Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Tale of One Too Many Bachchans

I must begin by saying I found the original Sarkar to be highly overrated. Before the vast majority of you reach for your daggers, I will admit it was good. But to try and remake something so epic as The Godfather series would always leave one treading thin waters, even if that someone was Ram Gopal Varma. Once an esteemed storyteller and director known for delivering critically-acclaimed films like Rangeela, Satya and Company, he for some godforsaken reason lost his marbles and, somewhere along the way, the consequences were ghastly: Darling; Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag; Nishabd; and Darna Zaroori Hai. While Sarkar Raj, the follow-up to the overblown Sarkar, is a decent attempt at salvaging a fading director's career, it sadly falls extremely short of what could have been.

If Sanjay Leela Bhansali took the color blue in Saawariya and really ran with it, RGV opts for extreme close-ups and shadowy locales in Sarkar Raj. Unfortunately, that is about all he does - shower the audience with playful camera angles, most of the time giving the filming of his story more importance than the characters, dialogues and actual proceedings.

And so we have the Bachchan family, complete with papa Amitabh, beta Abhishek and bahu Aishwarya, coming together for a confusing and seemingly pointless two hours. There is no need to delve into the plot, as it is widely known and can easily be found on the Internet. Essentially it is a concoction of the mafia, a power plant and some caricaturish politicians, with a few Gandhian morals thrown in. Confused? So was I.

Because we are constantly barraged with faces, an overbearing (and repetitive) background score and a number of those splendid moments where RGV chooses to drown out dialogue for music, it is hard to really follow what is happening in the circus that is the Sarkar household or feel for any of the characters, for that matter. From a film-making perspective, RGV's experimentation with the camera is most welcome. But as was the case with Ajay Devgan's directorial debut U, Me Aur Hum, after a while you really have had enough.

The best scenes are often those that draw on the original, such as Amitabh and Abhishek's discussions on Kay Kay Menon's death in the first film (the latter played Amitabh's elder son in the first installment, whom Abhishek himself had to shoot down). Other than that, the climax may come as a surprise, but then the last couple of reels lack any real power.

The worst of the scenes are those in which the tears shed, and RGV opts for the Amitabh Bachchan show, complete with the Yashraj sitar booming alongside his heavy words. Why RGV thought it necessary to transport us to the world of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Mohabbatein is beyond anyone's guess. Isn't this the crime world we're talking about? Surely this is no place for the old headmaster of Gurukul...

Nonetheless, Amitabh of course performs with conviction. He is softer (for the most part) and really takes over in the last half hour or so. Still, one was hoping RGV would have in this case stuck with The Godfather theme and shifted the focus more on Abhishek.

Although it could be that this was made impossible by Abhishek's obvious boredom from start to finish. For any emphasis to occur on his character, the man would have to first actually speak, but God forbid he was made to utter more than a 'no' here and a threat there. Bachchan Jr. can act. He proved so in Yuva and excelled in those affable, Bunty Aur Babli sort of roles. But here, the man simply looks uninterested. He sleepwalks through his role, relying heavily on piercing the camera with his eyes, but let's face it...he is not his father, and it takes a little more than that to garner the audience's empathy.

His wife, on the other hand, is tolerable from an acting standpoint, yet suffers from the most poor character sketch of them all. When she first appears in the film, Aishwarya is depicted as a tough, unyielding sort of businesswoman who has every intention to get what she wants. Cut to all of two scenes later, and she is a teary-eyed lass who falls for the junior Sarkar and suddenly seems to be present in his house, morning, day and night, sitting in on his conversations with senior Sarkar, casually batting her eyelids without so much as two lines. It almost becomes evident that she is there for the sake of being Abhishek's real-life partner, although Mr. RGV would have done well to note that of the pair's five films together, only Guru sent some ripples through the box office.

The rest of the supporting cast comes and goes. Tanisha Mukherjee should very well quit the film industry or take some fast acting tips from sister Kajol. She doesn't really do anything wrong in the film, but at the same time she lacks any screen presence whatsoever (and we all saw in Neal n' Nikki what happens when the girl does try to act).

Verdict? It may be worth the DVD rental, given it is slightly better than the larger amounts of garbage out there at the moment. On the other hand, do we not see enough of the Bachchan trio in the press as it is? You may just want to revisit the old Sarkar or - even better - the old RGV, i.e. the films mentioned at the start of this review.


Nicki said...

All I have to say is you're so descriptive in your reviews. :)

Sana said...

Yea, spot on again.
He got a little carried away with those annoying camera angles and lighting. It was cool for like, 2 minutes.
And that stupid "Govinda Govinda Govindaaaaaaaa" background song?! How frustrating! They didn't use it as much as they did in the first movie.
I was disappointed in this movie. It was just cheesefest seeing all three of them. They might as well had thrown Jaya into the mix.