Bal Thackeray: Sarkar Raaj

Entertainment
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Govind Namdeo, Victor Bannerji

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Ram Gopal Varma's right. All his films- at least the good ones-- have a bit of 'Godfather' in them. So does 'Sarkar Raaj'. It also has Bollywood's First Family in full array, accomplishing several things at one go: giving Pa Bachchan a role he fills with conviction, getting Beta B back on screen after a long gap, and re-confirming our deep- rooted suspicion that there's an actress in Bahu B.

The sequel to 'Sarkar' takes the story of Subhash Nagre (Amitabh) forward, with son Shankar (Abhishek) having been anointed his successor. It wastes no time in any re-caps : just one brief scene flashes back to the previous film, where the dead elder son (Kay Kay) is shown. That one laid the ground for why there is an extra-constitutional authority in Mumbai ; here Nagre, who is the thinly-disguised alter-ego of the real-life Thackeray, 'gives permission' to an NRI billionaire (Victor) to set up a power plant in rural Maharashtra. Echoes of Enron are completely intended.

The billionaire's daughter Anita Rajan (Aishwarya) is the pointsperson on the project, and through her hazel eyes we see the 'raaj' of Sarkar : the absolute power he wields over politicians and police and goons, and how his son sets his sights on bigger things. Some of the proceedings are very RGV—the ultra-tight close-ups gobbling up the whole frame, the swelling background score ( not as overwhelming as it usually can get in his films, thanks be), the faces of the bad guys all look very familiar.

But the film does deliver some surprises, and that's why it's much better, and tauter, than the first. The intrigue is sharper. So is the acting . Amitabh, dressed in black kurta-lungi and double rudraksha, is played to his strengths, as is Abhishek, who doesn't have Kay Kay this time around to overshadow him. Best of all, RGV keeps Aishwarya in check, in chic power-suits and chignons, giving her lines which belong to a character, not a star.

'Sarkar Raj' resurrects the reputation of RGV, in tatters after the monstrously bad 'Aag'. And it does a strident Jai Maharashtra number on Bachchan Sr's nay-sayers. Both Amitabh , in his Thackeray avatar ( delicious irony, that) and Abhishek are handed out numerous opportunities to talk about 'vikas' and 'badlaav' and the state. 'UP mein jurm kam hai' is old. The new mantra, loud and clear, is --- 'Maharashtra mein dum hai'. Take that, Raj.

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