First, the plusses
Every Ramgopal Varma film is special. When the maverick film-maker sits on the producer's chair, you witness new talents exploding with path-breaking, innovative concepts. And when RGV decides to wear the garb of the director, calling the shots himself, expect experiences that linger in your thoughts even after the movies have completed their run at the movieplexes.
Regardless of how RGV-directed films fare at the ticket window, the fact cannot be denied that the nonconformist film-maker has had the courage to attempt films that defy the stereotype. He is one creative thinker who doesn't bow his head to commercial diktats.
Right from SHIVA, his first outing in Hindi cinema, to SARKAR, his latest endeavor, RGV has made films that seem to please the viewer within him, not the hard-nosed critics or those in the trade.
SARKAR is inspired by Mario Puzo's literary classic THE GODFATHER, which Francis Ford Coppola immortalized on the big screen in Hollywood. Comparing SARKAR and THE GODFATHER would be sacrilege simply because THE GODFATHER was set in the U.S., while SARKAR is set in the Indian milieu. It's very Mumbaiya, to be precise.
THE GODFATHER may've inspired a number of films in India, but RGV takes the essence from the classic and narrates the games political heavyweights play, besides focusing on the politician-underworld nexus in Mumbai.
SARKAR is without doubt an interesting film. The story, its execution, the performances, the drama... The outcome leaves you spellbound.
Now, the minuses
The power-play depicted in SARKAR is seeped in Mumbai ethos, as a result of which RGV may not really receive plaudits from non-Maharashtrian sectors. Besides, the film is intense and grim and it may not find acceptance from that section of moviegoers [read kids, youth, ladies] that tilt towards sunshine, escapist, candyfloss cinema.
The slow pacing is another deterrent. The narrative unravels at a relaxed pace, which might not appeal to many.
SARKAR deals with crime, greed, family relationships and revenge.
Subhash Nagare [Amitabh Bachchan] is Sarkar, the man who rewrites the law. He possesses the magnetism, aptitude and power to control the workings of the city. He even metes out justice when the common man does not get it from the law keepers.
SARKAR begins with Nagare aka Sarkar listening to the heart-wrenching story of a hapless father [Virendra Saxena], whose daughter has been raped, while the rapist is acquitted by the law. The daughter, we're told, has now committed suicide. Naturally, the father seeks revenge. Sarkar instructs his trusted lieutenant [Ravi Kale] to take the rapist to task.
Sarkar has two sons. The elder, Vishnu [Kay Kay], is a film producer, while the younger, Shankar [Abhishek Bachchan], has returned from U.S.A. after completing his studies. The story takes a turn when Vishnu shoots the hero of his film [Carran Kapur] in broad daylight when he learns that he has been romancing the heroine of the film. Vishnu is attracted to the heroine, hence the brutal killing.
Sarkar decides to support the heroine, who in turn becomes the prime witness against Vishnu. The father and son have a heated argument, resulting in Sarkar throwing Vishnu out of his house. But Vishnu gets refuge in Vishram's [Raju Mavani] hideout. Vishram had been a follower of Sarkar at a point, but has now joined hands with Sarkar's rivals.
The story takes a turn when a gangster based in Dubai, Rashid [Zakir], plans to strike a deal with Sarkar, but Sarkar refuses on ethical grounds. Realizing that he would lose out on crores, Rashid approaches Vishram and Swamiji [Jeeva] to eliminate Sarkar. A conspiracy is hatched and Sarkar is arrested for eliminating his opponent Khurana [Anupam Kher].
Friends turn their back on the Nagares. Shankar decides to take things in his hands, but Sarkar's associates have also joined Rashid, who in turn is thirsting for Shankar's blood. Another conspiracy is hatched to eliminate Sarkar in the police lock-up, but Shankar thwarts the attempt.
Sarkar gets bail and returns to the cool confines of his fortress-like home. He is well aware of the role played by Rashid and his associates to eliminate him. But Rashid and associates fire another salvo: Vishnu.
