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Satyabhama Review – Kajal Aggarwal’s cop saga is needlessly convoluted

Satyabhama aspires to be a ‘realistic’ cop drama with a commercially bankable face – Kajal Aggarwal – in the lead. The film’s mumbo jumbo around a game with artificial intelligence technology, religious stereotyping, gun culture and systemic corruption may be distracting, but it’s ultimately a cautionary plea to keep a lid on your emotions in the wake of a personal tragedy.

A cop by profession, Satya drowns herself in work and occasionally uses it as an excuse to get over her trauma. Married to a popular author and a supportive (read-dummy) husband Amar, she feels responsible for the death of Haseena, a woman caught in an abusive marriage. When the victim’s brother Iqbal too goes missing, Satya is desperate for answers.

The makers’ quest to elevate the heroics of the stone-faced female protagonist in the initial sequences is sloppy, to put it mildly. What comes through isn’t the righteousness of a sincere cop but a good-looking model flamboyantly showing off her wardrobe with funky hairdos scene after scene. Her intelligence is limited to collecting CCTV footage and giving orders to her subordinates.

The conflicts in Satya’s life – Haseena’s case and her pregnancy – are exaggerated beyond necessity. Her relationship with Amar, which was aimed to anchor her life, is established perfunctorily sans any emotional connection. The film soon dangerously slips into the territory of associating a religion with stereotypes – linking them to a terrorist group, or trafficking mafia and deviating from its premise.

To give credit where it’s due, Satyabhama is riveting while handling its crime subplots, creating an air of complexity and bringing in smartly timed twists whenever the narrative threatens to derail. It’s the love triangle between Rishi, Divya and Iqbal that sticks out like a sore thumb and the director invests too much time into a poorly constructed subplot.

After intermission, Satyabhama falls apart quickly. The film’s pseudo-complex setting, switching from one thread to the other mechanically, doesn’t give the viewer a strong reason to stay invested in the proceedings. It wants to be a political drama briefly, moves onto medical mafia, dives into the perils of an alternate reality game and finishes on a simplistic note.

By the end of the film, you are confused with its aftertaste. Was it meant to engage, thrill or inform? Does it boast of commendable performances or a convincing plot? The writing, where too many cooks spoil the broth, is another weakling. Despite the novelty in the central theme, the treatment lacks honesty and appears heavily derived from popular cop outings.

Satyabhama is more entertaining when the director views it as a typical mass film with enticing slow-motion shots, smartly choreographed action sequences and Sricharan Pakala’s gritty music score. Though Kajal isn’t a bad choice for the film, she still isn’t an acting powerhouse either to distract the average viewer from the shabby screenplay (which isn’t Sashi Kiran Tikka’s best).

Naveen Chandra, who could’ve been a great value addition with his acting capabilities, is criminally wasted in a poorly fleshed-out role and it’s also hard to decode why Prakash Raj and Nagineedu had to take up such sloppy parts. Surprisingly, it’s the young guns who shine in meaty characters – from Sampada N to Ankith Koyya to Payal Radhakrishna, Prajwal Yadma and Neha Pathan. Harshavardhan’s corrupt cop role comes with a few silver linings.

In a nutshell, Suman Chikkala’s directorial debut, even with Sashi Kiran Tikka’s hand-holding, is all over the place. Is it tolerable? Maybe. Is it worth a watch? It’s complicated.

Rating: 2/5

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