As Adam has accurately summarized the movie in its entirety, I will focus on interpreting the Mahabharata within the movie and analyze the movie in reference to the readings.
Satya as the Mahabharata
I had to perform a vast amount of secondary research into the Mahabharata and the individual characters and their personalities before even attempting to juxtapose them with characters within Satya. What follows is my basic interpretation of how these mythic characters within the Mahabharata fill different roles within the movie.
To begin, the Kurushetra War is being fought within the city of Mumbai. Within Philip Lutgendorf’s Bending the Bharata, he discusses another movie based on the Mahabharata with, “the final long shots of the smoggy Bombay skyline, awash in ambivalent gray, underscore the message that the bleak kalyug is indeed our contemporary age” (Lutgendorf 27). I believe the opening shots of the movie, a montage of dull, gray skies with murder and chaos running rampant, underscore the era of the kali yuga, in which man’s virtues and noble ideas have crumbled into dissolution of right action, morality, and virtue.
To begin, I will break down the family structure of both the Mahabharata and Satya and juxtapose the characters based on personality similarities and situational similarities. As Lutgendorf states within, Bending the Bharata, “Radical reinterpretation of the Sanskrit epic story [Mahabharata], often involves the omission, invention, and transposition of events and characters” (35). Based on this explanation, I have loosely modeled my interpretation of the characters and roles they portray, with some overlapping and others being omitted entirely.
Bheeku Mhatre’s gang mirrors that of the Pandava family and Guru Naryan’s gang mirrors the Kaurava family. Within the Pandava family, the eldest brother, Yudhisthira, is portrayed within Uncle Kallu. Hints at his weakness to gambling are displayed through the fact that the Mhatre gang is involved in “extortion, film finance, and gambling dens” (Movie). Uncle Kallu is also the only member within the Mhatre gang who possesses discipline and is hesitant to perform and hasty actions. Bheeku extremely, extremely loosely portrays Arjuna; primarily due to the influence that Satya has upon his decision making and the guidance provided. Satya portrays more than one character of the Mahabharata, in my opinion. Firstly he portrays Krishna through his guidance of Bheeku and some of the comments other characters within the movie project towards him. Bheeku, early in the movie, states to Satya, “Don’t come near my wife, she will elope with you.” I believe this statement suggests Satya’s Vishnu-like personality in attracting women. In addition to Krishna, I believe Satya to firmly embody Bhima. To further explain why I believe this, I must first state that Jagga represents Dushasana, younger brother of the Kaurava family. I believe the humiliation Jagga forces upon Satya early in the movie is a metaphor for the humiliation Dushasana forces upon Draupadi within the Mahabharata, which Bhima responds with the threat to drink Dushasana’s blood. With this basic understanding, I believe the scene where Bheeku provides Satya with the means by which to enact his vengeance is the embodiment of Bhima’s retribution. I feel that Guru Naryan represents Duryodhana, eldest brother of the Kaurava family. His gang is described as being involved in “immoral trafficking” and his individual actions undermine the Mhatre gang, revealing his desire is to have all of Mumbai to himself (reflecting Duryodhana’s desires). Bhau is a loose embodiment of Bhishma, grandfather of both families. His high skills in political science and desire to reconcile the tension between the families, to prevent war, evidence this comparison. It is important to note, however, that Bhau does not embody any other characteristics of Bhishma except that he partook in the battle against the Pandava family. Within the story he is killed by Arjuna by so many arrows that he lay upon a ‘bed of nails’; however, within the movie Bhau is killed by Satya from an uncountable amount of stabs with a knife.
As the Mahabharata is enormous and not easy to explore I feel I may have missed many other interpretations/got mine wrong.
Satya as an ‘Angry Young Man’
Corey Creekmur’s Bombay Boys: Dissolving the Male Child in Popular Hindi Cinema discusses the role of angry young men within Hindi films. Satya, in my opinion, represents the angry young man for roughly 2/3 of the movie. Throughout this entire section of the film, Satya displays a neutral, if not angry, look on his face. Additionally he states that he does not fear death and consistently gets into fights with random people (Jaggabhai multiple times, Jaggabhai’s henchmen, and Bheeku in jail).
It is not until 2:26:00 into the movie that Satya begins to show remorse for the deaths of others (in response to the theatre trampling). During this conversation with Bheeku, Satya states, “I am not the same Satya for which these things made no difference. But now, the death of innocents makes a difference to me.”
Satya as a metaphor for Indian Society and Politics
I believed Satya to be a metaphor for Indian society and politics based on Akbar Ahmed’s Bombay Films: The Cinema as Metaphor for Indian Society and Politics. Beyond the obvious political corruption overtones within the movie, there are other small things that display Indian society. Ahmed suggests that during the 1970’s “a new kind of role model was required: tough, physical, ruthless, one inured to violence” (298). These characteristics are the foundation for Satya’s character throughout the movie. Additionally, Ahmed suggests the dialogue to be “thick with dhanda (business – generally shady), adda (meeting place – generally for illegal transactions), lapra (problem, bother) and dada (bad character). There is no place for violins, flowers and pretty princesses” (299). All of these characteristics (dhanda, adda, lapra, dada, lack of violins, flowers and pretty princesses) can be found within Satya, further representing Indian society’s absence of hope, love, family, etc. Ahmed suggests, in reference to another movie, that through “losing the girl, he wins the audience”(304). In applying Ahmed’s suggestion to Satya, I believe it to be accurate. I could not help but feel sympathy for Satya at the end of the movie, despite the enormous amount of ‘evil’ things he performed through the movie.