was mostly made up of fresh faces. While Varma was shooting for the film, his previous film Daud was released which was a box office disaster. That forced him to make some changes to Satya. He added some songs to the film and replaced Mahima Chaudhry with a more "established" Urmila Matondkar. Everything else, however, remained the same.
The entire party sequence (the "Goli maar" song) was shot on "Mera piya ghar aaya o ramji" from Yaraana since the compositions were not ready. Later, Gulzar wrote "Gham ke neeche bam laga ke gham uda de" for the sequence which was liked by the whole unit. He then came up with "Goli maar" and "Gham..." was scrapped.
The Ganpati immersion procession sequence and Bhau's murder sequence that form an important part of the film's climax were shot separately. On Anant Chaturdashi, a camera crew located themselves on a rooftop near the chowpatty and recorded the procession. Much later, a Ganesh idol similar to one visible in the procession was purchased and the immersion ceremony was staged.
Gerard Hooper, who teaches cinematography at Drexel University, Philadelphia was the man behind the camera, and he was recommended to Varma by Kanan Ayar, the script writer for Daud. Mazhar Kamran later took over the job because Hooper could not allocate more than 40 days for the film.
The film's cinematography and use of locations played a major role in its success. Unlike most Hindi films, much of Satya was shot outdoors. Hooper would roam around Mumbai filming the city even when no shoot was scheduled. "The rawness of Satya’s locales were stunning. Just see the difference an outsider gave to the film, as opposed to an Indian who takes Mumbai for granted and prefers to shoot on some set in Film City," Kashyap has noted.[13 ] Varma gave a free hand to his cinematographers, according to Kamran, who could therefore allow the camera to move freely rather than shooting from fixed angles. This added a touch of realism to the film. "The harsh, rough and true-to-life quality of the cinematography contributed immensely to the credibility in the film’s story and played a crucial role in its commercial and critical success," states Kamran.
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
|Film score by Vishal Bhardwaj|
|Producer||Ram Gopal Varma|
|Problems listening to this file? See media help.|
Satya was the second hit soundtrack produced by the Gulzar-Bhardwaj collaboration, the previous one being Maachis. The Music Magazine called Bhardwaj's score for Satya "a trifle short of outstanding". But it was Chowta's haunting background score that created waves and overshadowed the original score. The Hindu, commenting on the dying art of film scoring, mentioned Satya when it noted "interestingly (and hopefully) Indian films are just making a start with original soundtracks: Sandeep Chowta's background score for Ram Gopal Varma's 'Satya'". And when Rediff.com announced that the background score had arrived in Hindi cinema, it said Satya had "set the standards for background score" and that the film's throbbing score "took the audience inside the mind of its characters. Every time a bullet was shot or there were close-ups of actors, one could hear the haunting score, which had a hallucinatory effect on the audience."
In an interview to Screen Weekly, Sandeep Chowta had this to say about background scores-
|“||I believe a background score should work completely parallel to the film’s mood. Basically, the music should contradict what the audience is watching. I don’t punctuate and hammer in the performances through my music. I leave the performances to make their own impact. I think the traditional way of playing background music which is known as ‘changeover background’ kills the movie’s impact. With Satya we decided to break that tradition.||”|
When asked why his score overshadowed the film's music, Chowta said that in spite of Bhardwaj's songs being "nice", they did not fit into the film.
|1.||"Badalon Se" (performed by Bhupinder Singh)||9:07|
|2.||"Tu Mere Paas Bhi Hai" (performed by Lata Mangeshkar and Hariharan)||5:42|
|3.||"The Mood of Satya"#" (instrumental)||2:21|
|4.||"Goli Maar" (performed by Mano)||4:43|
|5.||"Geela Geela Pani" (performed by Lata Mangeshkar)||6:06|
|6.||"Sapne Mein" (performed by Asha Bhosle and Suresh Wadkar)||5:23|
The Indian censor board passed the film without any cuts but gave it an A rating. While this did not have any effect on the film's theatrical release, it created a small problem when Star Plus acquired the satellite telecast rights in 1998 by paying 1.35 crore rupees. The movie was set to be telecast at 9:30 pm IST on a Saturday night, but had to be pushed back to 11:00 pm IST because according to Indian laws in effect at the time, films having an A rating could not be telecast prior to 11:00 pm IST.
