(2008) Sarkar Raj Reviews

Bollywood Hungama Review

Sequels are dicey business. No matter how much you improvise on your new script, you cannot escape comparisons. And when you attempt a sequel of a critically acclaimed film that’s a huge box-office grosser as well, it’s akin to walking on a tight rope.

Most importantly, post RAMGOPAL VARMA KI AAG, Ramgopal Varma was everyone’s favorite punching bag [till TASHAN dethroned RGV KI AAG]. “Finished”, “spent force”, “has-been”, “Pack up” were commonly used terms for RGV.

Now here’s great news! SARKAR RAJ supersedes the prequel and most importantly, RGV bounces back like never before. If you felt SHIVA and later SATYA were his finest efforts, you’ve got to watch SARKAR RAJ. An outstanding film in all respects, this film has all it takes to emerge a major success story at the box-office… and a landmark film in everyone’s careers.

Write your own movie review of Sarkar Raj
When Anita [Aishwarya Rai Bachchan], CEO of Sheppard Power Plant, an international company, brings a power plant proposal to set up in rural Maharashtra before the Nagres, insightful Shankar [Abhishek Bachchan] is quick to realize the benefits the power plant can bring to the people.

After convincing Sarkar [Amitabh Bachchan], who is against it for various reasons, Shankar undertakes a journey along with Anita to the villages of Maharashtra to mobilize support from the masses.

However, things are not what they seem to be and Shankar’s dream project gradually becomes a political minefield. The evil forces, mightier than ever, mushroom and gang up to bring down the regime of Sarkar and obliterate Shankar’s name from the political horizon.

SARKAR RAJ exudes a lot of power from the word ‘Go’. But let’s not categorize SARKAR RAJ as yet another “political film”. Emotions and relationships run concurrently in those 2+ hours. What works in favor of SARKAR RAJ is its tight writing. It’s not difficult to decipher the power play, but more importantly, there’s meat in the script. It leaves you awe-struck as the plot thickens. The film throws a number of surprises, but the best is reserved for the penultimate 20/25 minutes. The culmination to the story is simply fantastic!

RGV shines like never before. He takes to SARKAR RAJ with a vengeance. He has to prove that the sequel is better, he has to prove the detractors wrong too. While RGV has handled the subject with great expertise, you cannot ignore a few scenes that leave a lasting impact…
* Ash’s first meeting with the Bachchans to explain the power project;
* Govind Namdev trying to bribe Abhishek;
* The Bachchans’ visit to Dilip Prabhawalkar’s residence;
* The Bachchans’ discussion over Kay Kay [who was shot dead by Abhishek in the prequel];
* The turning point in the film [not to be disclosed];
* The penultimate reels when the real culprit stands exposed. It hits you like a ton of bricks.

Besides its strong content, SARKAR RAJ has been filmed exceptionally well too. In fact, SARKAR RAJ has the trademark RGV stamp in every sequence. The review would be incomplete without giving the due credit to writer Prashant Pandey’s incredible and almost flawless script. Amar Mohile’s background score is topnotch. The by-now-famous ‘Govinda’ chant in the background only enhances the impact. Amit Roy’s cinematography is exceptional. The DoP succeeds in giving the film the raw-n-rustic look, which works very well. Action [Allan Amin], in minimal doses, is perfect.

SARKAR RAJ is embellished with superb performances! Amitabh Bachchan, expectedly, comes up with a terrific performance. He’s as ferocious as a wounded tiger in the finale and takes the film to great heights.

First YUVA, then GURU, now SARKAR RAJ. Abhishek Bachchan is cast opposite the finest actor of this country, yet he sparkles in every sequence. This time, the father and son go neck to neck as far as acting honors go. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is fabulous and delivers her career-best performance in SARKAR RAJ. Enough has been written about her looks, but not much space has been devoted to her performances. HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM, DEVDAS, PROVOKED, GURU, JODHAA AKBAR and now SARKAR RAJ – she’s only got better with every film.

Every supporting actor in SARKAR RAJ stands out – Dilip Prabhawalkar [superb], Govind Namdev [first-rate], Sayaji Shinde [perfect], Ravi Kale [terrific] and Supriya Pathak [good]. Tanisha is alright. The actor enacting the role of Dilip Prabhawalkar’s grandson makes a strong impact.

On the whole, SARKAR RAJ is an exceptional film in all respects. At the box-office, it has all it takes to set new records in days to come!

