Sarkar: A Review

Ramgopal Varma’s latest movie, based on the underworld, Sarkar, announces at the start that it is a tribute to The Godfather. It kind of set my expectations about the movie: Indianized godfather in the hands of Varma; I was excited.

Sarkar ended up as a patchwork of disjointed, incoherent scenes. The flash, jazz and style do not make up for the lack of a strong, coherent screenplay like Satya. Amithab, as usual, does a great job of portraying the lead role: Sarkar. So does the guy that played the elder son’s role. He is brilliant. Kota Srinivasa Rao enthralls us with his comic-villain role. Abhishek Bachan’s character just does not come through. Despite valiant attempts by the writer and the director, the character just does not establish itself as the cold, calculating, and ruthless Michael Corleone-equivalent. Abhishek Bachan can wow the girls but he is as good an actor as I am an Olympic Gold medallist. He steps into the story with the gorgeous yet deadpan Katrina Kaif (whose dad does not like Sarkar who supposedly runs a parallel government). Katy somewhere along the way dumps Abhishek, as she ‘does not like his family’. I don’t want to compare Al pacino and Abhishek here, but I pray that Al Pacino does not watch this movie. He’d puke to death. Thank god Puzo is dead.
The movie starts with a man seeking the Sarkar’s help. He explains how some rich boy punk had ravaged his daughter and destroyed her life. Sarkar’s chief lieutenant and his boys find the rich boy punk and beat him to pulp. Pretty slick, I should admit; and I liked the chief lieutenant. He looks menacing and ruthless. And he could act well too. The slickness, however, ends here.

I see it in most Indian movies. They all start with a bang and then fizzle out, giving into clichés that typify Bollywood. The day directors and writers pay attention to the cohesiveness of the movie is the day that would redeem Indian cinema; to achieve that we need to embrace ‘method’. By method I mean investing time and money on getting the screenplay air-tight; ensuring that production value is consistent; getting the cast right; getting the musical score right; and finally, making the movie as per the screenplay.
For example, the protagonist’s henchmen carry automatic rifles, even in front of the cops! One can argue that the don would have got them licenses, but hey, you know what I am talking about. Style can never substitute logic. And logic is the glue that makes a movie cohesive.
The movie fails to establish Mumbai city as a character. That would have brought in so much of depth to the movie. When you show the city’s character (for example, a character eating Vada Pav or taking the suburban train.) audience identify with it. When they identify they end up liking your movie. I am positive Varma knows this (not his writer though) but probably got lost as he had too much to chew. Also, there is no back-story for Sarkar. How did he become a don? Where was he from? What made him become a don? Also, can some one tell me how an American return boy that wants to start a ‘consultancy’ in America makes up his mind and becomes a don? Is that really his girl friend? He does not even kiss her for god’s sake. He plays squash with her though. Weird!

Rashid, a bad ass from Dubai, wants to run dope. Sarkar refuses. Rashid gangs up with three other baddies: a swamiji, a clichéd south-Indian character, and a local villain. Also, Sarkar’s eldest son who is always fighting with his dad, is provoked into killing a movie hero that is sleeping with a heroine for who the eldest son has the hots (gasp!). Sarkar throws the elder son out and promises to protect the heroine and that allows the cops to issue a warrant that allows the bad boys to move Sarkar’s son on to their side. A politician called Kurana (played by Anupam Kher; he is on screen for exactly two minutes. He must be in need of cash man) makes statements against Sarkar. Kurana is murdered. Sarkar is arrested on the basis of a statement made by someone that the cops had arrested.
The movie is about how Abhishek takes the reins, saves dad, and becomes Sarkar himself. Stop yawning.

Do you remember the cop that punches Michael Corleone in the Godfather? Yeah, what does Michael do for revenge? He kills the bloody cop and that is a crucial turn in the story. How is that equated in Sarkar? The cop slaps Abhishek. But the conflict is resolved in one line: the CM, upon learning that Sarkar, his buddy, is actually a nice guy, comes home, spots Abhishek and tells him, ‘Good job son. Your pop will be proud of you. And hey, I have dismissed that cop. Bad cop. Very bad’.
Huh? Is that it? Is that how a cold, ruthless don-to-be, would avenge? Isn’t the cop a threat? Varma ji fire the screenwriter and get a real one.

The background score is very noisy and intrusive. What’s with the chant ‘Govinda Govinda’ Yikes! Varma ji remember Ilayaraja’s score in Shiva? As an established player you ought to know that the score is central to your movie’s success.

Conclusion: Buy ear plugs before you watch the movie, or better still stay home and watch TV. It is just a Godfather for dummies all right. And hey after I wrote this, I read the review on rediff. Thank god! For once, someone agrees with me.
update:And I just heard about this. Oh Freak!

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