Saturday, October 22, 2005

justice meted out in dainty teacups: Sarkar

The Godfather is a powerful and compelling movie because of the characters' internal conflicts and pain. That said, I'm not a fan of violence or revenge or above/under-the-law "justice." While it's quite possible that the subtitles didn't convey the full force of the dialogue, I had very little sense of what was driving this story. Who is Sarkar and why? What are the nuances of his philosophy? And why does he have such abysmal security outside his house? "Hello, friendly crowds! I'm certainly glad you want to greet and wave to me, the most powerful gangster in Mumbai! It's a good thing I am a wide-open target right here, with nothing but my garden between you and me! I certainly should not build a carport or underground garage."

But the main problem with this movie for me was that it just didn't have enough oomph. The thing I love the very most about Bollywood is that stories and motivations are whole-hearted, but Sarkar really lacked this kind of commitment to being a real homage to or retelling of The Godfather - or for that matter, to being another, different story. For example, contrast the heartbreak moment of The Godfather when Michael closes the door on Kay with Shankar quite easily letting go of what's-her-name who doesn't like his dad only to fall equally easily into the arms of the other what's-her-name who does (strong female characters being a big lack in this film). There was no emotion in this at all. I don't think it was Abhishek's fault, either. There wasn't anything for him to express.

Also, no singing and no dancing, not even in the minor "movie within a movie" plot.

So all in all, a movie that has none of the things I look to Bollywood for. But I still enjoyed going, being in a big classroom auditorium with other people who wanted to see it, other people who laughed when I did, and I can't wait for the next showing (this was put on by the Indian Student Association).

What is with the "Govinda" chant? From my post-movie research, I have learned that this god can revive dead cows and cowherds. I must need to dig deeper because I don't get how that fits with the movie. If Shankar had actually been dead, that would make sense. But he wasn't. He was running through stagnant water and hiding in taxis. Or is it a plea to revive the slumbering don within him? Hmmm. Anyway, that was some spooky music, although it was used too much for my liking.

Aside to all camera staff and camera-related decision-makers: really nifty camera angles and set-up of shots. You stole the show.

Aside to writers: Sonny and Fredo are two different people.

Second aside to writers: excellent sleep-with-the-fishes scene. That made me catch my breath, thinking how awful it would be.

Third aside to writers: excellent use of Hindu pantheon. I'm pretty new at identifying deities, but even I caught Vishnu, Durga, and, of course, Govinda Govinda Govindaaaaaaaaaaa.

6 comments:

ads said...

I haven't seen Sarkar yet, so I have no constructive comments to offer. I just wanted to say that I haven't forgotten about the embarrassing crushes list, and am working on it. (Haloscan keeps eating my comments over on your other blog.)

Beth said...

You totally don't need to run out and see it. I mean, far be it from me to tell someone to avoid Bollywood, as I will watch anything Bollywood, as evidenced by...well, Sarkar. Abhishek gets in some good glaring and thoughtful faces, if that kind of thing appeals to you.

So sorry about the devoured comments! I will try to fix that! The crush list is not to be rushed - it's really hard. I will enjoy yours whenever you are ready to reveal it.

Jazzpreet said...

Just found you blog randomly. I've seen sarkar, and I dont think that govinda thing is very significant, its just there to kinda set the mood and maybe show that Abhishek and Amitabh are on the virtuous side.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps to feel the full force of a movie like Sarkar, you need to have seen India. You'll be surprised to see that the biggest gangster here would not have a cathedral-fort-like home as was the case in [i]The Godfather[/i]. You'll also see the crowds outside any eminent politician's house- equivalent to that of a gangster- will be more than those shown in the movie. The movie, actually, has another source of inspiration, however much Mr. Verma would like to deny that. Bal Thackeray. Look him up in Google.

I completely understand why you guys like Bollywood- escapism and stuff. But speaking like someone's who has grown up in India, Sarkar is one of our better films, eons better than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (which btw I have seen thousands of time and now I wonder why :)).

Happy movies.

Beth said...

Hey, thanks for the comments! I'm sure you're right. I am trying to go to India this summer so we'll see.

I can also appreciate your take on KKHH. After all, I generally like the smaller-scale, less shiny US films better than Hollywood stuff, so that's only fair. For me, though, the most enjoyable thing about Bollywood (and I have seen only one non-Hindi film) is the wholeheartedness of it - the characters, the songs, the sets, the motivation, the sad and the happy. I like that so much of it comes across as so earnest, whereas Hollywood often just seems...shallow and smirking. It's as though they know they are churning out crap and sort of try to joke about it, but then just continue doing it. Whereas Bollywood strikes me as just being happy to be what it is, embracing it, and inviting the viewer to do so as well. I don't know. I'm no student of film in any formal way, but I do know that watching BW makes me really happy and that it has helped me becomes less snarky and less sarcastic, more able to just enjoy things and not to worry about whether they make sense.

Anonymous said...

That is the beauty of it. Bollywood is not happy with what it is. Our internal "experts" are always comparing Bollywood with Hollywood. Perhaps you may be happy with our films but we sure aren't. What is the saddest part is that we still want an Oscar after all the good work's been done. And I completely agree with you here. We should be happy with what we are.

Believe me, watching Bollywood movies hasn't made me less snarky and sarcastic. And hope you come visit us. It will be an experience, good or bad.