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.