Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ram Gopal Varma missed the mark with SARKAR RAJ more than Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl Harbour

Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?I saw two movies yesterday. One was the hillarious political satire, TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE. The other was Hindi director Ram Gopal Varma's Godfather rip-off, SARKAR RAJ. This sequel picks up from 2005's SARKAR, in which real life father and son Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan took on the Vito and Michael Corleone roles. The movie came complete with a Kay Adams like girlfriend; attempted murder on an unguarded father scene; and the sad demise of a Fred0 type brother. In the follow-up we see more of the Godfather key dramatic events reprised, althought the denouement is entirely new and entirely weak.

As the movie opens, Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan) has established himself as goon turned politician, with his westernised son, Shankar, at his side. Shankar is now married to a subservient dutiful wife. (No prizes for guessing what happens to her.) They are trying to push through plans for a new electrical plant, proposed by Aishwarya Rai's ruthless businesswoman, Anita. But they are up against the local vested interests in the form of a hypocritical Gandhian Rao Saab and his agitprop. son Somji, not to mention other corrupt businessmen and politicians.

Violence, arguments, attempted bribery, murder, corruption, plotting - it all rolls on for two and half hours in a loud, over-edited mess and it's not all that interesting. Amar Mohile's bombastic score insults the audience at every turn, illustrating every line reading with a Tom and Jerry like musical narrative. Amit Roy's cinematography is puerile and without effect. He shoots every entrance like a rap video - cameras low to the ground looking up on the diagonal. There's a whole scene of dialogue between Sarkar and Shankar shot up through a glass table top. For what reason? Against such a over-bearing background what hope do the actors have? They all do a tolerable job, I suppose, but frankly, in a movie that calls to mind great performances from the likes of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, what hope do they have of impressing?

Perhaps the only good things I can say about this film are that Ram Gopal Varma resists the urge to chuck in an Aishwarya Rai song and dance number, or indeed to spin a screen romance between real life husband and wife Abhishek and Aishwarya. Moreover, he makes a pretty ballsy plot twist at the end. But frankly, a nice final scene does not atone for 150 minutes of over-blown bilge.

SARKAR RAJ opened this week in the UK, India and the Netherlands.

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