Buzz 18 Review

There is a tendency in most of us to throw brickbats at people when they are down and out. And the ones at the receiving end are often unlucky enough to be in showbiz. In 2007 Ram Gopal Varma received more flak than what most people receive in a lifetime. RGV Ki Aag, Go, Nishabd, it seems the man could do nothing right. And industry insiders and critics were busy writing him off as a has-been. But RGV in the tradition of a true survivor has returned to prove his worth. Sarkar Raj may not set the box-office on fire but RGV is back in the running for now.

This genre of films about the underworld seems to be Ram Gopal Varma’s forte. And Varma effectively demonstrates that he can effectively recreate a world, which the common man is quite cut off from. The director himself claims Sarkar Raj is not a sequel to Sarkar. For those who missed out on Sarkar the film is about the Nagre family, the patriarch Subash Nagre (Amitabh Bachchan) only referred to as Sarkar, his son Shankar Nagre, who to all extents and purposes has taken over the business/ political/ mafia empire from his father Shankar nagre.

In this scenario enters Anita Rajan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) who is the daughter of a hotshot business tycoon. Her father Rajan (Victor Banerjee) wishes to put up a power plant in Maharashtra. Initially Sarkar is opposed to the project. But somehow Shankar manages to convince him that this project will change the lives of the people of Maharshtra.

Shankar now throws himself wholeheartedly into campaigning for this project. But nothing is what it appears to be. Just about everybody from the shady businessman Vohra to Subash’s right hand man Chandar have their own stake in this scenario. A bloody battle ensues where human life has no value and the stakes get higher at each level. Sarkar does establish his supremacy eventually but pays the price for it…

For decades Amitabh could pull in the audience just on the basis of his name alone. But in recent times he has had his fair share of debacles. RGV Ki Aag, Bhoothnath gave his critics a field day. But in Sarkar Raj, Bachchan has come up with a performance befitting his status. He’s older, calmer than what he was in the film Sarkar. But that’s a physical change only. His mind is still as agile as ever. And he expresses a whole gamut of emotions sorrow, pain, anger revenge with a twitch of his muscles, a grimace a frown. Subtle yet powerful and compelling! It is difficult to think of any other actor in Bollywood who could have done the role of Sarkar. He is one of the few actors in Bollywood who understands the power of a close-up.

Abhishek Bacchan is probably best suited to these kind of roles. He was loved in Dhoom as the quick-to-get angry cop who does not tolerate fools gladly. And here also as Shankar Nagre a person who fights for the cause he believes in he’s totally convincing. And he’s had the courage to keep his makeup minimal. There are some close-ups where you can see the pores on his skin. It takes courage in yourself and immense faith in your director to deliver this kind of a performance.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan could have deglamourised herself a bit more but that would be nitpicking. She looks the role and thankfully she’s modulated her voice well. And she conveys pain effectively without digressing into melodrama. Almost every character has been well fleshed out and the actor has done justice to it. The aging politician Nana, Somji his grandson, the trusted right hand man Chander, the businessman Vohra are all examples of brilliant casting. And it goes a long way in keeping the viewer enthralled.

The look and feel of the film, which includes the lighting, the props, the locations have been carefully planned and are consistent throughout the film. And a pat on the back to the dialogue writer! The dialogues especially in the first half pack quite a punch. Overall the film makes a considerable impact.

Verdict: A must-see for all Bachchan fans, the trio has delivered riveting performances

India Glitz Review

After a disastrous ‘Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag’, many producers, directors and movie buffs have actually ruled out RamgopaL Varma; the man behind hits like ‘Shiva’, ‘Company’, ‘Bhoot’ and much more. ‘Sarkar’ being one of his finest piece comes across with its sequel this weekend-‘Sarkar Raj’.

Lots of pressure seems to be riding on Ramu this week as a lot lies with the success of this film.

Synopsis….

When Anita [Aishwarya Rai Bachchan], CEO of Sheppard Power Plant, an international company, brings a power plant proposal to set up in rural Maharashtra before the Nagres, insightful Shankar [Abhishek Bachchan] is quick to realize the benefits the power plant can bring to the people.

After convincing Sarkar [Amitabh Bachchan], who is against it for various reasons, Shankar undertakes a journey along with Anita to the villages of Maharashtra to mobilize support from the masses.

However, things are not what they seem to be and Shankar’s dream project gradually becomes a political minefield. The evil forces, mightier than ever, mushroom and gang up to bring down the regime of Sarkar and obliterate Shankar’s name from the political horizon.

