Sarkar Raj poster

Sarkar Raj

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV/online (?)

quick review:

A treat for Bachchan fans and an intense story for the non-believers. If you are mentally prepared for that noise the background music creates and the camera being held in the weirdest possible positions and angles, you can actually enjoy the drama despite all its flaws.

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Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Running time: 125 minutes
Genres: Politics
More Movie Info

Sarkar Raj - Preview

NOT A REVIEW - just excitement mixed with apprehension

So, just like Sarkar started with the acknowledgement that it is a tribute to Godfather, Ram Gopal Varma at the very outset mentions that Sarkar Raj has nothing to do with Godfather 2 in the director's note on the official website.

Seeing Amitabh Bachchan has always been a treat for me. As in, however bad the script, I'm almost always at least 75% happy with what Amitabh does to the character, or rather what the character makes Amitabh do. Then of course, there's Abhishek Bachchan, whose acting has very gradually grown on me. And I hope Aishwarya Rai Bachchan adds more than just glamour quotient to the equation.

What sounds more exciting though, is the thought behind the Sarkar series. In the director's words -

For me, the Sarkar films are about framing and showcasing the aura of power.

That in combination with Amitabh Bachchan's thoughts on power and palace politics makes me eager to see how these things are played out.

However, RGV adds -

I have employed each and every aspect of film-making, be it music or screenplay or cinematography; for one and only one purpose; that is to capture the intensity in the actors' eyes, through which we can see a world of high drama be it politics, treachery, revenge, passion, courage, love and relationships.

and

I, along with my crew, pushed the upper limits of technique to make each frame and sound vibrate with power... ...I have always believed that there is no greater cinematic visual than an actor performing in a tight close-up

This scares me. While "actor's eyes" sounds fascinating because all three Bachchans have fascinating eyes, "high drama", "cinematography", "vibrate with power", and the worst "tight close-up" literally scare me. Somehow, however much I like these actors, seeing their nostril hair isn't my idea of fun. Amitabh Bachchan says somewhere on his blog that close-ups afford freedom to the actor, but how come I'm so averse to it?

I tend to like close-ups when they are chosen for specific moments of high drama when every wrinkle or lack thereof adds to the experience. But, when most of the movie is shot that way, I think the close-ups lose their charm and, for me, become a headache.

Similarly, I remember liking "govinda, govinda, govinda, govinda, govindaaaa" in the background the first few times in Sarkar. But, when I realized there wasn't any system to it, it just came across as random filler, I was disappointed. It wasn't attached to a specific character or specific types of events, it seemed to be there rather arbitrarily.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to a powerful story and well etched characters. So, the good thing is I'm mentally prepared now. For close-ups and loud, a possibly repetitive background score. Bring it on...

- meeta, a part of the audience

Unfortunately, that also means its not all good either. Anyways, compliments first for making some brave scripting decisions, which is important for a power-of-politics based movie. Though it is common sense that the story should be the focal point of the movie, yet such movies are few and far between. So, they need to be applauded when they come along. But, alas this one too ultimately fails in taking the audience into the thick of the action. Various tactical twists in the story, especially towards the climax are just to be accepted because "Sarkar" says so.

A riveted Amitabh Bachchan fan might not even mind doing so, especially because the fan is presented with such an intense performance in the long monologues. There's nothing specifically wrong with the lines, they are crisp, and are occasionally garnished with a tangy sense of humor. But, is it fair to make the movie about one actor when the jockeying for power by various characters is so interesting? Without taking away anything from the legendary actor's entire range of expressions, I really would have liked to see the other characters' motivations instead of just a verdict passed by the central character.

Also, this central character is not really consistent. His motivations and the way he gets influenced/convinced by his dominant son are rather unconvincing. And if you look at Sarkar's character change over the two movies it is really unbelievable. A man who was so sensitive to a stranger's daughter's rape a movie ago is so practical about death and betrayal. He suffers physical trauma but is willing to treat the death as collateral damage?!

