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Review: Sarkar Raj

Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj is recommended only for those in need of a depression pill. A prayer ceremony in the memory of Brando is also suggested, writes Khalid Mohamed.
Hindustan Times | By Khalid Mohamed
UPDATED ON JUN 07, 2008 02:18 PM IST

Sarkar Raj
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Direction: Ram Gopal Varma
Rating: **

Boom. When someone talks out loud before a portrait of the dead, you know you're in trouble.

Blast. When a young pregnant woman asks the Merc-Benz chauffeur to switch on the AC, you know you're in deep trouble.

Wham blam. When a hired assassin sits wearing woolen gloves in a press conference, you're in deeper trouble.

And when you just don't comprehend Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj, you're in deepest trouble. You need help, you've regressed, you've lost it. How dare you not like it? How depraved are you not to appreciate badly lit cinema? How can you not be entranced by those GIGANTIC close-ups of dentist-deprived goonda gargoyles? Shudder the shudder, they who could scare the pants off Gabbar Singh. Arre o Gabbu..

Look, this is very serious cinema. Varma goes to the Underworld (he always does). The Bachchans are in tow (super-duper-super). And the camera crew shuffles through bungalow interiors, which are so tobacco-nicotine-coloured, that they could raise the hackles of minister Ramadoss. Umm, it's so deja whew. You've seen Sarkar, you've seen The Godfather1 2 and 3. So, how about a new cocktale? Or at least a twist of fresh lemon in the old tequila?

Surely Marlon Brando would boogaloo in his grave to learn that his Indian avatar needs no marbles in his mouth. Bollywood's Brando sounds as if were on Shakespearean stage. So do the others belting out such dramatic aphorisms as Plant ke liye paise chahiye..paise plant ke liye nahin (are we talking botany here?) , "Thought never dies" (ha ha, good one), "Electricity was made to give shocks" (where are you, Sir Benjamin Franklin?) and "Mistakes are not made for the first time, they are made for the last time."

How you hope this is Varma's last mistake. Because there have been enough. Here, he actually ends up glorifying a "power project plant" which is as obvious as stripes are on a zebra. Surely, even cursory research on the net would have indicated that extolling such a plant's 'benefits' is not only politically naïve but irresponsible. And Rebecca Mark, its iron lady, is reconstructed as a crisp Anita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) who's not after money. Wow. Gazillionaire dad Victor Bannerji is.. who by the way, could clearly do with more expensive suits. Strange, these NRIs are, very Yawnron actually.

Okay, so right there in the centre of Ram Gopalanagram, you'll find Nagre Sr (Bachchan sir), Nagre Jr (Bachchan), who are obvious caricatures of a certain political family. Well, well, well. And there's Mum Nagre (Supriya Pathak), a redundant character frying puris. As for the hangers-on, they are either bald psycho, cracko or wacko. A beardo from Gujarat sings, Gapuchi gapuchi gum gum. Bonkers? Quite.

More: Away in the village heartland, there's the Nagre family's benefactor or guru (he sits on a swing), not to forget a young a rabble-rouser (Rajesh Shringharpure, impressive) who makes such powerful speeches and so well too, that his role is suddenly abbreviated. No scene stealing please.

Confession: you've been trying not to snore in this crowded kill-kill-factory. Wake up alarm bells ring when God papa Nagre gets a heart attack at interval point. A samosa or two later, practically everyone kicks the tubs-'n'-buckets (there's a hospital ICU speech too). Towards the finale of this punishing exercise, you're told that it was someone (gasp) else who was responsible for the bloodbath. Project Yawnron is cremated. Gasp. A certain Chickoo is summoned from the fruit market. And gasp no more, the last line of dialogue is, "Get me a cup of tea."

Really, you're willing to gift Varma a lifetime's supply of tea (lopchu, Nilgiri, whatever) if he desists from the next God papa sequel. Of the cast, Amitabh Bachchan is tolerable. He's done it all before including those speechlings about life-is-cruel (how true).

Abhishek Bachchan mistakes inflexibility, a dour gaze and dark business suits for intensity. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, for a tough Rebecca Mark the Shark, sheds too many crocodile tears.

Sarkar Raj is recommended only for those in need of a depression pill. A prayer ceremony in the memory of Brando is also suggested.

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