To begin, Ramgopal Varma makes it very clear with the sequel that film making runs right through his veins and a series of flops can’t stop his creative fluids. The style Ramu maintains is topnotch and you are drawn are into the film with the camera movements and gripping background score.

The drawback in the film comes across post interval as the writing by Prashant Pandey falls short. Post interval the movie becomes more of a series of dialogues with not much movement in the flow of events. No doubt Prashant Pandey excels at writing a plot that indeed has a very much localized maharashtrian feel covering the political scenario but somewhere falls short.

On the acting front, Amitabh Bachchan is no doubt the finest amongst all characters in the film. Amitabh carries the charisma and he personifies the word ‘power’.

Abhishek Bachchan too excels with his character and seems to be highly inspired by Al Pacino’s character of Michael Corleone from ‘The Godfather’.

Aishwariya Rai Bachchan has been offered a very meaty and chunky role and is often seen with Abhishek in this sequel unlike Katrina in ‘Sarkar’. She does impress with her dialogues and body language.

What impresses even more is the set of character artists who are terrific and just apt be it- Ravi Kale, Dilip Prabhawalkar, Sayaji Shinde and Supriya Pathak. Tanisha is ok.

The cinematography by Amit Roy is splendid. The film relies heavily on one point lighting and it’s the cinematography that makes the characters look larger than life and gives them their desired power.

The music by Bappi-Tutul is worthy of mention. The brothers have worked really hard in creating the ‘Govinda Govinda’ chant which has become synonymous with the ‘Sarkar’ series. This time around, the chant comes across with a difference but retains its authenticity.

Background score by Amar Mohile is very good and acts as a key in enhancing the dark feel of the film.

On the whole, ‘Sarkar Raj ‘may not be as impressive as ‘Sarkar’ primary due to a dip post interval ,but it is sure set to get Ramgopal Varma a lot of accolades from the very people who ruled him out. At the box- office, success awaits the producers.

NDTV Review

At one point in Sarkar Raj, the villains are planning their next move. One of them shouts: Zabardast idea.

The other asks kya and he replies: abhi puri tarah se aaya nahi hai. That’s exactly what I felt about the movie.

It is a good idea that doesn’t quite coalesce into a whole. Despite wonderful performances and nicely done dramatic moments, Sarkar Raj doesn’t pack the visceral punch of Sarkar.

The sequel takes us back to the Nagre’s Thackeray-esque dynasty of self-styled political leaders.

One character describes Nagre senior as Neta ke libas mein ek goonda.

Subhash Nagre, played by Amitabh Bachchan, is still enthroned but it is his son Shankar, played by Abhishek, who is the new Machiavelli, plotting moves and ordering hits.

An international company wants to set up a power plant in Maharashtra.

The plant will displace 40,000 people. Shankar believes that the plant will empower the state and backs the plans. He becomes embroiled in a vast and lethal conspiracy, which almost destroys the Nagre family.

What works here are the performances. The Bachchans-all three of them are in fine form.

Aishwarya displays a rarely seen steel as the head of the corporation. Mr B creates a carefully controlled menace – you know this smiling grandfather could kill without blinking. And Abhishek surpasses them both with a brooding intensity that echoes, in the best way, his father’s angry young man days.

The supporting cast is also impressive-Ravi Kale as the right hand man who proves fallible is especially good. What doesn’t work as well is the screenplay.

Ram Gopal Varma shoots-in tight close-ups and notches up the background score to create a sense of drama but the film remains flaccid.

There is so much plot that at the end, Mr B expounds at length about who did what to whom and why and yet there is very little tension. Beyond a point, all the subterfuge and counter-subterfuge becomes tedious.

The film’s politics also remain specious – Nagre senior expounds on gandi rajniti and then coolly has his enemies murdered.

Despite these sizeable bumps, I recommend that you see Sarkar Raj. Its performances are a proof that Ram Gopal Varma, who last gave us the mind-numbing Aag, is on way to getting his groove back.

DNA India Review

With Sarkar Raj, Ram Gopal Varma is back and how! As compared to its prequel, Sarkar, this one’s more layered, more dramatic and a lot more intense. The first installment, a clear adaptation of The Godfather, stood out for Varma’s unique handling of a story told before. This one needs to be applauded for the sheer complexities of the drama and its original approach.

The narrative hooks you from the word go. As the lights dim, you are immediately transformed to the world of Subhash Nagre (Amitabh Bachchan) and his family. The setting is grim. Nagre has turned 60, now leading a life of retirement. He’s still the messiah of the common man in Maharashtra. Taking over the business is son Shankar (Abhishek), who with his sharp acumen, understanding of the masses and perseverance in his goals has done more work for the aam janata than Sarkar himself. Together, the duo is unstoppable.

