Everyone who cared for Hindi cinema's future wondered if Madhur Bhandarkar would be able to live up to the expectations he created in Chandni Bar. Satta has answered that with a resounding "yes".
Though Satta lacks the structural tightness and overpowering pathos of Chandni Bar, it nevertheless builds a cavernous world of seedy politicians and their nefarious doings with a sense of urgent panic, conveying the collective consciousness of a nation on the brink.
In telling the fairly gripping story of the apolitical Anuradha Chauhan's baptism-by-blood into the murky milieu of Indian politics, Bhandarkar goes deep into the morass to show how an ordinary citizen needs to be part of the democratic system to rescue it from unmitigated criminalisation.
Manoj Tyagi's screenplay creates a protagonist - Raveena - who's at once a real image and a fantasy figure.
Unlike the two other memorable portrayals of women politicians by Cate Blanchett in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth and Shabana Azmi in Vinay Shukla's Godmother, the protagonist in Satta becomes part of the degenerate system without becoming corrupted herself.
Unlike Chandni Bar, where the true human condition of a woman trapped in a predatory and undignified patriarchal society came to a logically defeatist conclusion, Satta moves the female protagonist, not completely effortlessly, towards an optimistic nirvana.
The protagonist is both a go-getter and a victim, an aggressor and a casualty. Given these multifarious roles, Anuradha Chauhan at times appears inconsistent.
Raveena Tandon struggles to bring order to the chaos surrounding the protagonist's character and succeeds to a large degree. Her aggressive stance against the patriarchal politics of the nation is wonderfully rabble rousing, though at times a little removed from her character's demeanour and body language.
What comes through is Bhandarkar's sensitivity towards his heroine. If in Chandni Bar Tabu surfaced as a woman of tremendous dignity in the face of hardship, Raveena has it much easier in Satta. Fortunately neither the actress nor her director let the character lose her inner motivation. Even when the plot gets progressively improbable towards the end, Anuradha Chauhan stands tall and dignified.
Stunningly captured in sensuous silhouettes by cinematographer Madhu S Rao, this is perhaps Raveena's finest hour.
Bhandarkar has chosen his supporting cast with canny conviction. Faces from theatre lend a gritty realism to the political parable. Shrivallabh Vyas as Anuradha's over-ambitious father-in-law and Govind Namdeo as his wily political opponent are just two of the characters who furnish a febrile immediacy to the goings-on.
Atul Kulkarni, who rose to renown with a finely etched performance in Chandni Bar, lacks the basic debonairness to play the man who grooms Anuradha in politics and then sweeps her off her feet.
But he has a basic charm and a face that's a map of the human heart. His role and performance as the catalyst in the conflict contribute immensely to holding one's attention to the last.
Newcomer Samir Dharamadhikari as Anuradha's suave and debauched politician husband brings a wolfish charm to his earlier scenes but resorts to snarling villainy after he goes to jail for gunning down a woman bartender in cold blood.
Some of the dialogues (written jointly by Manoj Tyagi and Madhur Bhandarkar) try too hard to impress with their crude wisdom. But the shock value of hearing a law enforcer being called a pimp died after Govind Nihalani's Ardh Satya two decades ago. One's heard worse since.
The songs and music (by Raju Singh) are speed-breakers. And one fully shares the protagonist's disgust when an underdressed tart dances for politicians to a raunchy Asha Bhosle song.
Bhandarkar's film makes a valiant effort to give the protagonist an effort to be a woman with dignity in a man's world. That Anuradha Chauhan finally becomes part of the political syste
(2 / 5) : Average