They blew it

Read more below

  • Published 15.06.08

If Sarkar Raj came off as a lazy exercise in making pre-release profits on two popular brands (brand Sarkar and brand Bachchan), without taking either forward, here’s a reason that’s been going around for a few days.

A major feeling of being let down crept over Sarkar Raj because, instead of building well on the two big brands, the maker seemed to be only calculating his profits. The script should’ve made the Nagre family plot so fast paced, credible and curious that brand Sarkar would’ve been welcomed for another round of human drama. As Amitabh Bachchan put it (in another context), it’s better to have people asking, ‘why not’ instead of ‘why.’

We already want to know why Sarkar Raj was made if it wasn’t going to show us a new dimension to Amitabh Bachchan’s chilling character and if Abhishek the actor was going to be brought down several notches from his impressive Sarkar outing. As for Aishwarya Rai, in her first scene she seems to be the one in charge as she dismissively tells her dad, “I don’t like his attitude” and it’s the parent who takes second place to her. Why did that rare equation change and turn the hardcore businesswoman into a whimpering unofficial wife?

The buzz going around is that in the initial script of Sarkar Raj, Aishwarya Rai was to play Rebecca Mark and come off as a hardboiled biz wiz who manipulates and uses Abhishek as the means to achieve her goal. But her marriage to Abhishek Bachchan changed Ramu’s mind and script. Ash could no longer be seen as manipulating Abhishek. And so the script was manipulated instead. It resulted in making a mess of Aishwarya’s character but, hey, their off-screen image had to be kept intact.

If Ash had played a true, ruthless manipulator, Sarkar Raj might’ve been far more interesting to watch. But meddling with the script to accommodate off-screen relationships has always been a weakness with film-makers. Years ago, Yash Chopra did this by tweaking the ending of Silsila since he had callously discarded his original cast (of Parveen Babi and Smita Patil with AB) and greedily picked up the real-life triangle of Amitabh, Jaya and Rekha to whip up curiosity and make his film more commercially attractive. But by trying to make a real-life situation work on celluloid, Yash couldn’t stay true to his script and had to make adjustments. He couldn’t possibly have shown AB walking off with Re!

On hindsight, perhaps Yash Chopra realised that had he stayed with his original cast, he could’ve made a far more pathbreaking Silsila where he didn’t have to be distracted by trying to balance off-screen relationships. Yash Chopra’s Silsila may be watched on TV today but it was a box office disappointment in its time because the maker had compromised with the film in his eagerness to please his real-life trio. Ramu seems to have fallen into the same hole by not wanting to disturb the real life Abhishek-Aishwarya equation. My own take is, either don’t use actors who have an off-screen equation or, have the guts to use them purely as actors and make your film without allowing their personal relationships to unsettle your script.

Since there’s been a mention of Yash Chopra in the lines above, the delivery boys from various florists in Mumbai have a tale to narrate about Aditya Chopra’s birthday (May 21). There are plenty of PR inserts about how untrue rumours are of their having major differences, even if the latter has moved out of the family bungalow and lives on his own in their old office in Juhu. The truth is, they are officially together to ensure the commercial stability of Yashraj. Otherwise, the differences are so deep that on Adi’s birthday when the delivery boys took baskets and bouquets from various well wishers to the Chopra bungalow, they were turned away at the gate itself by the security guard. Florists were firmly told that anything for Aditya Chopra had to go to the old Vikas Park office where he currently stays and nothing for him will be received at the family bungalow.

Meanwhile, the Vikas Park office is being completely overhauled and done up as a residential bungalow for Aditya and Rani Mukherji to set up home. Mmm, for the script-starved Yashraj banner, there’s a dramatic one right there in the family.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International