Our opinion of the narrative of Satyaprem Ki Katha (SKK) is that it is alright. When series like Made in Heaven (Season 2) refuse to break new ground, there is not much we can expect from mainstream Bollywood. However, we were intrigued by the potential acting prowess of Kiara Advani. In almost all of her film choices, she has never really had a challenge as an actor. It would be a stretch to say that SKK gives her that chance, but it gives us a glimpse of what she can do. Yet it is barely there, and it is painful to see such an opportunity missed because there are not a lot of Bollywood scripts in which the woman is not just the arm candy for the leading hero. Before anyone argues, we would like to remind people that more screen time does not mean increased importance for the character. But that is a discussion that would take ages and ages to resolve, so until then, let us go through the summary of Satyaprem Ki Katha, which is decently entertaining.
Sattu And Katha’s Marriage
Kartik Aryan’s characters in mainstream films do not exist in a multiverse, as in, they are all interchangeable with one another. But coming to Sattu in SKK, we honestly don’t understand what makes him a great catch. He doesn’t work, doesn’t do the household chores properly, and is an overall burden but he has a sense of humor, which admittedly is not that good, yet it makes him okay. Also, he is in love with Katha, an aspiring singer he met a year ago, and he is probably waiting for her to break up with her boyfriend before he can make his move. His dad lets him know that the anticipated breakup has happened, and he knows it because he is updated with the community gossip.
Hoping to run into her, Sattu accompanies his father to the festival celebrations again, where he sees that she is not present. This is when he does the most stalkerish thing possible and breaks into her house. Did he think that she would welcome him or be interested in being friends with him if he did that?
Either way, when he sees Katha, he finds that she is near unconscious as she has slit her wrists. Sattu immediately takes her to the hospital, and since he has saved her life, her family conveniently overlooks that Sattu did something criminal. To make it worse, Katha’s father is impressed that Sattu always tells the truth, meaning that he confesses his love for Katha to her father before he tells her anything.
Katha’s father is a traditionalist, yet he likes Sattu, and we find the reason for it much later. Right now, he is annoyed with his daughter for her attempt being “unsuccessful.” Katha has gone through a lot, but instead of getting the support she needs, she is surrounded by people who don’t want to listen to her. It is a dialogue we hear very often in South Asian households: children should be “grateful for the freedom they have been given by their parents.” Yet, it is conveniently ignored that this supposed freedom comes with a lot of terms and conditions, and crossing the line brings harsh punishment. The rest of the story is a look at how the terrible social systems in place, be it the parents’ control over their children’s lives or the men trying to assert their dominance through tradition, force two people into a relationship they may have never chosen or gone about differently if they had any real freedom.
Katha’s father, Harikishan, threatens Katha that if she doesn’t marry Sattu, he will be the one to slit his wrists. As for Sattu, Katha tells him that she is marrying him not because she wants to but because she is following her father’s orders. Sattu has no problem with that, and luckily, he acknowledges his mistake much later in the movie. However, nobody ever calls out Harikishan’s abominable behavior towards his daughter. He did not need to know the tragedy of what had happened to her to behave more civilly. He shouldn’t have done that to her, period. In fact, he did not get her married as much as he got rid of her. Sattu was a man with no prospects and not even a proper space to live in with his wife. But just because he was interested and simple, Harikishan got them married. We cannot ignore that Harikishan must have thought that should something go wrong in the future, Sattu would not rebel since Harikishan would be taking care of him financially. It was an arrangement to preserve the family’s “reputation” rather than their happiness.
Needless to say, Sattu and Katha do not get along well at all after the marriage. Katha says that she is asexual so that she can avoid Sattu’s advances. In fact, she also doesn’t like platonically sleeping with him in the same room, and she complains about his snoring habits as an excuse. Basically, they are unable to be together until one day when Narayan (Sattu’s father) has a talk with her about giving her relationship a chance. Even Harikishan has the same discussion with Sattu, and it seems to help. So far, Sattu has proved himself to be a sincere person, and Katha decides to work on the relationship. They get closer over time, and Katha encourages Sattu to finish his education and stand on his own two feet without her father’s help. Sattu and Katha have warmed up to each other, and just when they are about to take their relationship to the next stage, the truth of what happened to Katha comes out. She was sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend Tapan and has since been vary of being around men, which is why she was never able to come close to Sattu. Heartbroken at what Katha had to endure, Sattu beats up Tapan and confronts Harikishan about the way he treated his daughter.
Does Katha Fight For Justice?
Despite this development, the biggest surprise comes to us from Sattu’s house. So far, Narayan was the person who seemed supportive of Katha because he wanted his son to be happy, whereas Diwali primarily cared that Katha was a rich girl who would probably improve the financial condition of their house. Yet, when Katha’s truth is revealed, it is the women who stand by her, whereas Narayan puts on his patriarchal hat. We were really expecting this movie to pit women against women, but we suppose it managed to be realistic in some aspects.
One of our favorite and probably best-written scenes in Satyaprem Ki Katha is when Sattu asks Katha why she did not tell the truth to her father, and she talks about her fear of victim blaming. But it wasn’t the monologue that stood out for us. It was the fact that the writers recognized the nuances of the discussion of painful memories. It is how it can progress into lighter notes, and though some things may remain unsaid, they can be understood, and relationships can be taken a step further. This entire part is our favorite from the movie, and we wish it was talked about more.
We have no notes about the awful remake of “Pasoori” but full points to the writers to try and depict the complexities of intimacy that most survivors face in their relationships. The integration of this scene was not seamless, but it is the first time we have seen a mainstream Bollywood romcom address that love cannot solve everything. The writing also takes the time and effort to show the feelings of the people around the survivors and their journey to understanding how to support the victim. The scene stealer here was Supriya Pathak’s Diwali.
We have to say that for everything that this film gets right, it went really wrong when Sattu announced in front of everyone what happened to Katha and how he wants them to fight for justice. It was Katha’s choice whether to reveal the matter or not. During Satyaprem Ki Katha‘s ending, Katha agrees to fight for justice. While the writing doesn’t say it directly, we believe that it alludes to how the onus of bravery is placed on the victim to fight for what they want, whether it be to forget the incident or try and bring the perpetrator to justice. This is the one scene where we felt that the writing was capable of being better, but it still does a good job overall.
The reason to recommend Satyaprem Ki Katha to anyone is that we haven’t seen Bollywood not try and romanticize trauma before. We appreciate that Katha started liking Sattu before he fought for her and not because of it. We absolutely loved that they left a lot of questions unanswered, like whether Katha got the justice she deserved or how did her and Sattu’s relationship turn out in the future. The movie’s success just shows that the audience is waking up to finer storytelling, and we should start doing more of it. Satyaprem Ki Katha was the first step, and it was written and executed as such. But Bollywood must take this forward.