Ram Gopal Varma's "Sarkar Raj" is a dark, intense but finally underwritten "King Lear" riff whose strongest card is the screen clout of Bollywood's de facto royal family, the Bachchans, in the lead roles.

Playing almost like a moral footnote rather than a full narrative sequel to 2005’s “Godfather”-like “Sarkar,” Ram Gopal Varma’s “Sarkar Raj” is a dark, intense but finally underwritten “King Lear” riff whose strongest card is the screen clout of Bollywood’s de facto royal family, the Bachchans, in the lead roles. This tale of the power struggle around a planned power plant in rural Maharashtra state performed well on June release.

Repping a multinational corporation behind the $2 billion project, power-dressed exec Anita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) pays a visit to veteran power broker Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan) — “a gangster in the guise of a leader” — to gain his support in evacuating 40,000 villagers from the proposed site. Sarkar, 60, who’s just anointed his son, Shankar (Abhishek Bachchan), as his successor, is eventually persuaded the plant is good for the region, but he, too, must convince local leader Rao (Dilip Prabhawalkar) to prevent an outbreak of gang warfare. Impressively lensed in ochreish chiaroscuro, with a portentous score, the pic flirts with the issues, but its dialogue lacks weight, and part two seems padded. As with several Varma pics, there are no musical numbers.

Sarkar Raj

India

Production

An Adlabs presentation of a Z Picture Co., K Sera Sera production. (International sales: Eros Intl., London.) Produced by Praveen Nischol, Ram Gopal Varma. Directed by Ram Gopal Varma. Screenplay, Prashant Pandey; story, Varma.

Crew

Camera (Fujicolor, widescreen), Amit Roy; editors, Nipun Gupta, Amit Parmar; music, Amar Mohile; music directors, Bappi-Tutul [cq]; art director, Sunil Nigvekar; costume designer, Urmila Motwani. Reviewed at PiFan Film Festival (Off the Fantastic), Bucheon, South Korea, July 24, 2008. Hindi dialogue. Running time: 125 MIN. (I: 58 MIN.; 67 MIN.)

With

Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Dilip Prabhawalkar, Tanisha, Govind Namdeo, Rajesh Shringarpore, Victor Banerjee, Sayaji Shinde, Ravi Kale, Supriya Pathak.

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