Sarkar Raj–the Review

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.

51 thoughts on “Sarkar Raj–the Review

  1. Is Aishwariya going to be the next “Sarkar” in the sequel to this one?

  2. Thanks Arnab, for another Ipod. This one for my grandmother.
    Thanks for shipping it so quickly 🙂

  3. “…as it is to the extremely low expectations one has for the man who, a year ago, gave us “Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag”. Spot on!! RGV now seems to do RGV impressions when directing. I haven’t seen Sarkar Raj but the original started so well and ended so badly that it was a bigger disappointment than a film you expect to be bad from the start. Where is the man who gave us Company, Darna Mana Hain and Rangeela?

  4. I haven’t seen Sarkar Raj yet, so one question? Is it going down the Godfather Trilogy path?

  5. Arnab, if you watched SR closely you would have observed the mood setting that RGV has tried to achieve here, somewhat like that underprivileged “Naach” a few years ago. Yes, the corpulent shadows and the violent music pieces undid the setting a lil bit but this guy has moved on to higher ground with this when the thriller format takes over from the gangster-politics movie..we are surprised a any other as the quick rythm in the last climax matches the mis en place built up through the second half. Also, for a long time, after Company, he has put in these many dialogues..probably just to hoodwink the viewer into a false empathy..Yes, I hesitate but say that RGV does not lead the viewer but goes Hitchcockian in trying to hoodwink the viewer at every turn..this is deliberate but interesting film RGV to again show the way!!

  6. Sometimes I can never tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic. So is your recommendation sincere or not?

  7. GB,
    Completely agree. Given ‘Aag’, ‘Sarkar Raj’ is as good as it can get today from RGV. It appears as though we are in the minority, people went in expecting Sarkar (which I didn’t think was the most awesome movie on the planet anyway). The best thing he did was let the ABs recapitulate their father-son dynamic on screen. That alone is worth the watch.

  8. Hmm…this one’s consistently getting good reviews. I guess Ramu should stick to gangster movies (I assume this movie would fit that genre too). That seems to be his core competence. Re: Amitabh, I agree. But the over-exposure is getting to me.

  9. I liked Sarkar, and from what I read here I hope I will like Sarkar Raj too, lot of the credit going to the Big B. But I hope I dont have to visit the ENT specialist after 2 hours of the screeching “govinda” theme. Another question, can Ash Ever be a good actor, ever? She is always so plastic, invariably.

  10. Arnab, it’s a credit to your review that you’ve made me want to see an Amitabh film made in the last few years. I, who saw every film Amitabh made in the 1970s over and over again, where even in the trashiest Manmohan Desai ensemble films, his charisma used to shine through.

    Not the best actor in Hindi films by far (too many contenders for that spot, including Naseer, Om, Pankaj Kapoor, Dilip and Motilal among the old-timers), but someone who’s defined Hindi films for me.

  11. Watched this last night. I cannot recommend this to anyone. It looked like the direction was outsourced. The ultimate villain is predictable as nobody else is left. The violence is muted, perhaps to get a wider rating. Abhishek’s character is not painted properly and viewer is confused as to what exactly is one supposed to feel about him. Aishwarya finds her way to all the family inside meetings somehow in spite of being an outsider and one wonders if it was a part of the deal “We will do the sequel but you have to give my bahoo a role and good screen time.” “Ho jayega Sir.”

    Finally, I cannot believe this comes from the same director who gave us Satya. RGV is bollywood’s Kaif. Nobody can forget Natwest innings/Satya and we keep giving them chances.

  12. You’ve hit the nail on the head about the ‘facial expressions’.. Over-acting .. Or perhaps, over-directing!

  13. @nikhil….agree with ur comments totally..”Ho jayega Sir.”…this sums it up….

  14. What next? Jaya Bachan as Ash’s mother or something on similar lines? I mean why should she miss out on this family orgy.

    I went expecting a good movie but instead found out that it was the beaten to death blach vs white movie. Does bollywood even know there is something called gray. The plot has more holes than Jerry’s cheese and the less said about the ending with the ‘Chai’ scene, the better.

  15. Perfect review for the movie…has its weakpoints..none less than the “villians”…who look straight out of some comic show…but then watch it for the baap & beta bachhan…there are quite a few sequences with just these two in the frame and each of these is worth the money…the emphasis on one liners is really interesting and leaves a lasting impression like the junior’s reply to his father’s advice..”Sab kuch niji hai”

  16. Kahaan Shiva/Satya/Company aur kahaan ye …. I miss the old RGV.

  17. Hey Arnab,

    Good review. Heard that Aamir, released last week, is a very different film, with great direction, story and acting.

