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Mixed innings from Varma's bat



GOOD IN PATCHES: Sarkar

Sarkar has Ram Gopal Varma play an innings that reminds you of Virender Sehwag. This recklessly yet solidly compiled century has him despatching the ball beyond the boundary at least a dozen times. But, `Sarkar' also has an equal number of loose shots and in some places, it does not even connect!

The first 20 minutes explode on to the screen with raw power as Varma shows us his desi Don Corleone, Subhash Nagre, the all-powerful `Sarkar' much respected by his people.

The first Act of the film is probably it's best. Varma has the best openers. Varma gives us the beautiful details — what his characters are and how they are different from Mario Puzo's and what could be the possible conflict.

Bachchan Sr. is first rate with a controlled performance that banks on Varma's choice of close-ups and assorted shots that bring out his body language and non-verbal communication.

Junior has nothing much to do here. As the younger son Shanker, he plays a different game altogether with his pretty girlfriend Katrina Kaif.

Show stealer

But the guy who steals from the plate right under the veteran's nose is the other son sitting at the table.

Kay Kay who plays Vishnu torches up the frames with his electric presence, silent energy and menacing intensity that could only be matched by Bachchan Sr. in his younger days. The verbal exchange at the dinner table and the tension it packs is a high point! That's a six!

Next over, the baddies surface. And screenwriter Manish Gupta begins to show his weakness.

The villains are probably the weakest link in the film. There's a Telugu-villain talking horrible Tamil and there is the usual bad politician, a former associate of Sarkar and even a Godman.

Gupta makes them look like clowns in a comic book. The conflict in the film is very weak and second rate.

Pitting son against father offers so much more potential... Varma is let down by his scriptwriter Manish Gupta. But the master crafter he is, Varma proves that good direction can rescue the weakest of scripts. He steals the cheeky singles when he employs Gupta's punch lines. And how! But in most parts of the film, the lines are pretty average, the sub-plots are under-developed and the secondary characters poorly etched.

Subdued violence

Also, here there's absolutely no graphic violence. Godfather was like the `baap' of violent movies. Here, the action is very subdued. Not too much imagery as such, just a hint of rawness with use of dumb-bells and sledgehammer to break the monotonous nature of gunshot violence. Though it is his homage to The Godfather, it is not really a remake.

It is only half-adapted from the movie and half-inspired by certain incidents from the Shiv Sena chief's life, but the director smartly steers clear of politics and abstains from giving his don any religious colour.

It is in the second act that the movie goes a little downhill. The sequences of Shankar's (Abhishek Bachchan's) escape and his attempt to save his Dad have the film at its lowest and weakest. Varma at his sketchy worst — the mistimed hook, the off-balanced pull and dropped at slip. Embarrassing.

The background score, though overdone, heightens the tension and is perfect for the mood of the film. It totally works. Another six.

As a result of a messed up middle, the final act when Shankar takes over, starts on a weak footing. But a couple of good scenes and the four-boundaries-in-an-over finale salvage the film to a level of respectability. The last few scenes when Shankar hunts down the enemies of Sarkar have the stamp of the master blaster of Bollywood. Varma reaches his century with a six.

The filmmaker mixes fact and fiction, Corleone and Bal Thackeray, the larger-than-life with the real, slick style and half-baked substance with equal doses of recklessness and brilliance.

Certainly not his best, but definitely watchable.

SUDHISH KAMATH

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