Throughout much of “Sarkar Raj”, villains who seem to have had too much of “mirchi ka achaar” in the morning make vile cartoonish faces at the camera in a way that even Lambu Atta (Isharat Ali) from “Gunda” would find more than a bit excessive.
And if the exaggerated facial contortions, the “Vora naheen Woraaaa” type inane dialogbaazi, hackneyed proverbs about omelettes and the presence of a mysterious gloved assassin who communicates exclusively using hand gestures is not enough to convince you that these are nasty people with black hearts, the fact that they sit in dimly lit rooms definitely ought to.
However if for some reason you forget that it is The Varma at the helm, worry not. Cause every few minutes, 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.
At which point of time it leaps out for an extreme focus on the protagonist’s face.
Other directorial touches include the background music screeching to a crescendo where perhaps a moment of silence would have added more menace and the thematic ‘Govinda Govinda” mantra, chanted sometimes in the same cadence as “Kabaddi Kabaddi”, that appears so predictably that you pray for Govinda Ahuja to materialize out of nowhere in purple trousers and say “Arreee control Yaar”.
Despite all the above-mentioned heavy-handed directorial flourishes that often make one scream out “Ooh pleeze we get it, we get it !” , “Sarkar Raj” is RGV’s best movie in recent times which is as much a testament to its solid mafia story, its brilliantly twisted last half an hour and one man’s superlative performance as it is to the extremely low expectations one has for the man who, a year ago, gave us “Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag”.
Of course I use the word “mafia” in the loosest sense of the term as it is quite evident that the Amitabh-Abhishek duo, modeled rather transparently on Maharashtra’s first family, are portrayed most sympathetically as extra-constitutional “heroes” whose actions are not guided by greed, money or power (the ignoble intentions are exclusively of the teeth-gnashing villains) but by “usool”, “adarsh” and the selfless urge to leave behind a legacy of development and prosperity for Maharashtra. Needless to say, any other implied motivation for the Sarkar’s actions would have been injurious to Ramu’s health.
Coming back to the movie, “Sarkar Raj” is saved by a command performance from Amitabh Bachchan as the titular Sarkar. He transitions beautifully from regret to anger, from anger to sadness and from vulnerability to strength, often wordlessly and subtly. To his credit, Ramu, for the most part, lets Amitabh take control over his scenes no where more so than in a beautiful sequence where he and the character played by Abhishek Bachchan (Sarkar’s youngest son) try to come to terms with the death of his eldest son (killed in the first movie). As to the other main protagonists, Abhishek cobbles together a competent performance, albeit sometimes intensely grumpy, while Aishwarya is once again pristinely plastic and absolutely unconvincing in her emotional outbursts.
But then again, every little weakness is swamped out by the Big B the moment he enters the frame.
Overexposed over the last six years. True. Repetitive. Perhaps.
But make no mistake.
The Balasaheb of Bollywood can still dominate the screen like no other.
In conclusion, definitely worth a watch despite its glaring shortcomings.