I was in my senior inter when a friend of mine gave me this book called The Godfather. He told me that there is a very explicit sex scene on page no 26 and that is how Godfather came into my life. After I read that page, I read the back-cover and it said something about mafia, a word that I had never ever heard. Having nothing else better to do, I started reading it. The narrative, the characterization and the drama affected me incredibly. The book had such a tremendous impact on me that I think almost back-to-back I must have read it three to four times. Every time I finished reading I started reading again and every time I read it I kept discovering so many nuances and minute details of what has made that impact. The effect was to the extent I would say my interest in wanting to be a story-teller through films started primarily from the Godfather.
After that when I became a director, lot of times I used to take references from Godfather – the scenes, the dialogue style or some moment from here and there. And they were in Shiva; they were in Satya. For example in Satya there is the voiceover after Amodh Shukla’s murder describing the aftermath. That was a direct take-off from a certain chapter of Godfather wherein Mario Puzo describes the aftermath of Solozzio’s killing. But consciously to make an adaptation of Godfather to the truest extent struck me probably sometime in 1999. Once I met Mr. Bachchan and I vaguely told him I have this idea of making an adaptation of Godfather.
In spite of many people not having heard of the Mafia as it is a American phenomenon it had a such a high resonance across the world because those kind of people exist all over in forms of gang lords, political leaders, dictators or kings who can influence a lot of people with the strength of their personalities and their tremendous Power. In the Indian context I thought the closest reference was someone like Balasaheb Thackeray. There is this one man who without any official position or a political seat out of his personal charisma he can affect people to the extent of they are willing to die and kill for him. I thought he was also the right reference for a character like Godfather to be created. The primary difference between the Godfather and Sarkar is that the tone of the Godfather novel has impressed me much more than the film version of Godfather because it had a certain mythological larger than life quality. In the book there is a line where Puzo mentions “from 1935 to 1937 the name of Santino Corleone sent shockwaves through the underworld.”
James Caan playing Santino Corleone’s character does not justify this line but Vishnu Nagre does. That is what I mean by taking reference of the tone of the book. Likewise in the beginning when Amerigo Bonasera talks to the Don to help him to bring justice to the people who hurt his daughter I disagreed with the conversation which was very like “how much do you want? Why did you do this to me? Why didn’t you come to me first, instead of going to the police?” I felt it was very unreal because any of these big people who have reached a certain status, whenever a person comes to them because of some trouble; they will go out of their way to help them to make them feel emotionally obligated. That’s the reason they get indebted. There is a reason why they become so big as they develop these many people’s gratitude and trust and thereby they will start doing whatever they ask them to do at the end of the day. That also I took from a thought from the Godfather novel. The opening scene of SARKAR when a guys gets out of the rickshaw and comes into Sarkar’s bungalows gate, you can see the defeat in his walk and feel it in the voice when he is talking to Sarkar about the injustice he suffered. There you get sucked into the mind state as that of Sarkar and you feel the anger as much as him, whereas in Godfather you look at the scene objectively.
Also my intention was to make the audience constantly feel intimidated by the characters. All of them should come with an inbuilt background score. For example the way Rashid enters the house, the gate opening, the background score and the way he gets down from the car and goes up the staircase its almost like a Mahabharat character coming with a full piece orchestra. So by the time he reaches Sarkar the background score and the shots are commanding the audience to take him very seriously. Then on top of that sitting in front of Sarkar, taking his own time and not seemingly concerned or bothered or scared of the bigness of Sarkar, the character, the audience and also on the subconscious level, they feel the impact of a new actor sitting in front of Amitabh Bachchan and not being scared.
When people ask me my thing of casting new actors, it works in a scene because people have never seen that guy, I can play around with the audience’s imagination. If I take a big name in the effort of trying to match somebody with Amitabh Bachchan, somebody like Danny Denzongpa or Amrish Puri, I don’t think the scene will be effective enough because subconsciously the audience will feel the final outcome thereby making it predictable. With the new guy they won’t know what to make of him… how big he is? How small he is? And what he can do? That unpredictability of an unknown face I think works very well in films of this genre. As per with Abhishek’s character initially I thought of a guy who’s just a chilled out boy and he becomes a man in the course of the film. But later I thought that right from the beginning I should make him larger than life. The fact that he becomes what he became there is obviously a special quality in him. He does not do what his father does or may not agree with it or he many not be so much into it but that does not mean I should take away the larger than life quality that Shankar can have right from the time when he comes out of the airport the way he walks you still feel the sense of largeness around him. It is what I maintain more or less with all the characters in the film.
My tendency is to have very dramatic and in-the-face background score. I have two reasons for it; one reason is I find background score drives the emotion of the audience in a specified intended direction. At times I have been accused that I use it so loud almost to the point that you cannot hear the dialogue properly. Sometimes the reason for this is when I reach the mixing stage at times I am so bored of the dialogues myself by hearing it so many times I feel like listening to the music at that time. I know it sounds stupid but it can happen. So I think more or less if we know of the emotion of what they are going to talk about so why do we need so specifically for them to hear the lines.
My favorite shot in SARKAR is the end after the whole thing is resolved. This shot was of Sarkar in the background waving to the crowd and as he turns back and walks we hear the voice of someone speaking and then Tanisha comes in and for a second you feel Tanisha was talking. Then as the camera moves back we see the silhouette of a women talking to someone about her problem and as it pans, you see Shankar. The fact that Sarkar for the public is still the head and Shankar not really wanting to take credit for what he is doing is in the background. But his transition to take over has started so I wanted that to be communicated in one shot so the silhouette of this woman and Shankar and Sarkar being in the broad daylight. Its not that the audience will consciously understand this was the essence of the communication of the scene but I think one will feel the difference and will feel the impact. I don’t think the craft of cinema is not so much about the audience consciously understanding but they have to feel the impact.
During the making of SARKAR, me and Abhishek used to discuss the possibility of making a sequel. SARKAR is eventually about character conflicts. Obviously there will be so many situations that will happen in Sarkar’s life. If he dealt with one such type of situation and one set of antagonists then you can scale it up further and create another situation.
When I thought back about it I felt Sarkar was a very simplistic story. It is so because it is taken from the original Godfather plot. So many films have been made on that story line but it’s just the newness of the meeting and the performances which made it stand apart. In the sequel, I thought the newness of the first will be taken for granted because they have already seen it. But I cannot change that style because that is the tradition of SARKAR. But if I put a story in it which is very original and make on a scale, on a span and on issues which are bigger, I thought I can make it a lot more interesting than the first Sarkar.
One thing I felt when I saw Godfather Part Two – is that the characters were taken for granted. There was no intention on the part of the Director to make them look larger than life, the way it was done in the first part. So I somehow was disappointed to see Michael Corleone running here and there. No doubt that it is a great film and I have seen it many a times but I didn’t want to miss out on the intensity and the larger than life quality of Sarkar in SARKAR RAJ. So in fact I worked more than in SARKAR to sustain the feeling of larger than life treatment in terms of character portrayals. In spite of applying new technological advancements which have been developed in the last few years in terms of various treatments, I still tried to stick to the tradition of SARKAR and every technique was employed to capture the intensity of the actors because I don’t believe anything is bigger than an actors performance and any time technique is trying to take away or go away from that is where any film will falter.
– Ram Gopal Varma