Story of Satyaprem | Satya Prem Ki Katha is a good film that suffers from a male savior complex.
If you, like us, believed that “Satya Prem Ki Katha” revolves around Satyaprem and Katha, or that it is a tale of true love, then you have been misled.
However, “Satya Prem Ki Katha” is a film that genuinely addresses important issues. It explores the concept of consent and sensitively portrays the consequences of date rape, not just for the survivor but also for those around her. The film sheds light on society’s reaction to date rape and the reasons why it often goes unreported.
Despite this, “Satya Prem Ki Katha” is not primarily about Katha, the rape survivor. It is not even a story of true love conquering all obstacles. Instead, it is the story of Satyaprem, with Katha serving as a supporting character. This becomes evident from the very beginning of the film, where we learn about Satyaprem, also known as Sattu. He takes care of all the household chores in their four-member family, he failed his LLB, he doesn’t have a job, but he is a loveable guy who desperately wants to get married to lose his virginity. In the first half of the film, we only get limited information about Katha: she is popular at Garba gatherings, comes from a wealthy family, has a boyfriend, and Sattu is infatuated with her.
After Sattu saves Katha from self-harm and they get married at her parents’ request, Katha’s role diminishes to merely being a tool for our hero to shine. Sattu, the guy who trespasses to visit Katha, who marries her despite knowing her true intentions, who expresses his abstinence on their wedding night, who prefers to see her naked, becomes the hero. It is indeed a significant transformation, but Katha, the central character, is rarely the focus of the story.
When Satyaprem learns about Katha’s rape during an intimate moment, his initial reaction is shock, followed by anger and devastation. However, instead of asking Katha what she wants to do about the assault, he confronts her parents, who assumed she had been careless due to her previous abortion. Katha eventually voices her opinion to her in-laws, but only after Sattu has already fought for her. We witness her suffering and hear her side of the story, including her emotional outburst about the misconceptions surrounding consent. Yet, her anguish and pain are used to elevate Satyaprem as the savior, and this is problematic. Sattu declares himself as her supporting hero, but this comes towards the end of the film, after he has already played the role of a male savior by confronting Katha’s parents, her boyfriend, and even fighting with her. It takes Sattu filing a case against her boyfriend for Katha to realize that she can fight for justice herself.
Don’t misunderstand me, it is refreshing to see a man on screen who accepts that he may never have physical intimacy with his wife due to her traumatic experience and goes above and beyond to support her because such support is rare. However, it would have been better if Katha had been given equal prominence alongside Satyaprem, rather than being relegated to a supporting character.
If you thought, like us, that Satya Prem Ki Katha is about Satyaprem and Katha — the woman he loves — or it is a story of true love, you have been misled.
That said, Satya Prem Ki Katha is a film with its heart in the right place. It deals with the concept of consent and handles the fallout of a date rape with sensitivity, not just the physical and mental trauma of the survivor but also how it affects the people around her. It addresses how society reacts to date rape and the reason why it goes unreported.
But Satya Prem Ki Katha is not about Katha (Kiara Advani), the rape survivor. It is not even the story of true love triumphing against all odds. It is actually Satyaprem ki katha — the story of Satyaprem (Kartik Aaryan). Katha is just the predicate of the film. And it is evident from the very beginning of the film where we learn everything we can about Satyaprem aka Sattu — he does all the housework in their four-member household, he is LLB fail, doesn’t have a job but is a loveable chap and is desperate to get married because he wants to lose his virginity. All we learn about Katha in the first half is that she is the star attraction at Garba gatherings, is from a rich family and has a boyfriend and that too because Sattu is a goner for the girl.
After Sattu saves Katha when she slits her wrists and then marries her — a dream come true for Sattu — at her parents’ request, Katha is reduced to being the vehicle for our hero to shine. The guy who scales boundary walls to visit a girl uninvited, the guy who marries the girl despite knowing she is doing it just to make her father happy, the guy who tells his wife how he has been saving himself for his wife on the first night of their arranged marriage, the guy who says he would rather see her in nothing, gets to transform into a hero. It is a good transformation, no doubt, but Katha, who the story that unfolds is about, is hardly ever the focus.
When Satyaprem learns about Katha’s rape during a night of attempted intimacy, he is first shocked, then angry, then shattered. But instead of asking Katha what she wants to do about it, he goes and rails against her parents who assumed she had been careless after they discovered she had had an abortion.
Katha does get to say her piece to her in-laws but it is after Sattu has rallied for her. We do see her suffering and hear her side of the story. Her anguished cry about how people would not understand that just because she allowed someone to go to third base doesn’t mean she was okay with going the whole way was particularly impactful.
But her anguish and her suffering are used to hold up Satyaprem as the saviour and that is the problem. Sattu says at one point that he will be her supporting hero, but that comes right at the end of the film, after he has played the male saviour fighting with Katha’s parents on her behalf, fighting with her boyfriend on her behalf, pleading with his parents on her behalf, even fighting with her on her behalf. Katha even needed Sattu filing a case against her boyfriend for her to realise that she can actually fight to get justice.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a pleasure to see a man on screen who can accept that he might never get to be physically intimate with his wife because of her traumatic experience and even go a step beyond to become her champion, because God knows such support is rare. But in all this, it would have been better if Katha too had been at the front and centre of the story along with Satyaprem, and not just as a supporting character.