Many movies have been made about the Mumbai underbelly, but none capture the ruthlessness and brutality of the trade like Ram Gopal Varma’s 1998 cult movie Satya. And, Manoj Bajpayee’s character Bhiku Mhatre is the soul of Satya.
Mhatre lives and breathes the underworld. He understands the workings and the mind of Mumbai. And, Mumbai rewards him with riches, love and a close friend in the form of Satya.
During the entire movie, Mhatre and Satya are protective of each other. Mhatre, in fact, feels possessive about Satya, and he admits the same during a scene where Satya breaks down and confides in Mhatre about revealing his true identity to his (Satya’s) lover Vidya (played by Urmila Matondkar). Mhatre then does what a good ‘gangster’ friend should ideally do. He offers Satya to relocate him abroad with Vidya so that he can escape from the big bad world of guns and gore. But not before telling Satya with a laugh that he feels envious of Vidya.
Satya has everything one expects from a compelling crime drama. The epic dialogues, the gripping story, and the terrific actors. Saurabh Shukla, J. D. Chakravarthy, Manoj Bajpayee, Govind Namdev, Makrand Deshpande, Shefali Shah, it couldn’t have gotten better. While every actor gives a credible performance, the one performer who outshines the ‘hero’ himself is Mumbai kingpin Bhiku Mhatre aka Bajpayee.
Bajpayee as Mhatre is bonkers, loyal, ambitious and unafraid. He steals everyone’s thunder in emotional moments, lighter scenes and through all the blood and glory. The credit also goes to the writers Anurag Kashyap and ‘Kallu Mama’ Saurabh Shukla for writing such a fine script and well-defined characters that take the audience on a great cinematic journey with them.
But perhaps the least dramatic, despite being the most shocking moment, in the film is Mhatre’s death. Mhatre dies at the hands of the politician and goon Thakurdas Jhawle (Govind Namdev), who shoots ‘Mumbai ka King’ without any noise, emotion or remorse, and in turn, evokes those very feelings in the audience. And this is why the Ram Gopal Varma directorial is still touted as one of the best movies to have graced the big screen. After all these years, it doesn’t feel like a dated attempt at depicting the life of a Mumbai don.