Likewise, Shankar, Sarkar's arrogant, disrespectful son (Abhishek Bachchan), doesn't feel fully developed. His quiet demeanor goes with the sudden bursts of anger. But, somehow the father-son relationship seems very forced and contrived. The emotional bond is fuzzy and hence has to be taken only on face value. Due to this one-dimensional portrayal Abhishek is required to hold just this one expression on his face throughout, with minimal variation.

Anita (Aishwarya Rai) too has a very skimpily etched out character. Her interactions with Shankar seem extremely superfluous. I think both Aishwarya and the way her part is written are to blame for it. However, it is amazing how deglamorized she looks.

And I am not sure where the thin line between identifying characteristics of side characters and making them look like caricatures dissolves. The supporting cast doesn’t do much in terms of evoking fear or hatred.

So, my resolution to ignore or rather to make peace with the expected, overactive camerawork and ear-splitting, background score worked. Once I decided not to give these things the satisfaction of a reaction, the going got a little easier on the delicate grayness in the head. An occasional cringe was unavoidable. I'm human after all.

The thing is, the director is in love with the music and camera decisions and is in fact very proud of them. Now, once you know that, the only thing you can do is register your protest - "me no likes this deafening-is-such-a-mild-word music and sway-here-there-and-everywhere camera movements."

I must admit, though, that I didn't mind the relatively limited use of close-ups too much this time around. Part of the credit would go to the performances and a lot of it to the way the faces were lit. The natural source of light is consistently kept in mind and I loved the fact that the colors used were in tune with the general serious and intense tone of the movie.

So, very low expectations set by previous experiences might have contributed towards me liking this one. But, yet there are huge chunks of the movie, especially towards the end, where I would have liked more people acting out the story instead of just one person sitting me down and reading it to me. Oh well, worse have been made and yet it's not an entirely dissatisfying experience.

- meeta, a part of the audience

33 reviewers(?) - 22 yays 3 so-so 8 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Nikhil Kumar Deoshi, Apun Ka Choice : ...Amitabh Bachchan, the true boss of the film, steps out from the shadows in the second half when he literally rolls up his sleeves and keeps you riveted to the screen with his remarkably expressive performance... full review

Thumbs up, by Razeen Shameem, Bollyvista.com : ...Congrats to Ramu for getting the monkey off his back and salvaging his career!... full review

Thumbs up, by Daliya Daspurkayastha, Bollywood Mantra : ...Aishwarya Bachchan is like never seen before. She has given her all time best.... full review

Thumbs up, by Fatema H Kagalwala, Business of Cinema : ...Paced and measured, Sarkar Raj takes us through the political doings and un-doings of the Nagre family with the constant dialectic of good vs. greed... full review

Thumbs up, by Preeti Arora, Buzz18 : ...Abhishek Bacchan is probably best suited to these kind of roles.... full review

Thumbs up, by Hiral Sachde, DearCinema : ...even Mrs. Rai Bachchan with her limited set of expressions does justice to her part but her larger than life persona only kills the climax.... full review

Thumbs up, by Deep, Deep's Home : ...I really liked the camera angles. .just way too good, the lights.. everything there was perfect.. awesome cinematography..... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubra Gupta, Express India : ...But the film does deliver some surprises, and that's why it's much better, and tauter, than the first... full review

Thumbs up, by Martin D'souza, Glamsham.com : ...The background score by Debashish Mishra is commendable.... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM : ...Besides its strong content, SARKAR RAJ has been filmed exceptionally well too.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurav Malani, indiatimes : ...the screenplay is moulded in the vein of the forerunner film when Shankar wages a political war against his opponents... full review

Thumbs up, Indicine : ...Aishwarya Rai looks great, performs well throughout.... full review

Thumbs up, Intermission, The Bookeazy Blog : ...It asks you to look a little deeper into the scenario. It urges you to take action about the corrupt and devilish politicians.... full review

Thumbs up, by Amit R Agarwal, merinews : ...Sarkar was more gripping, but Sarkar Raj has more meat; its only that it hasnt been written quite convincingly.... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...The performances are like the fine thread that pulls everything together... full review

