Sunday, June 15, 2008


After writing this, I realised that it's a bit of a downer... not very auspicious considering that I haven't posted anything in months... but it's what's on my mind so I guess it has to be said.... Hopefully the next post will be all nice and light and cheerful....

Interesting how one can find parallels in the strangest places... when I heard that 'Sarkar Raj' was coming to a cinema near me, I knew I wanted to see it. I've been a bit starved of good Bollywood fare lately, and the prospect of three Bachchans doing some 'serious' acting in a Ram Gopal Verma thriller sounded pretty good to me. Because I am slightly anal about doing things 'sequentially', I of course had to watch 'Sarkar' (Ram Gopal Verma's 2005 film) first... and I really enjoyed it. I have talked about the fact that I like Ram Gopal Verma's work before on this blog, and for me 'Sarkar' was a really striking and stylish (typical RGV) piece of storytelling, with really solid performances.

Seeing 'Sarkar Raj' at the cinema was a lot of fun - I went with a bunch of colleagues from work, some of whom are not Bollywood fans and therefore came a bit reluctantly... everyone enjoyed the movie (phew!), and Abhishek Bachchan even gained a new fan! We got all wrapped up in the suspense and drama and generally had a good time together. I thought that the performances were very strong and the story was compelling and moved at a good pace.

The 3 Bachchans all did extremely well, I thought (I loved Amit-ji's scenes with Abhishek, they were really poignant and beautifully-acted in my opinion, and I thought Ash held her own as well), and the rest of the cast supported them well also. I liked how the film dealt with the complexities of family relationships and the emotions that govern them, picking up pretty well from where the first film left off. I also liked how the film delved even deeper into the motivations of the characters in their seemingly endless quest for power - I thought it was really well done.

My quibble (and it was a small one) was with the cardboard-cutout-ness of the villains - I found them a bit too caricatured, and that took away something from the rawness of the film, I thought. Caricature villains are alright in an OTT masala flick, but in a dark, edgy RGV film, I think they could've done with just a little toning down. Also, as is quite typical with RGV, I think that a couple of times he went a lil' overboard with the 'stylisation' of some scenes (but then, that very adventurousness, even when it goes overboard, is really one of things I quite like about RGV). Anyway, I thought 'Sarkar Raj' was a great watch and I'm actually quite looking forward to watching it again when it's released on DVD.

I am not going to say much more about either 'Sarkar' or 'Sarkar Raj'... I think that RGV's films tend to be the love-it-or-hate-it kind - if you have a big problem with onscreen violence or you find films about political intrigues, dhokhas and divided loyalties boring, then you probably won't enjoy either film - but if you fancy grappling with the difficult issues that these gritty, dark films tackle, then you'll probably enjoy them (well, perhaps 'enjoy' is the wrong word - let's say you'll probably find them interesting).

What I actually want to talk about is the parallels between certain aspects of the Sarkar films, and the life and times of a recently deceased national figure here in Nigeria. Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu recently passed away at the age of 80. Adedibu, known as 'the strongman of Ibadan politics' was a very controversial figure in Nigerian politics.

To some people (particularly the members of his party), Adedibu was a statesman, a philanthropist and a man of the people who helped to unify the Yoruba-speaking Western part of the country. Much is made by these advocates of the fact that Adedibu fed many inhabitants of the city of Ibadan daily meals for a number of years, completely free of charge. To many others, however, he was a troublemaker who actually worked to divide the region, by using an army of weapon-wielding goons to wreak violence, terror and havoc upon any members of the community who dared to disagree with his political views. Those free daily meals at Adedibu's mansion, some say, were not an act of charity - rather they were just a part of the 'incentives' used by Adedibu to 'mobilise' his band of thugs.

One thing is for sure, though, Adedibu was a political 'godfather', and he himself admitted boldly that he used his considerable political might to place his anointed godsons in positions of power. There is no doubt that Adedibu exercised a huge amount of influence in Oyo State, where he lived and (some say) reigned. For a man with no governmental position or constitutional power, it boggles the mind that he was (in my opinion) able to basically hound a state governor out of power and then replace him with his very own puppet....

At the beginning of 'Sarkar', there's a quote that says something about a power rising when things fall apart. I think that speaks just as eloquently to the real-life Adedibu situation in Oyo State as it does to the movie-world Maharashtra of RGV's movies, where the fictional Sarkar, the gunda-leader with no respect for the rule of law, holds sway. And I think it's sad... very sad.