When was the last time Ram Gopal Varma made a half decent film? Nine years back, with the sequel of Sarkar, called Sarkar Raj, which I liked better than the original. After that it’s been a steady slide downhill, with just the odd film that held out a glimmer of the old Ramu.
You go into the third part of Sarkar in the hope that it will resurrect RGV. But that’s not to be. The best that can be said about Sarkar 3 is that it is not as terrible as Not A Love Story, and, no, nowhere as ghastly as Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. That’s small consolation for a film, though, which toplines a heavyweight cast, led by Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpyee, Jackie Shroff, and helmed by a director who redefined both the gangster and horror genre in Indian cinema.
Sarkar 3 reunites us with the eponymous character of Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar, a thinly disguised fictionalized version of Bal Thakeray, which Amitabh Bachchan played first in 2005.
Sarkar, in his flowing black robes, dramatically contrasting white beard, rudraksh beads around the neck, is both respected and feared by his constituency and his enemies: he is not an elected representative, but wields as much if not more power than those who sit in the Mantralaya.
In the third part of the series, the number of foes has risen, and at each step, a new challenger shows up. This includes a thundering Manoj Bajpayee, a crafty Rohini Hattangadi, a madly vamping Jackie Shroff who is to be seen hanging out with a bikini-clad buxom babe for the most part, and other sundries.
The previous editions of Sarkar worked because Bachchan was given worthy opponents, and the semblance of a story. Here, RGV completely dispenses with such things as plot, as he goes about getting his characters to mouth long-winded dialogues minus punch. He also surrounds Bachchan with the earnest young Amit Sadh, who is miscast as Shivaji, the vengeful-grandson-who-would-be-Sarkar. As his faithful lieutenant, Ronit Roy is competent, but familiar. Where’s the novelty?
And just what is Yami Gautam doing in this film, other than displaying heavily kohled eyes, and some stray non-speaking scenes which don’t add up to anything? Of what point is her poorly-sketched bit part?
Bachchan shows signs of the towering actor he can be, but is captive to the way his Sarkar has been conceptualized and played: he declaims rather than speaks. And there are moments where you can see flashes of the director RGV used to be, when he pulled off films full of creative leaps, and crazy flourishes.
Can RGV be restored to factory settings? I hope so.