Thumbs up, by Vijay, MovieWalah : ...Some of the scenes and twists will leave you awestruck and will remind you of his genius... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, Mumbai Mirror : ...he's walked in to shoot with a strong material; one that largely honours creative intentions over mere effects and gimmickry... full review

Thumbs up, musicNmovies.info : ...Superb screenplay, classic close up cinematography and dynamic performance by every cast... full review

Thumbs up, by Joxily John, Planet Bollywood : ...Aishwarya Rai was just a shameless add on. The whole Anita-Shankar track seems terribly forced... full review

Thumbs up, by Hanumant Bhansali, Radio Sargam : ...Abhishek Bachchan has come of age from Refugee to Sarkar Raj... full review

Thumbs up, by Kavita Ogale, Times Now : ...This is a glorious showcasing of what the Bachchans are capable of when put together... full review

So-So, Filmiholic : ...Maybe Ramu feels that these are the kind of villains Indian audiences want and expect in their movies, but I personally wouldn’t have minded a little more subtlety... full review

So-So, by Greatbong, Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind : ...RGV asserts his directorial presence by making his camera snake about objects and dive below a seat where it waits till a few artistically apposite rays of light come in through the darkness... full review

So-So, by Pankaj Shukla, SmasHits.com : ...'Sarkar Raj' falls short of expectations that Ramu's fans had gathered since his 'Sarkar', but it's a much, much better than most of Ramu's recent films.... full review

Thumbs down, by Subhash K Jha, All Bollywood : ...Varma cuts across the life and times of the Nagare family, slicing their emotions into messy portions of writhing anguish.... full review

Thumbs down, by Khalid Mohamed, Hindustan Times : ...How you hope this is Varma's last mistake. Because there have been enough.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rajeev Masand, IBN Live : ...excessive talk seldom makes for exciting viewing... full review

Thumbs down, by Raizada Rohit Jaising Vaid, Passion for Cinema : ...What a convoluted plot was planned and penned by RGV to create Sarkar Raj and to go into a spate of unhindered violence and callous uncensored darkness... full review

Thumbs down, by Raja Sen, Rediff : ... if every single scene of a film drips with high drama, the impact is lost.... full review

Thumbs down, SearchIndia.com : ...Made worse by cliched dialogs ... the effete story just does not - and cannot - hold our interest.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...Abhishek holds his own, though with a more filled-out character, he could have taken it to another level... full review

Thumbs down, Upper Stall : ...There are positives, if one looks through the chaos.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

2 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 1 nays

Want to Watch, by cheap youtube views and likes

So-So, by Neil

Nay! Thumbs Down, by TimELiebe : THE GODFATHER starring The Bachchans! Derivative story+film-school direction = by-the-numbers acting

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan), the local, self-appointed caretaker of the masses, is not ready to retire. And his son (Abhishek Bachchan) is ready to take over his responsibilities. Though their ideologies differ, they have a strong bond. Together they want to see a power plant built for the development of their state.

What Worked

  • Interestingly, Abhishek Bachchan was welcomed with more and louder whistles than Amitabh Bacchan or Aishwarya Rai. Aishwarya in fact received the coldest treatment from the audience.
  • It was interesting how Sarkar's birthday was given an Ambedkar Jayanti (birthday) feel.
  • Shankar sipping tea being used as a motif across movies.
  • The way Sarkar is shown being influenced and dominated by his son. Adds to the power the son exudes despite having minimal lines.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • Thousands of crores profit in the first year - really!? For a plant that they don't even have the land for!?
  • I can understand a top-bottom camera angle for Sarkar, Shankar, and even the villains. But, for Avantika (Shankar's wife)? That's what makes me feel that these camera decisions are random and without specific purpose.
  • The way "BAD MAN" is written all over the villain's characters. Their demeanor, their makeup, reminded me of the one episode that I watched of a saas-bahu Ekta Kapoor soap, where the vamp is given a specific vicious grin.
  • What is it that convinces Sarkar that the power project is actually good?
  • What exactly was Shankar's problem with Chandar?
  • How could Shankar be so lax about his own security?!
  • The scenes of father-son bonding felt extremely cold and weird. There was so much potential for warmth and affection.

