Varma

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.

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Comments

  • you12  On June 8, 2009 at 1:51 am

    Well thats funny because I end up liking all of the films I watch for the second time. Quantum Of Solace for example. But I guess it also has to do with the fact that because of a small screen I was comfortable with all the fast cutting and jumping.

    I watched Sarkar once and then some scenes here and there on TV afterwards. My opinion has been the same, I don’t think I hated it but it just didn’t deliver anything. Hero worshiping a guy who is clearly not a hero just didn’t cut it.

    I guess what RGV didn’t note about TGF was that it had no tales of morality and justice, but rather it was an all access pass to a very exclusive and intriguing world and people jumped on it.

    If you want crime films, go with Scorsese. Goodfellas, The Departed, Taxi Driver and my favorite Raging Bull.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On June 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm

      # “I guess what RGV didn’t note about TGF …”
      The thing with movies, books – any piece of art really – is that what one takes out of them is subjective. We can interpret them in ways the director probably never intended.

      Godfather has moral ambiguity at its very core. Not every immigrant ends up running mob operations, even “clean” ones like gambling leaving the “dirty” ones – like pimping – to others. And not every one has killing as a day job. This is a very important part of Godfather. The family feuds, treachery and vendetta are simply another part of it. It really is strange – a man with a family of his own has no problems killing other people, but is outraged when the same act visits his home. RGV captured the essence of it all in Satya with Bhiku Mhatre. Compared to him, Sarkar, as the IMDb fellow rightly says, is a Gandhian.

      # “If you want crime films, go with Scorsese…”
      I don’t think I have ever seen any Scorsese film. Never felt attracted to them. One of these days, I probably will.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On June 11, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    any film that features de niro, crazy joe pesci and frankie together is a hit. my best scorsese movie has to be “casino”.

    i just finished downloading all the sopranos seasons. frankie makes a lot of cameos in the sixth season. johny ola shows up in every episode. remember micheal imperoili from goodfellas getting shot in the foot.

    frankly, i stopped watching hollywood movies. the only 2009 movie i saw was terminator salvation. now i wonder why i saw it in the first place. the director happens to be McG, the guy who directed the “charlie’s angels” sequels. chee

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