wogma rating: Watch, but no rush (?)
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.Read more
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.
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
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 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
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 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
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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.
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.