Enter Anita Rajan (Aishwarya) and her proposal for a power plant project that would solve all energy problems in Maharashtra. Shankar sees this as an opportunity to uplift the masses. But there are forces at play that are trying to sabotage the project for ulterior motives. It’s all about power, it’s about politics and it’s dirty.

In many ways, Sarkar Raj is similar to the first part in terms of a story pattern. Once again, there is an evil force working overtime to bring down the Nagre family, the real mastermind is someone else, they are all gunned down eventually and revenge forms the core towards the end. This one, too, ends on a sequelic note. Having said that, Sarkar Raj goes one up on Sarkar when it comes to pure entertainment.

In Sarkar Raj, there is something happening all the time – you are always hooked. However, Varma has his hold over the multiple tracks and does well to gel all the links together – Shankar’s rise, the politics related to the power plant, the relationship between Shankar and Anita, death in the family, the Nagres mourning the loss of their son Vishnu (played by Kay Kay in the first part) – all of them are woven together in a screenplay which is riveting, to say the least

But what does it for the film is the last 20 minutes. A scene in the last half an hour of the film – it could be termed as a turning point – throws everything out of gear. What follows is absolutely mind-numbing and hair-raising and Varma deserves full marks for culminating the film with a bang.

The performances have to be seen to be believed. Abhishek Bachchan, take a bow. The guy is simply awesome. Junior Bachchan, it has been seen, needs strong roles and an intelligent director to extract the best out of him. Mani Ratnam did that in Yuva and Guru and Varma did it in Sarkar. Here, he delivers the best performance of his career. Aishwarya does well in a role that is well-written and gives her ample scope to perform.

Amitabh Bachchan needs no critic to be declared the best there is. But a mention has to be made of the way Varma has handled the legend. After facing rebuke for casting him in Nishabd and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, Varma proves why the senior Bachchan has implicit faith in the maker. The film belongs to him in the last few reels and his transformation from a happily retired ‘don’ to a man possessed with revenge chills your spine.

Govind Namdev and Upendra Limaye have been cast in roles tailor-made for them, though Sayaji Shinde hams like there is no tomorrow. However, the best casting of the film is undoubtedly Dilip Prabhawalkar, who audiences remember as Gandhi in Lage Raho Munnabhai.

The film is brilliant in all technical aspects. Amar Mohile shows what a good background score can do to a movie and Amit Roy’s cinematography gives the film just the right mood. The dialogues, jointly written by Prashant Pandey and Varma, though lengthy at places, fit into the entire scheme of things perfectly. But in the end, it’s a Ram Gopal Varma film. The director proves that a few bad films in no way diminish the magic of a maker who has given Indian cinema films like Shiva and Satya. With Sarkar Raj, the man is back in form. Welcome back, Mr Varma.

Indian Express Review

Ram Gopal Varma’s right. All his films- at least the good ones– have a bit of `Godfather’ in them. So does `Sarkar Raaj’. It also has Bollywood’s First Family in full array, accomplishing several things at one go: giving Pa Bachchan a role he fills with conviction, getting Beta B back on screen after a long gap, and re-confirming our deep- rooted suspicion that there’s an actress in Bahu B.

The sequel to `Sarkar’ takes the story of Subhash Nagre ( Amitabh) forward, with son Shankar ( Abhishek) having been anointed his successor. It wastes no time in any re-caps : just one brief scene flashes back to the previous film, where the dead elder son ( Kay Kay) is shown. That one laid the ground for why there is an extra-constitutional authority in Mumbai ; here Nagre, who is the thinly-disguised alter-ego of the real-life Thackeray, `gives permission’ to an NRI billionaire ( Victor) to set up a power plant in rural Maharashtra. Echoes of Enron are completely intended.

The billionaire’s daughter Anita Rajan ( Aishwarya) is the pointsperson on the project, and through her hazel eyes we see the `raaj’ of Sarkar : the absolute power he wields over politicians and police and goons, and how his son sets his sights on bigger things. Some of the proceedings are very RGV—the ultra-tight close-ups gobbling up the whole frame, the swelling background score ( not as overwhelming as it usually can get in his films, thanks be), the faces of the bad guys all look very familiar.

But the film does deliver some surprises, and that’s why it’s much better, and tauter, than the first. The intrigue is sharper. So is the acting . Amitabh, dressed in black kurta-lungi and double rudraksha, is played to his strengths, as is Abhishek, who doesn’t have Kay Kay this time around to overshadow him. Best of all, RGV keeps Aishwarya in check, in chic power-suits and chignons, giving her lines which belong to a character, not a star.

