Sarkar Raj – movie review
Sarkar Raj isn’t as good as the original Sarkar, but to give it credit, it’s watchable. For some reason the director Ram Gopal Varma has denied that it is a sequel although it is. It is about the same people and it happens some years after the previous film Sarkar ends.
The story (no spoilers)
This film, like the previous one, is about the Nagare family – a father (Subhash Nagare, played by Amitabh Bachchan) and his son (Shankar Nagare played by Abhishek Bachchan). The character of Subhash Nagare is said to be loosely based on Balasaheb Thackeray, and In the film a character describes Subhash Nagare as a neta ke bhes me goonda which means a goon in the guise of a political leader. But it is a nasty character who says this…and in the movie Subhash Nagare is a heroic figure. A man who will do bad things only for the good of the people.
But if the central character in the first Sarkar was Subhash Nagare, in Sarkar Raj, it’s his son Shankar. The son has taken over the father’s fiefdom and his father has full trust in him. This was a bit of a surprise, but well Shankar seems to be managing well despite that gleam of idealism in his eyes. He doesn’t even seem a people’s person or a practical man like his father. But well, if he didn’t have a dream, we wouldn’t have had this movie!
Shankar not only loves Maharashtra, he wants to see it develop and he sees this happening if a power plant comes up in the state. For this to happen, 40,000 people would have to be moved from their homes and separated from their land.
Aishwarya Rai plays Anita Rajan, the CEO of Sheppard power plant which wants to set up shop in Mahaharashtra. She and Shankar (whom she approaches for help to get the project through) hit it off instantly…maybe because they share a bond as both are scions of empires…not that this is explained. One just wonders what it is that the two like about each other…as Shankar is happily married. Aish doesn’t have much of a role but she is portrayed as a strong person who is willing to go against her father’s wishes if need be.
Larger issues tackled
The mention of the power plant brought with it memories of Enron and the squabbling over prices and terms of the deal that sung the death knell of the plant. The resistance to the power plant at Thakurwadi (in the movie) reminded one of Nandigram where the West Bengal government’s plans to use 10,000 acres of land for a Special Economic Zone (to be developed by the Indonesian-based Salim Group) led to wide-spread protests. It also reminded one of POSCO project (south Korean company) in Orissa where 20,000 people from 15 villages are still protesting and the state government dithering.
That’s what I liked about this film. The fact that it has tackled larger issues which are important to India today…about development and the clash that can ensue because of differing ideologies, the selfish agenda of elected rulers, the dirty politics that people play to get into the limelight, and the ease with which petty leaders can rouse the masses to commit murder and mayhem. At some point I even felt that the director was sending a message…that development can seem to destroy people’s lives but something needs to give if one has to look at long-term benefits. This line was repeated several times in the movie…the sacrifice of short term happiness for long term good…not just of the self but of the nation…a line which came back to haunt the Nagares…
The problems with the movie
I am not saying the director actually did a great job of showing this large canvas…in fact there seemed to be something missing in the film. Certain aspects were hurried through…and on the other hand too much time was spend on the father-son relationship. For example, when a family crises was underway, too much time was wasted in talk and tears…and the film actually dragged at this point. Maybe in a three hour film this drama would have been okay…but not in a two hour film. If a film is just two hours long and it is a serious film like this one, each minute of the film should be spent on the plot…explaining to the viewer how exactly it unfolds. It should also be spent on explaining the motivations of the various characters.
A lot of things happen behind the scenes and much of it we come to know from hearsay…that too from someone who has told Subhash Nagare…and we don’t even see him explaining it to Nagare! It would have been best to see it happening right in front of our eyes. But because it doesn’t and the viewer is simply told the why and the how of it third hand (at the end of the movie) it leaves us dissatisfied. The end seems manipulated, as if the director took a short-cut.
There are other things which jarred. The camera angles are weird. Close-ups are fine, but somehow one doesn’t feel comfortable with the way they are done here…I think they are overdone. It is as if the camera is trying to be clever when not required…a camera which intrudes. The best camera work is when one is not even conscious of the camera…when it is used as a tool to show us the events.
There was no song in the movie…and well I didn’t actually miss that (although I enjoy musicals). There has been criticism in various reviews about the background score of the film, that it was too loud and well, I agree with that. It seemed artificial.
Where acting is concerned, well, Amitabh Bachchan has played it earlier and succeeded. Abhishek’s acting was average…he simply doesn’t look mean enough. After all he is after a man who can kill without blinking an eye but he looks soft. Aishwarya was okay and I thought she did the crying scenes pretty well although I wondered whether why she needed to cry that much.
Whether one likes this film or not depends a lot on whether one is a fan of all those actors…and whether one wants to know what happens to the Nagare family. That was the reason I saw it…I wanted to know what happens and I like Abhishek and Aishwarya. I had also liked Sarkar a lot. I don’t know whether this film will be successful or not…the way it ends may not go down well with the audience. I didn’t like the end either…and there is this news that the film didn’t open well at the box-office last week-end.
(Photos from the movie site)
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