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SARKAR RAJ. Director: Ram Gopal Varma. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Govind Namdeo, Sayaji Shinde, Supriya Pathak and Rajesh Shringarpore). Music Director: Bapi-Tutul. Theatrical Release: June 2008.

If you take Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag to exemplify Varma’s standard of filmmaking, then the poor quality of Sarkar Raj is no surprise. But, if you’re like this reviewer, you still harbor a secret hope that Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag was just a big mistake, and that he’s still a talented helmer; especially when you look at RGV’s track record in the “underworld genre” with films such as Satya,Company, and the prequel to this film, Sarkar.

Subhash Nagre (Amitabh Bachchan), or Sarkar, as he is called by his people, is presented with a proposal by business woman Anita Rajan (Rai Bachchan) to build a power plant in a village in the outskirts of Mumbai. Subhash opposes the idea, but his son, Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan), sees this as a dream come true for Maharashtra and convinces his father to back the idea. Shankar and Anita go on to convince the villagers to vote for the approval of the project. While the village headman, Rao Saab (Prabhavalkar) supports this new development, his grandson Sanjay Somji (Shringarpore) riles up the villagers against the Nagres, exposing them as frauds with plans to loot the villagers of their land and rights. Various parties, both political and business, become entangled in the development of this project, and a complicated blood battle ensues.

Sarkar Raj is a disappointment after the original. While Sarkar boasted a riveting, tight script, with twists that constantly heightened the story’s drama and tension, Sarkar Raj is a compilation of uninteresting scenes with slow plot build-up. Strong dramatic moments, such as the scene in which Shankar goes to rouse the village crowds, are poorly picturized. Shankar’s speech is glossed over with a musical montage. The opposing speech by Somji is shown in dialogue, but is poorly written and portrayed with melodramatic histrionics. Rai Bachchan’s character is given too much screen time, and you can’t help but wonder why a business partner would be present in the middle of intense, personal family moments. While most of the movie seems to be about the junior Bachchan taking over the role and duties of “Sarkar,” three-fourths of the way through, it turns back into Amitabh’s story. And perhaps the most disappointing part of the film is when the “twist” at the end is not shown or revealed in action, but told in a 10-minute monologue by Amitabh Bachchan.

Ram Gopal Varma has, unfortunately, disappointed once again. Though the basic story line of Sarkar Raj is interesting, and there is plenty going on at all times, it is poorly written and directed very badly. What the director has not been able to achieve in scenes, he has tried to make up with a loud, blaring background score. One can only hope that RGV is going through a bad slump, hasn’t lost his touch, and will surprise us with his next film.

Antara Bhardwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.