    Might be worth reviewing.

  18. I was expecting another flop from RGV but this one is definitely the best in recent times. I wonder what has gotten into RGV for last couple of years 🙂

  19. “Ek chaye dena………organic, no sugar and herb infused”

    Give me a break.

  20. Rishi,

    Aishwarya is going to be the main protagonist in the sequel, called “Sarkarni, The GodMother”. 🙂

    Can you split your ipod with me? I think you’ve received quite a few ipods from Arnab da, until now. 🙂


  21. Good movie, would definitely recommend to watch once. I have few comments on your review though. First of all I enjoyed reading it and your choice of words made me laugh “Arreee control Yaar”. ( in my office cube). I agree that the villains were not good and a bit caricatured. Amitabh was Good but not great as you mentioned may be gets all the accolades because of the way we adulate him. To me the stand out performance was from Abhishek never liked his acting and the way he emotes before but this one was outstanding and he never went overboard. Aishwarya was not bad too and suited the role well and was looking gorgeous. I think she has definitely improved and needs a break from all the critics.

  22. Aamir is a better bet, ANYday!

  23. last_commentator June 10, 2008 — 3:27 am

    Amazed to see some comments here as ‘RGV is one-film wonder’. As if there are many-films stalwarts like Karan Johar, Farah, Chopra, Sanjay Gupta, Bhat etc etc who make best of the best movies in Bollywood.

    In spite of Govinda chanting (though I think it was more in the first film) and Ms Rai’s plastic expressions, RGV along with very few directors are the best Bollywood got today.

    I would rather watch RGV’s obscure camera angles rather than commercial crap the above stalwarts churn out every month.

  24. very very tame review, greatbong. disappointing review for a disappointing movie (and not because you did not trash it). it seemed you had outsourced the writing to someone else.

    AB senior is loosing it (refer: bhoothnath, bhagban and a lot of other trashy movies). AB junior never had it. ARB is a plastic doll. where’s JB – let’s check her out as well.

  25. Someone gave Ramu a free hydraulic crane…nothing else could justify the camera angles

    Movie sucks big time 😦

  26. My Laptop spent the whole night to download the movie(with very bad seeders over the torrent). Now I feel I should not have given the Laptop the torture!

  27. ur review is so sad….u better watch tashan again

  28. i said tashan coz ur aukad is not to review sarkar raj….kudos for ur help in making me not watch the film………but i thankfully watched it before ur stinker writing…

    its a dark n intelligent movie about politicalised relationships in todays day to day life….this movie defines ur review…i.e. Sab Kuch Nijji Hai…Every thing is personal….n u got a lot personal over here about ur hatred to RGV….so u r double sick

  29. @vj:

    Either you don’t comprehend English or you have read just the first few lines. Arnab has actually recommended the movie at the end, saying, in effect, that on the balance, it is a good movie! And there you go ranting away to glory…tch tch.

    For the record, I disagree with Arnab. I thought the film was gimmicky, hokey and filled of unnecessary touches, with RGV finally getting Amitabh to do a verbal explanation (a la Holmes/Poirot) to tie up the many loose threads. Ash was worse then useless, she was unused. Abhishek has one angry expression. Actually the only bright spot was Rajesh Sringarpure, playing the rabble rouser, Somji.

    I am looking forward to watching Aamir.

  30. Did you read Rgv’s blog ? He is replying to critics and asking them questions.
    For fun, I would imagine these questions asked by him.
    1. Greatbong, who said you are great ? Have you directed a single movie to criticize my movie ? Just seeing Gunda over 100times does not entitle you to be reviewer.
    2. Lambu Atta (Isharat Ali) from “Gunda” would find more than a bit excessive.
    What proof do you have to say that ? Do you know Lambu Atta ?
    3. The Varma
    Whom are you talking about here ? My name is Ram Gopal Varma. I call msyelf Rgv. You can not use “The” before name.
    4. while Aishwarya is once again pristinely plastic and absolutely unconvincing in her emotional outbursts.

    What do you mean ? She was Miss World. Plastics are not given Miss World titles. She was very convincing for me in emotional resembled exactly the same in her real life when she was being troubled by a certain Khan and a certain Oberoi.She is the best actress I could get for that role (and considering that there are Bachchans in the movie). After all my decision is best, who are you to question her convincing abilities ?

