Sarkar is a film which is obviously a remake of The Godfather, which the director and producer Ram Gopal Varma states right off.
“Sarkar” is a Hindi word directed at someone in authority, so I guess it’s the closest translation available to “godfather.”
Amitab Bachchan plays the title role, often looking like Gandhi and very quiet and thoughtful, a man of few words.
His son Abishek Bachchan plays the role of the Michael Corleone son – the one who doesn’t want to be involved with crime but who is drawn into that world by his love for his father.
There’s an equivalent of Freddy, the weak son who is used by the family’s enemies and has to be killed. For reasons I don’t understand, he’s a film director.
For reasons I don’t understand, there’s no equivalent of Sonny, the strong but wild son who enjoys the life of crime but who gets killed in the middle of the family problems.
For me, the biggest problem is that it — as well as Amitab Bachchan’s character — takes seriously Sarkar’s role as “protector” of the poor, who aren’t helped by the government’s police and criminal justice system.
This was an aspect of The Godfather, but Don Corleone knew he was building a base of support for his criminal operations, not nominating himself for sainthood. Sarkar seems to believe his own propaganda.
Don Corleone never thought his hands were clean. True, he drew the line at dealing drugs, but otherwise he was getting rich catering to the weaknesses of people.
We never see what Sarkar is doing to support his gangs of do-gooders. There’s one reference to union labor, but he’s preventing another gangster from taking a short-term gain at a long-term cost – but the reference is not clear in the English subtitles. And again, we’re never shown what criminal operations Sarkar is running. He’s too busy waving to the crowds around his house.
He’s evidently not as successful as Don Corleone was even in the 1950s. He and his family live in what looks like a fairly middle class house in Mumbai. So he’s above average, but it’s not fancy. Bollywood movies include many much more fancy houses and estates for the wealthy.
One point I found interesting, is that one of the “brains” behind the group who plot to destroy Sarkar is a “swami.” I’m not familiar enough with the basic structure of Hinduism to know how much official standing this gives him, but he certainly looks and dresses like what we think of as a Hindu holy man. But he’s allied with the criminals, though they address him respectfully as “swami-ji.” Sarkar’s son gets him to confess his knowledge of the corruption of the Chief Minister who supported the plotters by making him an offer he can’t refuse, though that phrase isn’t used in the movie.
However, it’s interesting to me that Sarkar is portrayed as more moral and upright than an actual swami. I guess that has a lot more resonance in India than on me. I can’t think of any Hollywood gangster movies where a priest is one of a team of gangsters.
At the end, of course, Sarkar’s son triumphs all the enemies in a swift sequence of deaths, and he’s the one who listens to the pleas of Mumbai’s helpless people.
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