Nitty-Gritty

This section lists things that I think are not important to the overall impact of the movie. In most cases, it could be explained away by something like, "we noticed the glitch after the scene was shot and there were schedule/budget issues and thus we could not re-shoot it". I like giving the makers the benefit of doubt, but I am amused nevertheless. Hopefully, they will tickle you too.

  • Geez, why have them say the token "marathi" lines if they can't get the diction right!?
  • How come Sarkar's wife doesn’t visit Rao saaheb?
  • How come Sarkar's wife is serving tea and snacks to the guests when there are so many servants around. I understand it is possible, but it is also very unlikely.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: There are few scenes of people dying of gunshots or stabbing. Nothing very visually displeasing.
  • Sexual content: Nil
  • Concept: The movie is entirely based on politics and business. In general I think kids will get bored, if they are not of an age to follow the story.
  • General Look and Feel: Sarkar Raj is a rather dark movie. It is almost all shot in dim light with a brownish tinge to give it the grim and intense look. There is not much in terms of bright colors and peppy music.

Sarkar Raj - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Screenplay:
Cinematography:
Background Score:
Action Choreography:
Choreography:
Music Director:
Running time:
125 minutes
Reviewer:
Language:
Country:
Genres:

Comments (17)

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even i am looking forward to the movie.. because the Sarkar was one the best performances by Abhishek Bachchan. KK Menon was totally brilliant in the movie and i think his brief was to be like Sunny, the character in Godfather. I thing that i would miss is KK Menon in Sarkar Raaj!!

@Shashi thanks for the link. and thanks for the feedback that you'd like preview of comments. I'll get that on as soon as i can.

@Moksh infact in RGV's blog, he mentions that he was not satisfied with the way Sunny was portrayed in the movie in comparison with Sunny's character in the book. So, he tried making Vishnu's character as close to the book Sunny. I haven't read the book, so don't know. But, interesting take, I thought.

Well, Sarkar Raj has opened to very good reviews by the critics. I am sure you are going to love this sequel of Sarkar!

heyy...how u digest all those bolliwood Cliché movies...
but like ur other blog

[...] Rotten Tomatoes Recent CommentsSarkar Raj [...]

this review SUCKS bigtime. throw the writer out.

Raj

For some reason, the trailers of the film failed to interest me so I gave it a miss. I watched Aamir instead and I hope you plan to review it.

@omkar wagh, hey! Thanks for stopping by and taking the trouble of jotting your thoughts down. But please, please refrain from giving away vital plot points. It is truly against the spirit of this site.

@XCCCX and all others who read the comment and the spoiler, I sincerely apologize. I was away and thus, couldn't check the comments on time.

@Raj, I just watched Aamir, review will be up soon.

Yeah, it wasn't bad after all Ravinder!

noni, I really don't know...I just love watching movies, I guess...

Thanks for stopping by guys!!

A strictly ok and a boring film, which might seem to be great after seeing Aag, but is definitely made as an Ultimate Cure for Insomniacs. The loo-oong speeches made by AB in the climax (??) made my school principal's speeches look like a work of art.

Good in parts, with a really good twist towards the end, but it's a perfect example of another good story botched by RGV.

Am waiting for ur take on Aamir :-)

well...you have given 2.5 out of 5 for the story. If this is the standard then story doesn't exist in Bollywood!
in fact it was one of the most well told stories in Hindi cinema.
And the twists have to be accepted because there is no way of "verifying" the twists of a fictional plot. That's part of a story and there is no point of questioning that.

@all, lovely mixed reactions, thank you for stopping by and dropping in your comments.


@Mayur, wow!! You do read my reviews carefully. I follow both RGV's and AB's blogs regularly and both have the same post by RGV in which they have referred to my review, but unfortunately the URL is wrong :( I am surprised you caught that it was from wogma. I have requested them to change the URL, lets see...maybe they/their team doesn't have the time to attend to it.


