Exclusive by Devansh Patel - Sarkar Raj is One of those sublimely rare movies in which every element–casting, acting, directing, script, cinematography, score–comes together.
It is an incredibly rare occurrence for a sequel to be as good as or better than the original. Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj not only lives up to its predecessor's (Sarkar's) reputation but equals and, in some respects, exceeds it, as Devansh Patel from the Observer series newspapers, London, bring you the first ever review of the film
The first film, Sarkar, concluded as Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) evened up the score in the attempted murder of his father by killing his own brother Vishnu (Kay Kay Menon) and his fellow masterminds Rashid, Selva Mani, Vishram Bhagat and the Swamiji. In this wonderful follow up, Shankar begins working in earnest to fulfill his role as the new Sarkar. But the question is - Will he be successful? The movie starts off with this big question in everyones mind as the film title begins to roll.
It's Subhash Nagre's (Amitabh Bachchan's) 60th birthday where he is seen greeting the public by a short speech which goes something like this - "Har baap yeh umeed mein jeeta hain ki ek din apne bete se uski haar ho. Ab tak maine jo kuch bhi kiya, mere bete ne woh do saal mein kar dikhaya". Sarkar's life is still the same. His most trusted associate Chander (Ravi Kale) is responsible for the security of Sarkar and the day to day proceedings, from Sarkar's black lungi to his tilak to his body-guards, everything is in the same order and nothing has really changed apart from Shankar's clever way of handling the business. But when everything seems to be going fine in a Bollywood film, we know that there are bound to be some baddies hiding behind the bush. So one fine day, Hassan Qazi (Govind Namdeo) and deputy Chief Minister Kanga (Shayaji Shinde) briefly talk about their new plan to get rid of Sarkar and his regime by trying to set up a meeting with a London based business tycoon Anita (Aishwarya Rai) and her father Mike (Victor Banerjee). Both the father and the daughter want to set up a power plant in Maharashtra's Thakarwadi village, which happens to be the same village where Sarkar studied all the tricks of the trade from his guru Rao Saab (Dilip Prabhavalkar) but Hassan Qazi urges them to meet Sarkar because it is his decision which will have the final say whether or not the power plant will be set up. Anita now comes with Hassan Qazi to Mumbai to meet Sarkar only to find out that he isn't happy with her power plant idea as it will ruin the 40,000 houses of the villagers. But Shankar has other plans. He convinces Sarkar by saying Nazdiki nuksaan dekhne se pehle...door ka fayda dekhna chahiye. But the green signal hasn't been given yet because Sarkar believes that he still needs to talk to Rao Saab, his mentor, and take his final call. The verdict was out and both Anita and Shankar get busy in setting up their dream project in Thakarwadi. But wait...the road is not all clear. Come Sanjay Somji (Rajesh Shringapure), the grandson of Rao saab. Short tempered and the one who does not support western influences stands as a wall in front of those who want to build the power plant. He starts provoking the villagers against Shankar and Sarkar. Though Shankar still thinks that it is because of his ignorance that Somji is taking such harsh measures. So while talking to Somji over the phone, Shankar's car explodes. Who dies? Well, it's for you to find out. The 'cannot take no for an answer' Shankar is gutted by the lack of security and soon fires his 20 year old vafadaar Chander and appoints Bala as his new head of security. The question to be asked here is, why does Shankar fire Chander knowing that who planted the bomb in his car. Again...for you to find out. In between all this mishap, the next Indian Idol, Kantilal Vora, not Vohra, (Upyendra Limaye) comes in the picture to set up the same power plant in Gujarat. Then, Somji gets kidnapped, Shankar is out of the project as Kantilal Vora steps in, Chander unites with Shankar again, a surprise killer called Negi enters the scene to kill.....ha ha ...not gonna tell you...the Press conference, Sarkar in hospital because of heart attack, and before we know that Anita and Shankar fall in love...Yes! you heard...something happens!
By the end of all this, you must be ignoring this review and wanting to book your tickets to see this well executed film. Ram Gopal Varma handles a lot of the sequels material very well. As in the earlier film, he reveals himself as a master of mood, atmosphere, and period. And his exposition is inventive and subtle. The film requires the intelligent participation of the viewer; as the Nagres attempts to discover who betrayed them just like in their previous encounters with the baddies. Varma handles the transitions adroitly, keeping the pace consistent enough to limit any sense of jarring or disorientation. Having said that, he has left so much space by the end of the film giving it yet another chance to make the Sarkar trilogy. Mr Varma, you are sure back with a vengeance!
Performances take off from where they left in Sarkar. Abhishek delivers his best after Yuva and Guru and is very good at suggesting the furies and passions that lie just beneath his character's controlled exterior. He gives us a Shankar who took over the family proceedings with the intention of making it "legitimate" in couple of years, but who is drawn more and more deeply into a byzantine web of deceit and betrayal, all papered over with code words like respect, honor, and gratitude. New entrant Anita played by Aishwarya Rai does come in handy and even though she hasn't been used to the extent what RGV should've, she delivers each scene with panache, like her scene with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek in the hospital. But not to forget, it is her character which will always question you - 'What next?'
Tanisha as Shankar's wife fills in the blanks while the other character actors like Chander, Kanga, Vora, Somji, Rao saab and Qazi are used very effectively giving each one of them an equal oppurtunity to showcase their individual talent. What's even more interesting is that RGV has used them in as we say - 'bits n pieces' trying to fix in the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and that grabs your attention. But having said that, I personally and dearly miss the company of Selva Mani, Rashid and Swmaiji. If only they could return as 'Bhoots' in the Sarkar Trilogy. But let me come to the point here. Have I missed someone ? Yes, I have and it's not someone..it's Sarkar. As the saying goes, there can only be one king in the jungle. That's Amitabh Bachchan. For a man who has constantly stuck to one belief 'Mujhe jo sahi lagta hai, main karta hoon' he hardly puts a foot wrong. His hard hitting dialogues reminds you of his roles in Agneepath and Khuda Gawah. Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar's performance is packed with more classic lines than any movie deserves to have and kudos goes to the dialogue writers.
Visually, many of Sarkar Raj scenes have a more gloomy appearance this time around which was vital to the sequel. Especially during the latter portions of the film, the Nagres' are shown in severely underexposed settings, appearing as a silhouette. The crisp editing by Amit Parmar / Nipun Gupta, the haunting background score by Amar Mohile and Director of Photography Amit Roy seems to be the finest in the business. They deserve much more than just awards.
As the beginning of Sarkar Raj echoes the opening of the Nagre family, so too does the end and because of the manner in which circumstances are handled and considering the people involved, the impact here is more forceful. The film has accomplished its poisonous, inevitable designs as RGV punctuates Sarkar Raj with a gut-twisting exclamation point.
Combined, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj represent the apex of Indian movie-making. Sarkar Raj is not so much about crime lords as it is about prices paid in the currency of the soul for decisions made and avoided. It is that quality which establishes this saga as timeless. A rare sequel that surpasses its classic source.
Rating - ****