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This one falls short of expectations film reviews

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ONLY IN MOMENTS: The Bachchans, Abhishek and Amitabh, in a scene from ‘Sarkar Raj’.
ONLY IN MOMENTS: The Bachchans, Abhishek and Amitabh, in a scene from ‘Sarkar Raj’.

Sarkar Raj (Hindi)

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Our dream merchants are not renowned for tackling politico-business dramas. But doing exactly that is Ram Gopal Varma, the man given to ways so foolhardy and suicidal that he attempted to improve upon “Sholay” last year. Now he attempts to impart a new sheen, a new soul to his very own “Sarkar”, one that worked wonders largely because of Amitabh Bachchan’s ability to make every line on his face speak. The sequel arrives, riding on the first reunion of the Bachchan trio since Aishwarya Rai decided to add Bachchan to her name. There is interest, there is curiosity. And there is a feel good factor post-“Sarkar”. All that, however, is not sufficient to rescue Varma’s latest. It is a movie that lives in moments, and dies in a couple of hours. As long as you are inside the hall, there are times when Varma gives us glimpses of what made him what he is: an intrepid filmmaker with a vision and a technique of his own. His identifiable camera angles, the interplay of light and shadow, the close cropped visage shots. They are all there. You expect that from Varma. And there are no surprises either in Amar Mohile’s background score that works to a crescendo as the guys head towards a confrontation. The absence of an item number is a surprise though, a mildly pleasing one all the same.

Oh, by the way, there are no surprises in the story which is closely based on the life of a Mumbai politician who has never occupied an office of responsibility but continues to be an authority in his own way. This time we have Bachchan Senior as Sarkar with the trademark rudraksha, the spotless white kurta-pyjama and ponderous movement to go with few, very few words. He is an aged figure, whose throne is virtually being run by his son, Bachchan Junior as Shankar. He is a man who believes in action, and does not brook no for a reply. There is a confrontation boiling with a new mega power plant project mooted by Anita, a CEO of a multinational power corporation.

Does Aishwarya’s character fill in the gap with a certain Enron project not long ago? Here, the project will help Maharashtra but uproot some 40,000 people. Shankar looks at the larger picture in the long run. Sarkar initially only at the immediate. There is plenty of scope for Varma to dwell on, and build a story. Not to be.

The initial confrontation is over as soon as it begins as Varma decides to throw in other characters to give greater resemblance to the real life power drama in Maharashtra. There is a rabble rousing young man in spectacles, deliberately given a smaller role. The similarity with a Mumbai politician in news is too hard to ignore.

How the project goes out of the hand of the senior pro and he ends up losing his family members and clout make for an interesting storyline. The trouble is, there is not enough punch, the grip loosens every now and then. The dialogues fall flat. And there is too much focus on the characters rather than the larger story. And for a large part, it seems like a showcase for the politician’s family to tell the world why it did what it did.

That is also the time that we get the less than pleasant surprises. The punch that is the hallmark of Varma’s films is missing. The searing intensity in the original is missing. And the occasional light moment falls flat simply because the characters entrusted with the job seem to have other things on their mind. The film has a dark feel which does not get compensated with enough shots of sunshine or day-time. The camera is an intrusive companion at times and you, at times, long to get the complete picture rather than merely looking at a grumpy Abhishek or teary eyed Aishwarya.

Sorry, “Sarkar Raj” is unlikely to rule either at the box office or tug at your heart strings. This one, while not lacking in moments of delight, does not quite live up to the expectations. Big B and Aishwarya do their bit. Both have few dialogues but manage to convey a fair bit. Abhishek is a bit of disappointment with his rehearsed ways. Much like the film.

Ziya us Salam

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