Sunday, June 8, 2008

Review: Sarkar Raj

In spite of his fall from grace in recent times, I’m someone who has always considered Ram Gopal Varma a ‘safe’ director. Not so much in terms of box-office but in terms of his realistic handling of subjects and a wonderful ability to penetrate through human actions. In that sense, he’s one director who may not always make a great film but he’ll seldom insult the audiences’ intelligence. Which is why even his ‘flops’ like Naach, Nishabd, Jungle, Mast, Daud etc are eminently watchable.

And then of course RGV has his inspired moments when he comes up with something truly astounding. Sarkar Raj is not a remarkable film but thankfully, it’s also not a film that goes seriously wrong anywhere. For example, Sarkar had an extraordinary 30 minutes in the start. The role of the Subhash Nagre’s volatile elder son, Vishnu (Kay Kay) was central to the film’s dramatic and emotional conflict and I think some of the early scenes with Vishu was what added great punch to an otherwise dull endeavour. Similarly, I thought Subhash Nagre (Amitabh) to be way too placid in Sarkar… too much of a victim at the hands of his political rivals.

To that extent, Sarkar Raj is an improvement. Even though there’s nothing that particularly stands out, the action remains uniformly engaging. The structure is similar to Sarkar in almost every sense, except for some twists in the end.The reason why Sarkar Raj rarely touches great heights is precisely because RGV hasn’t constructed the story on an ambitious scale. Having already established its central characters and circumstances in its prequel, the filmmaker should have ideally scripted a more complex, elaborate game of political intrigue. Sarkar Raj, however, is a little tame and basic in that respect. Also, the whole angle about the power plant project and how it ends in a tragic way, is treated simplistically. Having been a war-horse in politics, it’s unlikely that Nagre wouldn’t have seen through the plot much earlier. Shankar’s character Abhishek Bachchan, in particular, behaves like a Johney Come lately whose idea of running the show is shutting up everyone in his vicinity and keeping a perennial scowl on his face. Even otherwise, Shankar is the weak-link in this film.

Also, one expected more shades and spunk to Aishwarya’s character but there are none.
So what works for Sarkar Raj? Amitabh Bachchan of course, who comes up with a true gem-like performance. Some of his final sequences in the film establish firmly why Bachchan is the best we have. Even some of smaller but important characters in the film are impressive. The dialogues are striking.
That leaves us with Ram Gopal Varma. Since I never really gave up on RGV, it’s pointless to call this his comeback film. This is a well-paced, well-made film, though it isn’t one of his best.
Stars: **1/2


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