`Sarkar Raj’ resurrects the reputation of RGV, in tatters after the monstrously bad `Aag’. And it does a strident Jai Maharashtra number on Bachchan Sr’s nay-sayers. Both Amitabh , in his Thackeray avatar ( delicious irony, that) and Abhishek are handed out numerous opportunities to talk about `vikas’ and `badlaav’ and the state. `UP mein jurm kam hai’ is old. The new mantra, loud and clear, is —`Maharashtra mein dum hai’. Take that, Raj.

Rangan’s Review

JUNE 8, 2008 – AT ONE LEVEL, RAM GOPAL VARMA’S SEQUEL to his Sarkar is merely a gimmicky whodunit – a super-stylised, mob-world murder mystery that requires the film to stop dead in its tracks, towards the end, in order to accommodate a Poirot-ish summation about exactly happened and why. Just who could have carried out that shocking execution, which, in its ruthless contempt for audience identification for and empathy with a character, appears to echo Psycho? Yes, we know who actually carried out the killing. It’s the assassin built up as a man of mystery, whose face is never shown – and who’s later dismissed simply as “woh khooni,” that killer. (Trust Varma to make us anticipate a dramatic reveal about the identity of this murderer and sneakily strand us without the rug under our feet.)

But whose hands were those that were pulling this assassin’s strings? Could the puppeteer be Hassan Qazi (Govind Namdev, in a pencil moustache that instantly telegraphs his disreputability), the smarmy deal-fixer who (correctly) labels Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan) as “neta ki libaas mein ek gunda,” a mobster posing as a messiah? Or perhaps it’s Kantilal Vohra (Upendra Limaye), the businessman who fulfills the dual function of (a) throwing a well-aimed spanner in the direction of Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan), the Sarkar scion, who’s working towards consolidating and expanding his father’s empire, and (cool.gif continuing the tradition of annoying supporting characters from the earlier film (here, Vohra is prone to impromptu bursts of Hindi film songs).

But even as Sarkar Raj goads you along these directions, leaving you to untangle its murder-mystery knots, you realise that – at another level – it’s a sly, out-of-the-movie critique that, in his lifetime, Bachchan Jr. can never break out of his father’s shadow. Forget the explicit development in the film that points to this, which you’ve got to see to believe – even the way Shankar is introduced to us is from the shadows; he emerges noiselessly, like a ghost. Just as Sarkar riffed on The Godfather – something that Varma acknowledged on screen, that he was paying tribute to the gangster classic – Sarkar Raj works variations around The Godfather: Part II. Here too, early on, Shankar/Michael escapes an attempt on his life, and we’re aware of this because the family’s trusted lieutenant Chandar (the excellent Ravi Kale) is interrogating the suspect.

It plays like a two-person scene – a showy two-person scene, shot in Varma’s instantly identifiable style, contrasting light and darkness – until a disembodied hand reaches out from what appears to be nowhere, and switches off a recording that incriminates this suspect. The hand belongs to Shankar, of course – and he’s literally inhabiting the shadows that his father lurked in earlier. (Sarkar, meanwhile, is outside, in the brightest of sunlight, waving to the crowds gathered below to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. If you sense a grandfatherly benevolence behind his smile, it’s possibly due to the relief that he’s no longer shouldering the weight of his raj, which has now shifted to his sullen son. Uneasy lies the head, etcetera.)

Varma keeps Shankar in the dark in more ways than this one, in the sense that it’s impossible to fully read this character. (And as a result, what Abhishek Bachchan is asked to do – and does very well – isn’t to deliver a performance so much as embody a presence; in contrast, his father walks away with all the plum drama.) There’s a lovely, little moment in the household when Sarkar discovers that Avanti (Tanisha, playing Shankar’s wife) is pregnant. He wants to give his blessing, and he has no money on him, so he asks Chandar to loan him Rs. 101. It’s a light scene, played for laughs, until a (somewhat awkward) segue brings about memories of Vishnu, the family’s elder son who was killed in the earlier film.

The mood changes in an instant, and Shankar tells his father that he doesn’t regret murdering his brother, that they should all forget about it and move on. What’s strange, though, is that a few scenes earlier, he’s confessed something quite different to Anita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), an NRI industrialist who’s trying to set up a power plant in Maharashtra. (In a film that’s about doing whatever it takes to be on top, how fascinating that even the plant has to do with power.) She seeks him out for help – because entire villages have to be cleared to make way for her dream project – and for some inexplicable reason, they begin to bond, and he shares with her his angst over the murder of his brother.

