Tuesday, November 08, 2011

#233: Sarkar

To have your first screenplay directed by RGV is itself no mean achievement. And mind you, we are talking here of the RGV of 2004-2005, not yet banal, kitsch or mindless entirely. And then to write your first screenplay as an adaptation of a movie no less than The Godfather must've been outright daunting. But if anything Manish Gupta , the screenwriter of Sarkar comes out flying in all colors. For Sarkar is nothing but a fine film that's extremely well-written. Manish's next three projects with RGV turned out to be D, James and Darna Zaroori Hain but that is something should not be held against the duo.

Sarkar has Amitabh Bachcan playing Subhash, a greying patriarch of Mumbai, a dispenser of justice for masses and in his own words someone who doesn't toe anyone's line. Subhash Nagre is known to adopt extra legal means to have his way around the government and settle disputes but he never indulges in anything harmfully illegal. That distinction is not clearly defined but as an audience Gupta let's us believe that Sarkar is a good man. When Rashid, (played by the supremely menacing Zakir Hussain) a smuggling Don wants to use Subhash Nagre's goodwill to have a shipment delivered to Mumbai, Nagre refuses to partner with him. This greatly upsets his elder son Vishnu (KK) who saw this as a good business opportunity to make a commercial gain. This further strains the relationship between Vishnu and Nagre and very soon we see them both opposed to each other's means. A dinner table scene bringing out the differences in opinion between the two is bathed in searing conflict and makes for a great cinematic moment. Things turn worse when Nagre gets arrested on a false charge and is jailed. It is here that the younger son Shankar (Abhishek Bachcan) steps in to save the family from disgrace as he undertakes his own crusade to prove his father's innocence. Sarkar, the film's anatomy has the heart of a family drama with the mind of an crime thriller and it works on both counts due to the fabulous adaptation of the script.

The dark and looming sense of gloom is back in its hues through the imaginative camerawork of Amit Roy. I would even go as far as saying that this was clearly the last RGV movie that had a visual consistency and a compelling shot composition in nearly its frames. Amitabh leads the cast with a powerful performance and for once Abhishek holds his own with his father and at times even carving a space potentially on par with Amitabh. The climax scene being a case in point. KK as the volatile elder son plays his part to perfection. The other supporting cast of Tanisha, Supriya Pathak and Anupam Kher chip in with strong performances. A lacunae if anything was Katrina's stony presence in the film but then again these were early days of her career.

And finally, a word for the director. Sarkar is indelible proof that RGV at one point was among India's best directors. In terms of filmmaking craft, he combines the best of human emotions and crime in Sarkar and leaves you wanting more by the end of it. That is a rare gift for a filmmaker to have and RGV possessed it right in the palm of his hand. Even today, six years after I first saw the movie, I still stay glued to the TV screen whenever the film plays because it is soaked in brilliance. It might not be as insightful of the grimy Mumbai underworld as Black Friday Company or Satya but it still is every bit as dazzling.

Rating: 7.6/10

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