It is incredibly rare for a sequel to be as good as or better than the original. Ram Gopal Varma's Sarkar Raj not only lives up to its predecessor's reputation but equals and, in some respects, exceeds it, as DEVANSH PATEL reveals in the first review of this film
The first film, Sarkar, concluded as Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) evened up the score for the attempted murder of his father by killing his own brother, Vishnu (Kay Kay Menon), and fellow masterminds Rashid, Selva Mani, Vishram Bhagat and the Swamiji.
In this wonderful follow-up, Shankar begins working in earnest to fulfill his role as the new Sarkar. But the question in everyone's mind, as the titles begin to roll, is: will he be successful?
It's Subhash Nagre's (Amitabh Bachchan) 60th birthday and he is seen greeting the public with a short speech, which goes something like this: "Every father wishes that one day he is defeated by his own son, and that is his victory. It took me several years to achieve what I have today, but my son took it to another level in just two years."
Sarkar's life has not changed. His most trusted associate, Chander (Ravi Kale), is responsible for Sarkar's safety and day-to-day proceedings, from Sarkar's black linen outfit and the red tilak (mark) on his forehead to his bodyguards.
Nothing has really changed apart from Shankar's clever way of handling the business.
But when everything seems to be going fine in a Bollywood film, we know there are bound to be some baddies hiding behind a bush.
One day, Hassan Qazi (Govind Namdeo) and deputy chief minister Kanga (Shayaji Shinde) briefly talk about their new plan to get rid of Sarkar and his regime by trying to set up a meeting with London-based business tycoon Anita (Aishwarya Rai) and her father, Mike (Victor Banerjee).
Father and daughter want to set up a power plant in Maharashtra's Thakarwadi village, which happens to be the same as where Sarkar studied the tricks of the trade with his mentor, Rao Saab (Dilip Prabhavalkar).
Qazi urges them to meet Sarkar because he will have the final say on whether or not the power plant gets built. Sarkar is not happy, though, as the plant will ruin the 40,000 homes of poor villagers.
However, Shankar has other plans and tries to convince Sarkar by telling him: "Before thinking about short-term gains, you should think about long-term losses."
Sarkar wants to consult Saab before making a decision and it is at this point that Saab's grandson, Sanjay Somji (Rajesh Shringapure), arrives on the scene, with his dislike of western influences, and rallies the locals in opposition to the scheme.
Later, while Shankar talks on the phone to Somji, his car explodes. Who dies? Well, I'll leave that for you to find out.
Shankar, concerned by the lack of security, fires the loyal Chander and appoints Billu as his new head of security. But why does Shankar sack him even though he knows who planted the bomb in his car?
While all this drama is unfolding, the next Indian idol, Kantilal Vora (Upyendra Limaye), comes into the picture to set up the same power plant in Gujarat.
Events come thick and fast: Somji is kidnapped; Shankar leaves the project as Vora steps in; Chander is reunited with Shankar; and a surprise killer called Negi enters the fray.
Next there's a press conference, Sarkar winds up in a hospital bed after having a heart attack, and Anita and Shankar fall in love! Or do they?
Director Ram Gopal Varma is a master of mood, atmosphere and period, as shown in earlier work. The film requires some intelligent participation on the part of the viewer too, as the Nagres attempt to discover who betrayed them.
Varma handles the transitions adroitly, keeping the pace consistent enough to limit any sense of jarring or disorientation.
Having said that, he has left so much space that there is plenty of scope to begin work on completing the Sarkar trilogy.
Mr Varma, you are back with a vengeance!
Combined, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj represent the apex of Indian film-making. Sarkar Raj is not so much about crime lords as about prices paid in the currency of the soul for decisions made and avoided.
It is that quality which establishes this saga as timeless - and a rarity, as a sequel that surpasses its classic source.
Rating * * * *