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Sarkar Raj – movie review

June 10, 2008

sarkar rajSarkar 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.sarkar raj2

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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27 Comments leave one →
  1. wishtobeanon permalink
    June 10, 2008 7:26 pm

    I like your movie reviews! 🙂

  2. June 10, 2008 7:43 pm

    I did liked it. but its a bit slow.
    the plot cud be more thickened before it was revealed.
    nevertheless, a good watch

  3. June 10, 2008 7:57 pm

    to be honest I was waiting for you to review this..Sarkar is one of my favorite movies mainly because of its silences, and I think sarkar raj is one of the movies I was waiting for.
    I saw the trailer with the scene where Aishwarya is shown leaning against a wall, with tears in her eyes, and with an expression which I saw in her face after a long lone time.. I think that made me wait for the movie even more.

  4. June 10, 2008 11:57 pm

    Nice review Nita. This is the second review of Sarkar Raj I am reading today after posting mine.

    Thanks. Will check out yours. 🙂 – Nita.

  5. June 11, 2008 1:08 am

    Finally you saw it! 🙂 I don’t blame you for not liking it much. Most of the people who’ve seen the first one didn’t like this movie. I got lucky this time!

    However, I do feel that Enron was more of an Accounting scandal and it was an all together different issue in that it had more to do with Accounting Shenanigans (“Fudging the numbers”), compared to what has been shown in this movie. 🙂

    Hi Ruhi, nice to see you here!
    Well, I guess I didn’t like the end, but I overall it was okay. About Enron, ofcourse it was an accounting scandal but that happened later. Before that (I think 2 years) there was another kind of scandal in India and at the time we didn’t know what was happening in the parent body. – Nita

  6. June 11, 2008 6:34 am

    gone into spam please del these

    Prax, I did not find any comment of yours in spam. – Nita.

  7. June 11, 2008 6:57 am

    Hi Nita!

    Glad to be back here. Your reviews are helpful because they tell the story yet dont spoil the fun, if you know what I mean. Thanks for this one. I have decided to watch it.

    Hi Priyank, good to see that you are back from Brazil. Will be checking out your blog for your travel posts soon. – Nita.

  8. June 11, 2008 7:47 am

    wishtobeanon, Neo, thanks.
    Rambler, nice to know that you like Aish. Somehow most people seem to not like her. Although she is not my favourite actress, I don’t dislike her…infact I have started liking her because so few people like her. She is not always “plastic”…she wasn’t “plastic” in Jodha Akbar and she wasn’t “plastic” in this movie either.
    Ruhi, Priyank, have answered your comment within the comment itself.

  9. June 11, 2008 7:59 am

    Hey, I was in Peru, not Brazil…oops! But I’ll be there soon, no worries 😉

  10. vivek mittal permalink
    June 11, 2008 9:10 am

    Neither have i scene nor intend to see Sarkar Raj……I dont like such movies which seem to be dark or depressing

  11. Ravi permalink
    June 11, 2008 9:40 am

    I really liked Sarkar cause it has the shades of godfather and I felt like watching indian version of mario puzo’s novel. Especially those dark contrasting colors, quick reflexes of jimmy zip cameras was awesome Thanks to RGV for creating for making a movie with good screenplay. I havent watched his latest release hope that it wont lemme regret. I didnt like the color in the promos cause its unrealistic. I hope it doesnt reflect in the film.

  12. Ravi permalink
    June 11, 2008 9:46 am


    Thanks for the review. I m glad that this movie doesnt have songs and I dont have to take too many intervals 🙂
    Im really surprised to see you complain on the length of the film cause I know, by default a hindi movie runs for over 3.2 hours. How come you didnt like it. I can not spend more than 2.2 hrs in movie theatre. Thats why I only watch english movies 🙂

  13. June 11, 2008 12:33 pm

    You don’t give movies rating, or do you? I knew you will like these points (bigger issues) in the movie 😀
    I liked only thing about movie that people think and speak of progress of Maharashtra (at least in film) which I have never hear normally. 😛

  14. June 11, 2008 12:36 pm

    I saw the movie yesterday and I think it was utterly hopeless! 😀
    First of all, the thing I didn’t understand was why the villagers who were against the concept of a “power plant” start attacking their own people and hitting them during the strike… aren’t they striking against the town people and the “big bad foreigners”..?? 😀
    secondly, this woman anita, who’s the CEO of the power plant company, why is she hanging around the sarkar house??? doesn’t she have a office? doesn’t she have any other work that needs to be done at all??? 😀
    and i hated the camera work… cheap theatrics, excessive and nauseating use of flashy light and sound effects and mediocre acting… I want my money back!! 😀

  15. June 11, 2008 12:43 pm

    Suda, Yeah, if a movie is about frivolous stuff, then it has to be really really excellent for me to like it! I mean, if the movie has no meat, then it has to be entertaining, no? And I too was pleasantly surprised to hear the Maharashtra stuff….rare in a Hindi movie! I guess that’s one of the reasons I liked it.
    And no I don’t give ratings as whether one likes a movie or not is very subjective.