Vishnu is entrusted with the task of eliminating his father Sarkar, but Shankar arrives at the nick of time. Shankar decides to take the evil-doers to task and settle scores. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
On the face of it, SARKAR may resemble a political heavyweight's life story, but it isn't. Yes, you might draw parallels as the story unfolds, but the serpentine fashion with which the story moves as also the twists and turns in the narrative make you realize that SARKAR is different from THE GODFATHER.
Again, comparisons with DAYAVAN/NAYAKAN or films of its ilk wouldn't be right since SARKAR does not talk of the rise to power of a simpleton. Besides, SARKAR not only looks at the power-struggle, but also the relationship between a father and his two sons, one wayward, the other obedient.
Every RGV film has a number of punch-packed sequences that leave a hammer-strong impact and SARKAR is no exception. The sequences at the start of the film [Sarkar's men bashing the rapist, Vishnu's introduction in the studio, the spat between Sarkar and Vishnu on the dinner table] are expertly executed.
More characters are introduced in the first hour, but the ones who truly stand out in the first half are Sarkar, Vishnu and Rashid. In fact, the Sarkar-Rashid meeting -- their first and last meeting -- is truly a highpoint. The pace does slacken in the first half, when Shankar seems torn between the woman he loves [Katrina Kaif] and the woman his family wants him to marry [Tanisha]. Ideally, RGV should've avoided merging this love triangle in the narrative since it loses focus from the core story: Sarkar and his empire.
The post-interval portions focus on Shankar, more than Sarkar and this half also has its share of some well penned and well executed sequences. Sequences such as Vishnu trying to eliminate his father Sarkar or the finale, when Shankar settles scores with Rashid, gives you goose bumps. But prior to the Rashid episode, the culmination to Vishram and South gangster Silvermani's characters could've been better thought of. Their exit looks like a hurried job from the writing point of view.
As always, RGV's direction deserves distinction marks. Although a number of films on power-struggle have been attempted in the past, an RGV films bears its individualistic stamp and stands out in a league of its own. But, as pointed out at the outset, RGV's choice of subject may meet with diverse reactions. Those into realistic cinema will take to it, but those who abhor blood and gore may not embrace SARKAR completely.
The background score is another area where the film works big time. The score elevates the situations considerably. Cinematography is fantastic. Dialogues as well as sound effects are of standard.
Amitabh Bachchan has portrayed diverse roles in his illustrious career. Some of his landmark performances include those in ZANJEER, SAUDAGAR, ABHIMAAN, DEEWAAR, TRISHUL, AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY, DON, AAKHREE RAASTA, AGNEEPATH, BAGHBAN and BLACK. Now add SARKAR to this impressive list. The veteran is in complete form this time around and even his harshest critics will have to admit that there's none in the industry who can match the versatility of Bachchan Sr. The veteran is not only getting the best roles now, even his performances have been scaling greater heights with each release.
Abhishek Bachchan gets more scope in the post-interval portions and the actor handles his part with flourish. He has to rely on expressions to convey the gamut of emotions and not once does he disappoint. If he handled the brash and uncouth character in YUVA with dexterity, he handles the sober, intense part in SARKAR with equal ease.
Kay Kay is another actor who merits an award for his performance in SARKAR. The actor is truly outstanding in a role that fits him like a glove. Zakir is excellent. The vicious look on his face and the evil stares that he continues to exhibit all through make you hate him instantaneously. That impactful is his performance. Ravi Kale is another actor to watch out for. He is first-rate. Raju Mavani plays the scheming politician with superb timing. Ishrat Ali, Jeeva, Deepak Shirke, Anant Jog, Virendra Saxena and the South gangster are appropriate.
Katrina Kaif shows improvement over her maiden release [BOOM]. She makes her presence felt in a brief role. Tanisha also acts with conviction. Supriya Pathak and Rukhsaar are alright.
On the whole, SARKAR will meet with diverse reactions. Those into realistic cinema will love the film, while those who swear by candyfloss entertainment may not give it their whole-hearted approval. At the box-office, its business will be the best in the Mumbai-Maharashtra belt mainly.