Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sarkar Raj - aur nahi bas, aur nahi

There are some existential questions that people struggle with throughout their lives. Here are a few of them (readers please add)
  1. Why can't airport trolleys move in a straight line?
  2. Why cant you find an ATM when you need it most, when otherwise you keep seeing them everywhere?
  3. Where do all the frogs go for the rest of the year when its not raining?
  4. Having kept a careful eye on milk on the gas for ten full minutes, why does it boil over EXACTLY when you look away for precisely 15 seconds?
And so on.... Now a new question has got added to this enduring list - why can't Ram Gopal Varma resist the temptation of making a sequel ? RGV should consider himself lucky that MAD magazine doesn't bother about Indian movies, else the MAD Sarkar Raj special issue would have been a collector's item. Not to mention that the issue would have been infinitely more engrossing than the movie. Why so? Well, thats simple. Anything would be more engrossing than Sarkar Raj.
To be fair to RGV, the plot is actually good. Very relevant too; smart of him to think of this politico-industrial plot in today's times. But Alas! What could have been a compelling keeps-you-on-edge-of-the-seat movie, this one has become a damp squib.
Fortunately, the second half is tolerable for may reasons. First and foremost, the story actually moves. It helps you to come out of a yawning first half. But wait, you don't actually yawn through the first half, but thats only because of the jarring background score, thanks to Baapi-Tutul. I think they have redefined the term 'background music' - essentially by forgetting that it is supposed to be, well, in the background. There are times when the music score tries to become the lead character in the movie. Other times, the music has nothing to do whatsoever with what's on the screen. And not to forget, there is the constant hammering overdose of Govinda Govinda Govindaaaaaaa. It has been overdone so much that it has completely negated the effect it had in Sarkar. Remember how it was used when Shankar was running for his life through the fishermen's village? Well, this time it is all pervading and loses its impact entirely, becomes a distracting element, in fact. There is another reason for the second half becoming watchable. During the interval, some kind soul skipped the popcorn and coffee and went and told the cameraman to stand steady!! The only way I can describe the camera work in the first half is 'epileptic'. Less said the better. The dialogues are not dialogues really. The characters don't talk as you and I do. All of them, with only one exception. Shankar's new bodyguard - who doesn't have a single line in the movie! The people in Sarkar Raj converse by way of an exchange of 'quotable quotes' that often amounts to a lot of gobbledegook . I need to find out who was the screenplay writer's English grammar teacher in school. She must have been unduly strict with him and must have surely given him punishing homework like "write the sentence in active and passive voice both at least 500 times". I mean, how would you react if you heard two people constantly talking like this?

Raja - So shall we open the lock with this key?
Rani - No, I think you should rather use the key to open the lock.
Raja - Thanks, thats really a good idea.
Rani - No, I think the idea is really good.
Raja - OK, now I have opened the door too.
Rani - Yes, I think the door too has been opened by you.....
It just goes on and on like this.... with the occasional smattering of Govindaaaaaa

In terms of casting, RGV didn't have much choice as many characters are back in their roles after Sarkar. A new one appearing (Somji, Raosaheb's grandson) is a shining example of casting errors. He doesn't look at all like someone hailing from rural Maharashtra. I suspect RGV got carried away in his need to show a Sanjay Gandhi look-alike there because of the character's brash, new generation political identity.

The other new entrant of course is our new bahu on the block, Ms. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan. Her best role so far, surely. Not because she has acted well, but because how beautifully the role matches her persona. You don't need to be a Stanislavsky to know that one has to get under the skin of the character that you are playing. In this case, Ash has had to take no efforts to do the same, simply because how she IS. Throughout the movie she goes around asking completely inane questions. The best one is when she asks Shankar "bomb kisne lagaya"? Aishwarya is well known for the perpetual I-dont-understand-this-so-someone-tell-me-how-the-world-works look on her face. So this movie makes her do what she does well anyway!

Mr. RGV, here are some ideas for making Sarkar Raj better. In any case, you have already left the scope for making Sarkar Part III at the end. (Sarkar thunders, "Pushpa, mujhe Cheekoo chahiye." Camera pans to Ash...."Ek chai lana". What dialogues!) So if you actually decide to torture us any further with yet another sequel, then maybe you could get some inspiration from these ideas.

  1. Just when Shankar and Anita are about to declare their love for each other (when barely some time has passed after his pregnant wife has been blown to smithereens by a bomb, dont forget that!) Pooja appears on the screen. Pooja who? Katrina of course, who dumped Shankar in Part-I and went off to USA. So she appears (out of the lake in the background, so that also gives some scope for special effects) and says to a benumbed Shankar, "main tumhari moorat dil mein liye ab tak tumhara intezaar kar rahi hoon". Then to solve this new love triangle, a dance competition happens between Katrina and Ash. Long live Nasir Hussain and Hum Kisise Kam Nahi !!
  2. At the beginning of Sarkar Part III, Cheekoo's car enters the palatial bungalow and guess how many people step out? You said Two? Wrong . Three ! Cheekoo, Amruta and lo and behold, its Vishnu ! He says to Sarkar, "Shankar ne aapse jhooth bola. Usne mujhe marne ki bajay yahaan se nikal jaane ko kaha tha. Uske dil mein bade bhai ke liye bahut pyaar tha." Just to ensure that Sarkar doesn't miss Shankar much, Vishnu has also grown a beard. This twist would also fulfill the priest's wish mentioned in Sarkar Raj about bringing Vishnu back in some way.
  3. All settle down to live happily ever after, but wait. The story only begins now. Ash orders for a cappuccino (decaf, and no sugar please) for herself and for Sarkar too. Now, that's a clear departure from 'Ek chai laana'. She tells the doyen, "Shankar hamesha chai peeta tha, uski yaadein mujhe bahut sataati hain, isliye main hamesha coffee order karti hoon." Just when Sarkar begins to get dewy-eyed, Amruta appears with tea and proclaims, "baba ki sehat ke liye coffee nahi, chai hi theek hai." Now do you see the immense scope for an epic struggle in the plot? Its not just Coffee vs Tea. It's West vs East. Foreign vs Swades. Adopted daughter vs Bahu. Capitalism vs Socialism. New vs Old........

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