Well, yeah, RGV is not very happy, but 2/5 of the comments, he misunderstood. The rest also I have tried to give my point of view in comments on both sites.


of course jitaditya, a fictional story can have verifiable twists built within the premises of the story itself. And many good writers leave hints for the readers/viewers to pick up the trail, if they are alert enough. Its called foreshadowing. The things that make the reader/viewer go, "oh, this is how it is in the end, that is why they showed that half an hour/50 pages into the movie/book.

@Shashi - To each his own...you, the people who love Kaho na pyar hai and me - there is enough room for us all and our opinions.

sarkar raj is watchable again and again,it is a memorable movie.no one can act like amitabh ,he is the king of acting in world.only those people criticise sarkar raj because they are paid money to criticise the movie.there is no single point in the movie to give abad review.all criticism for the movie must be rejected by the audience.

i think the website who are giving bad reviews,they should apologige to people of country.it is very sad to read these reviews,why a memarable movie like SARKAR RAJ is having enemies.because persons,giving bad reviews ,are only and only paid money todo this

[...] "...A treat for Bachchan fans and an intense story for the non-believers" [...]

I just watched the movie yesterday on DVD. I thought it was quite boring initially, but loved the second part of the movie. The plot was really good and I guess it truly reflects how politics is really played out.

RGV's direction was quite good. I really liked the way he's shot it. It's more of a Director's movie than an actor's.

"Pezzonovante dreams, Bappa...."

Wow - it's THE GODFATHER, starring The Bachchans! Father Amitabh is Wily Old Don Vito Seemingly Retired But Still On Top Of Things, Son Abhishek is the Hotheaded But Smart Cross Between Sonny and Michael - and Daughter-in-Law Aishwarya turns into de facto Family Member Tom Hayden. Though supposedly set in the world of Indian politics, SARKAR RAJ desperately tries to remind you of Coppola's classic films which treated organized crime as family values.

From the first five minutes, where we see Abhishek channeling his Inner Early Pacino while informing a bunch of grim-faced men in a heavily-sepiatone'd room that if it Wasn't The Day Of His Father's Birthday he would have killed them, this film becomes an unintentionally comedic version of THE GODFATHER movies. All the major story and character beats are hit, many of which I won't mention for fear of spoilering - but if you've seen GODFATHER and GODFATHER II, see if you don't start mockingly humming the movies' theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkTQdEZbjQA ) every time a very similar scene or reminiscent character pops up.

Even the filmmaking has a GODFATHER-on-the-cheap look to it - from the overuse of sepia and blue filters meant to evoke cinematographer Gordon Willis's justly-famous visual style, to the ubiquitous Steadicam which attempts, with a hopeful (and repeated) tug on your sleeve, to remind you of Coppola's hypnotically beautiful (in the first two films, at least) direction. Unfortunately for me at least, I wasn't reminded so much of One Of The World's Greatest Directors In His Prime as I was of Mel Brooks's lampoon of attention-getting camerawork in his Hitchcock parody HIGH ANXIETY! (There's one scene in particular between Bachchan Senior and Junior, shot looking up through a glass coffee table, that is a repeat of a famous comedy bit Brooks's movie.)

All of this might have still been enjoyable if the characterizations had been interesting or well-shaded - but they're not:

- Amitabh, as the sharp-minded old veteran who's never caught by surprise until the plot requires it, hits the same notes he's hit so many times he could play this role in his sleep by now;
- Abhishek's supposedly smart-but-idealistic son mostly comes off as a sullen action figure (speaking of "playing it in your sleep"!);
- Aishwarya's supposedly NRI liberated woman is so clearly set up as "Future Wife and Daughter-in-Law" that you wonder why the movie bothered to give Abhishek a wife in the first place (oh, right - so they could hang a CANNON FODDER sign around her!);
- you can see most of the movie's villains coming from the other side of the planet, and those you can't seem to have been arbitrarily selected for "shock value";
- and everybody else in the movie only seems to exist in order to stand by the Bachchans and die, betray the Bachchans and die, or be in the background behind the Bachchans and die.

SARKAR RAJ looks like a some film student's idea of an Indian version of an American classic, that he somehow convinced a highly overqualified cast to star in. It all feels very second-hand - a second-hand story with second-hand direction gets deservedly second-hand performances by actors I've seen do much better.

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