Satya is considered a ground breaking film and was an unexpected hit. Manoj Bajpai who played Bhiku Mhatre became a star overnight. "It's overwhelming and also quite scary, because with a response like this, the audience also tells you that you can't afford to make mistakes," he said during a party held to celebrate its 100 day run. The film's realism - a result of its documentary style cinematography and use of a script that was disturbingly close to real life - and its soundtrack were much appreciated by the audience. Contrary to popular opinion, Varma only did minimal research on the film's subject matter.
Satya is widely considered to be Varma’s first true masterwork and it marked the introduction of a new genre of film making, Mumbai noir, of which he is the acknowledged master. It spawned many imitations in Bollywood, but all are considered largely inferior. 
In 2005, Indiatimes Movies included Satya in its list of 25 Must See Bollywood Movies. Satya is also the highest-rated Indian film (ranked at #15) on the Internet Movie Database's "Top 50 Crime Movies" and "Top 50 Action Movies".
Satya opened to positive reviews from movie critics.
"It's an old-fashioned morality tale that, for a change, goes beyond the 'Bang Bang, you're dead' genre of local gangster movies. On the contrary, Satya is far more sophisticated and credible precisely because it attempts to penetrate and analyse the 'Whys' of criminality with a touch that's assured and insightful. It's far too intelligent and intense a film to break records at the box office - which is a pity. It deserves to do just that," Shobha De wrote for the Sunday MiD DAY. "Mumbai has never looked as sinister - nor as seductive. Take a bow, Varma," she said.
"REJOICE. India's answer to Quentin Tarantino is here. Indeed, someone has finally had the guts to go ahead and make a movie about and for our times. No diabetic sweetness, no pretentious pontificating, no foolish fantasy out here. Believe it or not, Ram Gopal Varma belts it out straight, like a prize-boxer delivering a knockout punch," Khalid Mohammed wrote for Filmfare and concluded that "Satya is a gritty, hellishly exciting film which stings and screams. No one will go away from it unprovoked or unmoved." It is one of the very few films to get a full 5-star rating from Mohammed.
"Picture the streets of Mumbai. Where the fine line between life and death gets more and more blurred with each passing day. The killing fields where gang wars, encounters, extortion and murder are a way of life. Where crime is just another nine-to-five job. Where criminals and cops fight for survival and supremacy, night and day—only there are no winners in this game. This is Satya, a stark, chilling, almost suffocating tale of Mumbai as it is—no frills, no gloss and absolutely not a moment's relief," wrote Deepa Deosthalee of the Indian Express. She also praised Chowta's background score and Hooper and Kamran's stark cinematography while concluding that Satya was an unforgettable experience.
"I will remember 'Satya' as long as truth lives. I will remember 'Satya' as a film that threatened to tear my soul apart, trample my conscience. It is one film which will certainly shake up every young man about to take the first step into a dark and destructive land called nowhere. Ramu has done more than any modern social reformer has done. Generations to come will be grateful to him for having the guts to tell the truth as it is, the truth about the truth," Ali Peter John wrote for Screen Weekly.
Some critics thought that through Satya, Varma was glorifying crime, violence and the underworld, causing him to add a cautionary message to the end credits of the film. The last sentence of the message read - "My tears for Satya are as much as they are for the people whom he killed."
Varma has, on his part, clarified time and again that his films do not glorify crime. "I'm not glorifying the underworld. I want to portray stark reality, as Shekhar Kapur did in Bandit Queen. I want to show the human side of the underworld, why a man picks up the gun," he said in an interview to Rediff.com even as the film was on the floors.[5 ] "Everybody who took the gun died a miserable death at the end of the day in the film. So when people accuse me of glorifying violence, this is my answer," he reiterated in a 2004 interview to the BBC.
Ram Gopal Varma later made two films based on the D-Company: the 2002 film Company (which was directed by Varma and won seven Filmfare Awards) and its 2005 prequel D (produced by Varma). The three films Satya, Company and D form an "Indian Gangster Trilogy", comparable to the Godfather Trilogy or Infernal Affairs trilogy.
British director Danny Boyle has cited this film as an inspiration for his 2008 Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Satya's "slick, often mesmerizing" portrayal of the Mumbai underworld, which included gritty and realistic "brutality and urban violence", directly influenced the portrayal of the Mumbai underworld in Slumdog Millionaire. Satya's screenplay was also co-written by Saurabh Shukla, who plays the role of Constable Srinivas in Slumdog Millionaire.
Satya's dialogue's, written by Saurabh Shukla captures the Bambaiya ethos with a bit of humour.
National Film Awards
Zee Cine Awards
Award for Best Movie