Someone told me recently that Sarkar began with a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche. I had watched the film once before, in ’05, and didn’t remember any such thing. But I was curious, and decided to see if that was the case. The quote wasn’t there, RGV’s “tribute” to “The Godfather” (ambiguous – he doesn’t specify if its Puzo or Coppola who is being tributed, though the “directors” part makes Coppola more likely) was, however, and I ended up watching the film in its entirety. I didn’t think it was a great film when I saw it for the first time, and the second viewing only went on to confirm my opinion.
I don’t have much to say on the subject (which means I will write three paragraphs on it) except that while the actors were great – Zakir Hussain and Kay Kay in particular – the story wasn’t coherent, and neither was Sarkar’s character that of a “powerful” man. Bachchan has a couple of nice dialogues, and lends his screen presence and baritone to the character, but the film’s “soul” was missing. The Godfather is a masterpiece that will probably never be rivaled, but the other Indian “inspiration,” Nayagan by Maniratnam, a director who tackles controversial subjects in a relatively safe manner (except when he set the Indian flag on fire for Roja), did feature a power-packed performance from Kamal Haasan even when the character was portrayed as “good.” A comment from IMDb forums-
Sarkar is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. There is something wrong with people who think it’s better than Godfather. Turning The Godfather into Gandhi was just stupid…
Can’t have a bleeding heart as the “shehar ka sabse bada goonda,” as one character calls Sarkar. If you do, you have to make people empathize with him, like Ratnam did for Velu. I rooted for Velu, I could barely feel anything for Sarkar.
Varma is known to say different things about the same subject at different times. And this is what he writes about his film on the dvd-
Contrary to media speculation, the title character is not an underworld don rather he is a man who has rewritten the law. He has risen with time and circumstance to wield unchecked and autocratic authority over the people living in a so-called democratic form of governance.
By nature, he possess the ability, the charisma, the intelligence and the Machiavellian cunning to control the working of the city, in all its various aspects. He even dispenses justice when the common man cannot obtain it from the law keepers – the government, the police and the judiciary.
“Sarkar” is a volatile film dealing with crime, greed, love, family relationships and retribution.
While acknowledging my lifelong debt to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather,” this is my extremely personal and original take on the Mario Puzo novel which continues to have a universal resonance.
Finally, I would state that “Satya” and “Company” were just preparatory blue prints for the film “Sarkar.” With this film, I hope that my trilogy on crime and punishment; within the reality of our country, our city and our neighborhood; has come a full circle.
Book-to-film is a very tricky task, and Coppola and Puzo managed to bring the book to life (Coppola seems to have this knack – leaving out non-essentials. Try his adaptation of Grisham’s excellent “The Rainmaker,” after reading the book). To compress The Godfather, or parts of it, into a two hour film is a crazy idea to begin with. To call it the end of a trilogy that actually begins with something like Satya is heresy.
On Varma, I haven’t seen any of his films after Sarkar. Raat was terrifying, Kaun and Bhoot were spooky, Rangeela was enjoyable, and Satya is a masterpiece. Company, I haven’t managed a complete viewing, yet. I am still waiting for something like Satya from him, but I now suspect that its not going to happen. That both he and Kashyap have talked about the aimless way in which Satya was made – they didn’t have a bound script, and Satya’s character wasn’t well defined – makes Satya an unintentional masterpiece, and probably Varma’s last one.