Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ronit Roy, Amit Sadh, Manoj Bajpayee, Jackie Shroff
In Ram Gopal Varma’s inevitable biopic about Ram Gopal Varma, Sarkar 3 will mark a crucial stage of the narrative. It is potentially the dramatic part where the universe conspires to resurrect the broken underdog.
A maverick filmmaker takes the country by storm, he changes the face of Hindi cinema, he loves and is loved by his leading ladies. Deafening Govinda-Govinda chants fill the humid Mumbai air. He is the undisputed king.
And then he discovers Twitter. And a DSLR camera. The downfall is swift; he becomes a parody of himself. He literally forgets how to make films. No stars want to work with him again. He becomes a cynical and bitter man. He offends every important person. Everyone abandons him. We see him in deep introspection from different camera angles: from in between chairs, from behind translucent curtains and golden busts of his favourite actresses, and from the bottom of whiskey glasses.
This is a movie so bad that not even Ram Gopal Varma can use it as a plot point in a story about his own life.
And then, out of nowhere, India’s biggest superstar becomes the paradigm of loyalty. He touches the radioactive filmmaker again long after he had been rendered untouchable. They join forces at his lowest. The Govinda-Govinda chants return. The scenes begin to roll again, somewhere between the background score. The stage is set for a dramatic, Bollywood-breaking comeback. Once the movie is a hit, one by one he will destroy everyone who left his side – some during loud Ganpati Visarjan celebrations and others during their private Marathi readings of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.
If anyone else made this biopic, however, Sarkar 3 would be the breaking point. It’d be the last straw before everyone – including the crew and aspiring film students who still seem to be conceptualizing the shots – is hacked to pieces by an errant film critic who decides to turn the biopic into a B-grade slasher flick instead.
This is a movie so bad that not even Ram Gopal Varma can use it as a plot point in a story about his own life. To its own credit, it is a film that defies critique. Amitabh Bachchan continues to play Maharashtrian ‘politician’ Subhash Nagre, who in turn looks like he is playing a deeply resentful and tired Amitabh Bachchan. Nagre’s good son (Abhishek Bachchan; thankfully reduced to a smiling portrait on the wall) is long dead, and he seems to be wondering what else is still left to explore in a franchise that has been reduced to depicting simplistic politics belonging more to a school playground than the sinister insides of a mafia family. At one point, his loyal aide (Ronit Roy; for once not playing a mean father) urgently enters Nagre’s den and declares, “Sarkar, Shivaji said he is now the tiger of Mumbai. Let’s steal his lollipop.” Maybe the lollipop part isn’t true.
At times, Nagre launches into many of his whispery, seemingly menacing monologues, while the background music tries hard to drown out the awfulness of the actual script. It is intent on not letting the characters recite lines that should not be spoken in any self-respecting crime saga. When Sarkar negotiates with villains, the onus is so much on depicting him from shadowy, geometrically-drugged angles (that brass bulldog as the foreground is more annoying than the hipster toy train in Ki & Ka), and on him spouting layered threats, that I was sure he would fall asleep between sentences or lose his train of thought. Much like the movie he occupies. Or the audience it abuses.
But perhaps the best – and by design, worst – parts of Sarkar 3 accommodate a cameo so cult-worthy that it’d put Feroz Khan’s villain act from Janasheen and Nirmal Pandey’s baddie from One 2 Ka 4 to shame
The point is: everyone wants to kill Sarkar in some grandiose suspenseful-thriller sort of way. Nobody wants to just assassinate the old sod and get done with. Scheming is of utmost B-movie importance. Which brings me to the actor who plays Shivaji, Sarkar’s prodigal grandson – who wants to be an integral part of the sordid empire. Amit Sadh is fast becoming the new-age Vivek Oberoi – he huffs and puffs, breathes fire and chooses the corniest of roles. Here, he has the predetermined gait of an actor who is only trying to fulfill his life-long dream of working with Bachchan and the chap who made Satya. His career will kick the bucket soon if he continues to pursue bucket-list dreams like this one.
Yami Gautam plays a character that isn’t killed, assaulted or beaten up for a change. She is Shivaji’s girlfriend with an ulterior motive: which means she is advised by Varma to look constantly suspicious and cold-blooded, as if some shady director were trying to con her into a disaster headed by an A-lister. Manoj Bajpayee rewinds the clock to his dark Prakash Jha days, playing Sarkar’s cunning adversary in a way that makes you wonder if Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Aks automatically enters his veins as soon as he is confronted by Bachchan (Aarakshan being another infamous example).
But perhaps the best – and by design, worst – parts of Sarkar 3 accommodate a cameo so cult-worthy that it’d put Feroz Khan’s villain act from Janasheen and Nirmal Pandey’s baddie from One 2 Ka 4 to shame. Jackie Shroff plays an amorous don running the show from various artificial water bodies in Dubai. He is accompanied by this absurdly mysterious bikini-clad, well-endowed young girl, whose only purpose is to permanently redefine the essence of the quintessential cinematic bimbo.
She has been told to do something – anything at all – when on screen. Which means she is seen lustily wading around in a one-foot-deep whirlpool while Jackie speaks on the phone, feeding dolphins in an indoor pool while Jackie speaks on the phone, teasing sharks in an indoor aquarium while Jackie speaks on the phone, walking a Chihuahua at the lakefront while Jackie speaks on the phone, choosing a diamond ring in a jewelry store while Jackie speaks on the phone. And so on.
Their eccentric exchanges invoke the playfully campy mood of the post-8PM-Varma twitter rhetoric. Their presence is a whimsical boost to a film so beyond redemption that the noisy slurping from a teacup – a sound apparently signifying power – resembles that of a straw (investors) being sucked dry by bratty kids (Varma) refusing to obey their parents. How’s that for unsubtle metaphors?
It’s time someone locks away Varma in an alcohol-free tower and throws away the key. Though there is a high probability of a micro-camera attached to the key while it purposefully lands in the coffee mug of an adoring assistant director. And the biopic’s end credits will appear over exclusive images of the insides of an empty digestive tract.