    Nikhil I cannot disagree with you. I hated those things in the movie as well. Even for the life of me I couldn’t understand why Anita was hanging around a married man, and that too someone who is a known goonda! About the attacking thing, well, that happens. when people become violent they do wierd things, and that includes attacking anyone who thinks differently! Not that I think that the scene was shot properly.

    Priyank, you have all the luck. Israel, Peru and now Brazil! Not fair! I love these exotic places and am dying to go there! 🙂

    Ravi, I meant that if it’s two hours don’t waste so much time on nonsensical stuff (Nikhil has described it far better than I have!) as there will be no time for the good stuff. Thats what happened.

    Vivek M, I too don’t like depressing movies, unless they are well made and admittedly this wasn’t. But at the same time there were some things I liked.

  16. vivek mittal permalink
    June 11, 2008 1:24 pm

    I am all for appreciation of good and artistic movies and really appreciate movies like “Black” or “Americal Beauty” from the bottom of heart……..but if someone asks me to watch them again…then i would say “you go inside the theatre.. i would appriciate from outside 🙂

  17. Ravi permalink
    June 11, 2008 2:23 pm

    Im not gonna see this movie cause nikhil has already said that this movie carries really poor camera work. I appreciate movies with good back ground score complimented by beautiful visuals. From the review I can figure this isnt as good as Sarkar. Im not gonna waste my time. Thank you all for your honest reviews.
    Black is plagiarized though 🙂 Aint deserve credit…LOL

  18. June 11, 2008 3:20 pm

    Oh!! You also felt the problem with the camera angles. I thought I was the only one who got a headache. 🙂 I liked the movie, but I wish that there were more scenes where the family would have atleast looked happy. They were so serious all the time.

  19. June 11, 2008 10:49 pm

    This is the best review among the 4 reviews I have read in my blogosphere.

  20. June 12, 2008 12:32 am

    yes probably the comment didnt get posted
    nice review –

    i found dilip ps acting good too

  21. Niki permalink
    June 13, 2008 5:01 am

    It is a complete torture. It is simply a waste of time to see only the faces of all and no dialogue dilivery in the movie. Ramu has focust more on the facial expression of Abi and Amitabh rather than the story. There is no emotion on Abi’s face even after the death of his wife rather he seemed more happy and there is no link in the story. After every other minute Aish is shown with lots of make up and no expressions, it seems like she was giving oral exams in this movie which she must have forgotten to give in her schoool time. Please do not watch it, its completely injurious to brain. I would rate it 1 out of 5

  22. June 13, 2008 7:35 am

    Vivek M, I too cannot see most movies the second time!

    Ravi, I think you have made the right decision because I don’t think you’ll like this movie.

    Amit, yeah the camera work was bad and like Niki has said, there is so much focus on facial expressions that it’s irritating and their acting isn’t that great either!

    Reema, Prax, thanks.

    NIki, I guess some people could react very negatively to this movie, like you and Nikhil have. The negative points of the movie you have mentioned are valid. Mostly the acting was very very average and camera work poor. I too noticed Abi’s lack of expressions and in fact he had one expression throughout even at the end!

  23. vivek mittal permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:21 am

    i believe Abhishek has taken being a movie star for granted….being the son of a legend…and he was helped by various film makers who were determined to make him a star

  24. Bidisha permalink
    June 15, 2008 10:49 am

    I saw the movie on bootleg tonight. (I don’t think it’s out in theaters in NYC.) Anyway, the camera angles didn’t seem out of sorts to me, but then I am not a cinematographer either.

    The premise of the story was definitely impressive. Positive themes like this need to be explored so they can contribute to India’s growth on a whole. It was most probably an accurate depiction of what goes on behind the scenes.

    As far as the acting, Amitabh was excellent as expected, too bad his son can’t follow in dad’s footsteps.

    I thought in the end, when the last character says, ( don’t want to give away the ending to those checking reviews) bring the tea, it was potrayed as if this character will now take Sarkar’s place?? Cheeku sounds really young to become the next Sarkar, no?

    All in all, I liked this movie but the original was better. This one however, is quite engaging and offers entertaining twists and turns.

    This is my first time checking out your review. I agree and will come back to check out more…Thanks!

    Junmuni, thanks. I agree that the theme of the movie is great and the reason I enjoyed the movie too, well most of it anyway. Welcome and do visit again! 🙂 – Nita.

  25. nitendra permalink
    June 16, 2008 12:11 pm

    i saw this film on sat i felt like that its really good film then sarkar, the story line is to stong, but people did not like that, before watcing the film o gone trough the reviw on net , really so bad, after watching film i felt I liked it even though others didn’t.

  26. nitin permalink
    June 16, 2008 12:13 pm

    its very doog then raskar if u understand it properly, dont belive on other saying its bad some thing like that, its very doog movie

  27. June 18, 2008 10:23 am

    Yeah Sarkar Raj hits again.U can’t ignore Amitabh,he is only the boss of bollywood,he has taken bollywood in an another level.East or west subhas nagre is the best.

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