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Saturday, May 28, 2022

On Manoj Bajpayee’s birthday, revisiting the iconic Bhiku Mhatre

On Manoj Bajpayee’s birthday, we revisited Satya to understand what made Bhiku Mhatre the true king of Mumbai and Bollywood.

Written by A. Kameshwari | New Delhi |
Updated: April 23, 2021 9:00:29 am
Manoj Bajpayee, Manoj Bajpayee satya,As Manoj Bajpayee celebrates his birthday today, we revisit some scenes of Satya to understand why Bhiku Mhatre is part of our cinematic history.

Manoj Bajpayee’s filmography is full of characters that can be described as iconic – think of Bhonsle slowly losing his grasp on reality or the vulnerable yet dignified Professor Siras of Aligarh or the larger-than-life Sardar Khan who is fuelled by his need for revenge in Gangs of Wasseypur. We can go on and on about his performances and not even scratch the surface of the artist that is Manoj Bajpayee.

Bhiku Mhatre, however, is special in this vast body of work, just as your firstborns are always special. Satya is a textbook example of how to make the lead character into a hero, you need a supporting cast that is extraordinary. The 1998 film may be career-defining for JD Chakravarthy, but it brought Manoj Bajpayee on the map. Look back after two decades and you know it was meant to happen, that young man with flashing eyes and curly hair was meant for cinematic greatness.

In Satya, Manoj plays Bhiku Mhatre, the head of one of the underworld gangs in Mumbai. Until JD Chakravarthy’s entry as Satya in the film, we don’t really understand Bhiku’s character besides the hot-headed gangster’s love for his gun. He is the ‘Mumbai ka king’, loud, brash and yet so human. The 1998 release revolves around how Satya, who comes to Mumbai to look for a job, ends up in the underworld. In the tale of Satya, Bhiku Mhatre finds his redemption.

His character and the way he played it became a guide to future actors on how to play a gangster. As Manoj Bajpayee celebrates his birthday today, we revisit some scenes of Satya to understand why Bhiku Mhatre is part of our cinematic history.

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When Satya meets Bhiku Mhatre in jail

During the film, the one thing that we understood about Manoj’s character is how Bhiku is spontaneous and emotional. He’s not someone who easily trusts people but once he does, he does it completely. In the film, Satya meets Bhiku in jail. Satya’s anger and his presence of mind are perhaps what attracts Bhiku. He sees Satya as a person with a pure soul. Bhiku gives Satya a shelter. If Satya is the mind, Bhiku is the heart.

His relationship with his wife Pyaari Mhatre

Bhiku’s relationship with his wife is that of a best friend. Pyaari, played by Shefali Shah, brings out his humanity, his child-like personality. There’s a scene where Pyaari runs towards the door to open it, realising it could be Bhiku. When he enters, without even noticing that there’s Satya in the same frame, she yells at him for coming home late and intoxicated, expressing that she was worried if he’s going to come home alive.

Even in the scene when Pyaari and Bhiku go for a dinner date with Satya and his girlfriend Vidya (played by Urmila), the camaraderie Bhiku shares with her is quite heartwarming. And of course, how can we not talk about the “Sapne Me Milti Hai” song. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Manoj’s massy dance has our heart. We would love to see him getting into this very mawaali zone again.

This proves that Ram Gopal Varma through his lens wanted to show the soft side of the otherwise harsh personality.

Bhiku’s relationship with his gang members

Not just his family, Bhiku cared deeply for his gang members, and there are several instances in the film to state the same. When Satya meets Bhiku’s Bhau aka Govind Namdev, he instantly knows that he needs Bhiku only till elections. Satya knows when Bhau will come in power, he won’t care what happens to Bhiku. But instead of caring for himself, Bhiku tells Satya to look after himself and he assures that he will take care of him too. Even after they kill Guru, the leader of the rival gang, Bhiku expresses his disappointment.

In another scene, when Bhiku, his gang, his wife and Satya walk into a jewellery store to buy a gift for Vidya, in a conversation with Chander (played by Snehal Dabi), Bhiku talks about why he doesn’t take him to execute a mission. And for Satya, Bhiku buys a gold ring when the former hesitates to take it because of its cost. Later, in the second half, when the police shoot Chander, we see Bhiku grieving like he lost someone very close.

Bhiku-Satya’s solo scene right before the climax

This scene of Bhiku and Satya is our favourite of all. We see Bhiku screaming “Mumbai ka King kaun, Bhiku Mhatre” with joy. The dialogue is still a favourite among every cinema-lover. But the scene has more value than the dialogue. While Bhiku was ready to face whatever was coming for him, he offered Satya a new life in Dubai. He tells Satya that he’s jealous of him and his face has a tinge of disappointment.

Satya is a film where every character was layered and well-written.

It’s been decades since the film’s release but Manoj’s Bhiku, along with his other roles, continues to be a favourite among the audience. It won’t be wrong to call Bhiku as Satya’s soul but it would be unfair not to recognise Urmila Matondkar, Shefali Shah, Saurabh Shukla, Makarand Deshpande and other actors’ contribution to this RGV film


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