  31. I had the privilege of watching this movie early this week. I can’t believe this is the same man who has given us ‘Company’. I have put myself thru ‘Aag’ as well and SR is a definite improvement on that. I loved tht scene with the Sr and Jr AB talking abt Vishnu. Wot body language and shot very well. Ending was completely c***ya and here I refer to the last 2 minutes of the film with Ash at the helm! :O

  32. Nice review. by the way Is ramesh mishra your pen name? or is someone plagiarizing your stuff? Found your review pasted on the Ram Gopal Verma blog comments. so just curious!
    I watched the movie yesterday, ok movie worth a watch except for the extreme close ups

  33. Interesting review. Saw the movie yesterday and since I´m no big fan of the Bachchans(Aishwariya included) I did not really care too much for it.
    Btw some joker has pasted your review all over the place on RGVs blogs in the comment section.

  34. suraj...truck driver suraj June 14, 2008 — 7:51 pm

    who the hell is this ramesh mishra…. plagiarizing your stuff….

  35. It’s good to know that Big B has got a good role. Yes, he has done some awful roles lately.

  36. Saw Sarkar Raj yesterday. I find it a good movie. I enjoyed the penultimate scene of Amitabh narrating story to Aishwarya a lot. Thankfully RGV didn’t used flashback for that and let one person talk and other listen and emote. Really a very well picturised scene.

    But somehow I would have liked the movie to end at that only with bad triumphing over good ala “Usual Suspects”. That would really have made it a memorable film.

  37. yaar dimaag ka shot ho gaya ye picture dekh ke.
    bad music, horrible baddies, what was ash doing in all the scenes?
    my most depressing couple of hours in a really long time.

  38. The next movie will be called Sarkar Swaraj. It will add Jaya Bachchan to the mix as a Sushma swaraj clone. And Aishwaraya will come back as a Robot-she is best suited to the role….

  39. Improvement on Aag – thats the most I can say!

  40. Dear Greatbong,

    After reading ur review I decided to watch it cos ur not exactly the Taran Adarsh type of reviewer…..

    But to be frank with u, it wasnt that good….and thats from someone who is a big fan of parallel government movies…

    Anyone whose seen Godfather would expect the car bomb scene at that point in the movie.

    By the way, did u know that in the original Godafther II script they wanted to make Clemenza the traitor and not Freddo…but that was scrapped cos payment issues with Richard Castellano

    I guess RGV said…”What Coppolla couldnt do, I will!!!!’…

    I dont want to boast..but before the first half of Sarkar raaj, I knew who the real game player was…..cos RGV still hasnt been able to do somethig Coppolla could…convincingly fool a viewer….ala Barzini or Freddo…..

    This movie still doesnt do justice to the guy who gave us “Company” which was original,sharp and extremely well-written and executed…

    Anyways, keep up the reviews(esp. the sarcastic ones)…..have to be careful from now on…

  41. “Govinda Ahuja to materialize out of nowhere in purple trousers and say “Arreee control Yaar”.”

  42. GB

    RGV has written recently written a dedicated post on the making of RGV ki Aag. Thought you may enjoy it 🙂!5187B91811914FB4!1234.entry

    BTW I think that SR was a much better film then Sarkar

  43. In this also there is no GOVINDA

  44. I just read the review today (by which time its already become irrelevant) …. But a great review again – LOL @ “kabbadi kabbadi” …. you really do have a knack of noticing small things!

  45. is it just me????

    The most interesting part for me was, “Ek chai dena” by Aish at the end… when everything started like a flashback, just like Amitabh was xplaining it to Aishwarya, but even better…

    Is it just me who thinks that Aish was the main villain dressed a in subtle new upcoming businesswoman suit?

    How is it that so many viewers just booted out the fact that this movie was eventually about Aish trying to get rid of her father and take charge of the business… of course.. hence all the drama and tears and falling in love with Abhisek… and of course … she wouldn’t go too far bcoz she knew, he was going to be killed…

    what a well executed plan and what a movie… it was much fun… Thanks RGV…

  46. Ramu has gone mad even after his previous Sarkar Raj which bombed in the box office

  47. 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.

  48. Good review. Inspite of all the RGVisms and Aishwarya’s uneven acting, I enjoyed the movie. I liked the way it took off from where the original had left off. The big sarkar is almost sent off to retirement, only to shock us with a genuine twist and bring him back. You are right about Amitabh’s acting (in the second half).

    “The most interesting part for me was, “Ek chai dena” by Aish at the end… ”

    Completely agree. It definitely implied that Aishwarya’s character had an agenda of her own all along.

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