And you wonder, why is he able to relate to her in ways that he cannot with his own father, or even his wife? Why does he let her get away with referring to him as “tum” and not “aap,” as you’d expect from a relationship that revolves primarily around the workplace? Could it be because, unlike Avanti or his mother – wearing silks and worrying about the consistency of sheera – Anita, with her pantsuits and her professional accomplishments, is, finally, a woman who’s his equal? (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is perfectly cast as this flinty overachiever. With another actress, we may have complained that this role is underwritten, because we’d be looking for reasons that made Anita tick, but Aishwarya exudes such power and confidence that these considerations become redundant.)

And besides, what is Shankar’s investment in this power project? “Baap bete ko samaj seva ka bada shauq hai,” sneers Qazi, at one point, and even if you accept this at face value – that the Sarkar family is into social service – it’s not clear why Shankar is suddenly concerned about the whole of Maharashtra. (He feels the power plant will result in much good for his home state.) Even Anita is allowed a sliver of motivation in the form of unresolved daddy issues, when she confesses to Shankar that this may be her one chance to show her always-a-boss-never-a-father what she’s capable of. She even snags a wee bit of a character arc, as she navigates a Swades-like trajectory from lugging around bottles of mineral water to drinking directly from a hand pump in a village.

But Shankar, he’s stuck resolutely in those shadows – and that’s when something clicked and I fully understood why Varma’s remake of Sholay didn’t work. Over the years – and possibly from Naach onwards – this most idiosyncratic of directors has developed a style where narrative coherence is of the least importance. He’s less interested in beginnings and middles and ends, in mapping out rounded narratives with rounded characters, than in presenting only those aspects of the story that catch his oddball fancy – and if that means showing us what someone is thinking, by means of an endless close-up, even if we’re not sure what’s going on in that person’s head, then so be it. (And the reason Aag failed so miserably is that a perfectly constructed narrative like Sholay is rendered unrecognisable when presented to us in this best-of format. It’s as ridiculous as Mel Brooks’ Highlights from Hamlet in To Be or Not To Be.)

But when the subject matter proves malleable to this style, this vision – as is the case here – it doesn’t become a particular problem that, for instance, Shankar remains a shadowy cipher. (For that matter, Varma never thought it important in Sarkar either, to detail Shankar’s transformation from law-abiding NRI to flag-bearer of his father’s criminal empire.) This is a very strange type of filmmaking (at least in an Indian mainstream context), in which we’re being asked to respond not to our understanding of a character but the filmmaker’s perception of him (or her) – because we get only selective snapshots of Shankar, selected by the director – and if it works in Sarkar Raj, it’s because this is such a mythic story, whose beginnings and middles and ends are fairly imprinted in our minds from earlier myths, like The Godfather: Part II.

At its broadest, Sarkar Raj is simply Highlights from The Godfather: Parts I and II, but distorted through Varma’s engaging, what-if fantasies. If it was interesting to see, in Sarkar, how the director conflated the characters of the elder son of the Sarkar household (Vishnu) and the middle son of the Corleone family (the weak, volatile, traitorous Fredo), it’s fascinating, here, to see how Shankar – seemingly the embodiment of all things Michael, that other dweller in the dark – takes on aspects of the rash, hotheaded Sonny when he single-handedly sets out to rescue the victim of a kidnapping. Even in its byzantine interplay of business and politics, Sarkar Raj follows the template of the Godfather sequel, which abandoned the simpler dramatic effects of its predecessor and opted for an ambitious overview of the perils of power.

Varma, at one point, presents us with an under-view of this power – when he (very literally) shoots a key player from under a swing in a manner that reveals simply a dangling leg, which even Sarkar supplicates before. That one shot tells us all there is to be told about Rao saab (Dilip Prabhawalkar), about the power he wields, just as his grandson (a very impressive Rajesh Shringarpure) is instantly slotted as a commie-style rabble-rouser when he barges into a closed-door meeting Rao saab is having with Sarkar. I guess this approach works here because Varma is working with types more than characters (and the reason it failed in Aag was because Sholay was made memorable by characters and not types). It’s not for everyone, this style of filmmaking – and it does have its drawbacks, in that it leaves you admiring the films from a respectful distance rather than wholeheartedly falling in love with them – but it is good to see Varma back in form, and back to doing what he does best.

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