'Sarkar' joins extraordinary league of father-son portrayals

Jul 4, 2005 Subhash K. Jha, Jul 3

Mumbai, July 4 (IANS) The slick, fast-paced entertainer "Sarkar" has an unlikely fan - producer-director Ram Gopal Varma's mother who hasn't cared much for Ramu's films.

She was so overwhelmed by the fine portrayal by the father-son duo - Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan - that she couldn't stop the emotion welling in her eyes. And it overflowed.

People have connected with Varma's thundering thesis on the father-son relationship the way parents connected with Ravi Chopra's "Baghban" - the treatise on parenting - two years ago.

RGV and a family drama?

"I told everyone that 'Sarkar' is a family film, but no one believed me," chuckles Varma.

Women and kids, generally averse to his rich rendering of machismo, are making a beeline for "Sarkar".

What was planned as an elitist take on Maharashtra's Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's life (though RGV doesn't put it in as many words) is all set to be the surprise blockbuster of the monsoon season.

"Sarkar", which opened with 375 prints across the country, is likely to become the fourth mega-hit of 2005 (after "Black", "Waqt: A Race Against Time" and "Bunty Aur Babli") and the first bona fide hit of the second-half of the year.

In places like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, where "Sarkar" was expected to open to tame crowds, the audiences are going hysterical.

Ram Gopal Varma is clearly taken aback: "Have I delivered my first blockbuster, or what?! I was told that 'Sarkar' would have an elitist appeal and that it won't run outside Maharashtra because the film is rooted to the state's culture.

"But I feel the father-son theme has gripped audience. They just want to see Amitji and Abhishek's scenes together."

Across the country the 'Sarkar' and 'Chote Sarkar' (as the junior Bachchan is now being dubbed) are drawing audiences like never before, and Suman Sinha, a Patna cinema hall owner, is "shocked" by the public's response.

"We're normally told that Bihar has an uncouth audience which doesn't enjoy watching sophisticated films. But we've proved them wrong twice this year - first with 'Black' and now with 'Sarkar'.

"We're getting 'respectful' and thoroughly attentive audience for 'Sarkar'. Coincidentally, both star Amitabh, and not so coincidentally, they're both high on novelty and drama," says Sinha.

Abhishek is finally being touted as a serious contender for the No.1 throne. And RGV concurs.

"I think it's a pathetic fallacy that audiences reject new ideas. On the contrary, they're repeatedly rejecting run-of-the-mill films. Give them something interesting in a gripping, glossy package, and they'll lap it up."

Abhishek, who's currently filming a frothy caper, Rohan Sippy's "Bluff Master", feels the audiences connect with the father-son thing in peculiar ways.

"I think the audiences are completely taken aback to see us the way we are in 'Sarkar' after 'Bunty Aur Babli'. No two films can be so antithetical. And our characters are completely different too. They love the idea of watching us play father and son at such a normal keel."

Abhishek admits he has used slices of his own life to give the celluloid relationship a touch of the real.

"Those who know me personally know exactly where I've connected with Dad from my own life. And even without knowing these details audiences have instinctively warmed up to the relationship."

Would Sarkar be the most successful father-son story after Yash Chopra's "Trishul" in 1978?

"I don't know," shrugs Abhishek. "But for me this would always be one of the most precious films."

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