I vividly remember the Filmfare lifetime achievement award speech by Dharmendra in 1997. A visibly high Dharmendra was emotional and went on to give what may be the longest speech ever. He told us how he used to get new suits tailored, whenever he thought, he had an award-worthy release. He mentioned two films for which he felt he should have won the statuette Anupama and Satyakam. He didn’t, and hence the pain and hurt.
While I had seen Anupama and loved it, I had no clue about Satyakam. I asked Mom and she gave me that condescending look which seemed to say, “And you think you have seen movies?”. She described the basic plot to me (There was no wikipedia then, remember.) with a lot of Dharmendra gush. He is her favourite actor. Period.The story was insanely good, and I couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to watch it immediately. I checked everywhere, with all the video rental parlours, all music / movie speciality stores and with friends. Nobody I knew had seen Satyakam or had a copy which I could borrow. And Mom continued to express her disdain. It became an obsession to see Satyakam, by any means possible.
After many years, finally, I found a VCD of the movie but a strange thing happened. I didn’t want to watch it. For the fear of not liking it, or maybe liking it. If I didn’t like it, then it will be devastating as the expectations will come crashing down. If I liked it, then there will be nothing more to look forward. The quest would have been over. I kept the movie hidden in my shelf for some time, until a few years back, when inspired by a good friend, we both decided to watch it, ditching a particularly pathetic ODI match.
Satyakam proved to be a mindblowing experience. You don’t have to read further. Just rent or buy the VCD/DVD online and watch it. Others, please go watch ‘Singh is Bling’. You deserve it.
Made in 1969 and directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Satyakam is a long movie. It will test the threshold of your patience because of the themes it explores and the fact that it is almost three hours long.
Yes, the themes explored in the movie may sound alien to us now. In fact there were moments when both of us were laughing out loud during the initial phases of the movie but we persevered. We are used to such nonsense nowadays that I had actually forgotten using my brains while watching Hindi movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love masala films. I even pay for Rohit Shetty films. However, I am glad that there was a time they used to make movies like this. There is no ‘Satyameva Jayate’ type pretence, where you are programmed to be overwhelmed. You are actually overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with tears, joy, and a feeling that you are on a higher plane of existence.
The story is by Narayan Sanyal, an engineer from the class of 1948, Bengal Engineering College. A class which wanted to build bridges and oversee development projects -not code and prepare for the impending CAT entrance exam. They share a vision of building a nation, but still Satyapriya Acharya (the protagonist) is an oddity.
Satyakam is the story of Satyapriya, a fourteenth generation scion of a Hindu Brahmin clan. A clan of such purity and adherence to Dharma that the biggest sin anyone in their family can commit is to tell a lie! With such a premise, the movie gets more and more esoteric on the way. Sanskrit shlokas are being recited, conceptual discussions on ‘Dharma’, ‘Satya’ and the interpretation of truth are persistent but most of all you see a constant struggle of a man who will go to lengths, which sometimes seem beyond reason, to defend truth and honour. Satyapriya considers himself a representative of humankind and hence he believes it is necessary to set higher standards. He does that by being truthful and not becoming corrupt. With the current political and business environment reeking of insider trading and bizarre scams it is impossible to imagine the worldview of Satyapriya Acharya. The times have changed, but Satyakam remains timeless.
There are various catalysts and inhibitors in this journey of Satyapriya Acharya in the form of his good friend Narendra (Sanjeev Kumar), his wife Ranjana (Sharmila Tagore) and his grandfather Satyasharan Acharya (Ashok Kumar), among others. They all influence or react to the various methods of Satyakam in their own ways.
I called home, next day morning. I told her I saw Satyakam, finally, and that I was blown away. She didn’t say much. Just a mere “good” and asked me about the mutton curry, I had made the previous night, instead. It was shorthand for “Now, you know the movies”.
Image credits: www.spuul.com