A saddened and forlorn father visits a powerful man. He is asking for justice. His daughter had been raped. Instead of receiving justice in the courts, his daughter had been painted as a woman of loose morals. Case dismissed. This daughter could not bear the shame, and so, she took her own life. The Godfather, right?
No, this is a scene basically lifted in theme and even in style, if not exactly in content, from the Francis Ford Coppola classic. But this 2005 film is called Sarkar.
As the film Sarkar opens, we see a text panel referencing The Godfather from the Director, Ram Gopal Varma:
“Yes, Sarkar has been inspired by the classic film. I have been deeply influenced by Francis Ford Coppola’s unforgettable movie, both in technical style and content.”
Well that was the written homage. As Sarkar plays we see similarity between some Godfather scenes and some Godfather characters. This is not a remake of Coppola’s Godfather, or even a partial reenactment. It is as if Varma decided to pick and choose certain aspects of The Godfather and then incorporate them into his own film. It was as if he not only encouraged comparisons, but also that he liked the comparison.
Sarkar is a word that can mean government as in ‘in charge’ or it can mean big boss as in in charge like a Godfather, or a powerful Mafia Don. Here, Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar is played by the great Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan.
That opening scene in Sarkar was a match with the mortician Amerigo Bonasera who visits Don Corleone also seeking justice for his daughter., which happened only a few minutes into Godfather.
But there’s more. The Michael Corleone role (Al Pacino) in this film is called Shankar Nagre. He is the prodigal son just returned from America. This role is played by Abhishek Bachchan (below)and in my view he steals the film.
The hot-headed son (Sonny Corleone as played by James Caan) is also included in Sarkar. This character is named Vishnu Nagre. He’s a film maker and he is loud, violent, abusive, and an unbashed womanizer. Kay Kay Menon has the role.
The Diane Keaton role of Kay Adams Corleone also appears in Sarkar. This time, the girl is called Pooja and played by Katrina Kaif (above). Her doubts and fears about the legitimacy of the elder Nagre are voiced early. She confronts Shankar asking serious questions.
There is a lot more of the Godfather in Sarkar as well. Other ‘family heads’ want to invest in other businesses (drugs?) but are denied by the Sarkar. Some politicians are crooked. Some cops are crooked.
There’s gang warfare. There’s even an attempted assassination of the Sarkar. That’s just the content.
The film is sepia-toned. Dark and brooding images are shown throughout. There’s a distinct lack of reds and blues. The director has also given his actors lots of tight closeups. In fact you will marvel at the intensity of their expressions.
While no director will ever match the grand and epic scope of the original Godfather, Ram Gopal Varma has done an excellent job of creating a Godfather like film. With this film being set in modern day Mumbai, Varma has decided to leave out the back story of the younger Sarkar (The DeNiro role as the younger Don in GF2).
But the style, settings, and similar story structure, plus the opening written homage, all go to tell us that the likelihood of Sarkar and the Godfather being called similar is not only probable but was also the intent. Varma’s intent was always to invite the comparisons. His film is more than a simple tribute to Coppola. With the pointed stylistic references, I believe that Varma intended to not only pay homage to Coppola in a text message, but also with this superb visual production which truly is the best way to offer a homage and a tribute to a fellow director.