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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Sarkaar Haazir Ho, Review: Unstirred and unshaken

Sarkaar Haazir Ho, Review: Unstirred and unshaken

Sarkaar is a Hindi/Urdu word that means Sire/Madam/government, depending on the context it is used in. It is also a common surname among the Bengali community, where it is pronounced Shorkaar. In this court-room, it is the surname of the family which is at the epicentre of a double murder.

Sarkaar Haazir Ho, which translates as Sarkaar ‘may be produced in court’, is a sensationalised title that lends itself to a belief that it could be a film that puts the Indian government in the dock, and the film faced certification hurdles on this count. That development caused a four month delay in its release, till the misgivings proved to be false.

Inspirations galore dot Sarkaar Haazir Ho. The title also reminds you of a TV serial of the late 80s, called Mujrim Haazir and a series of films said to be loosely inspired by a late political leader, titled Sarkaar. Coming to the plot, it is transparently based on two sensational, real-life murder cases, that of Aarushi Talwar and her servant, and that of teenager Sheena Bora. Whereas the Aarushi case is now slipping into history, the Sheena Bora case, wherein her mother, step-father and driver are the main accused, is still current. Two English films have also ‘contributed’ to the scenario, A Few Good Men and Ouija. Having set-up such a mish-mash récipe, director Pandit Pradeep Vyas makes a cocktail concoction, unstirred and unshaken, which is very hard to swallow.

A sensational murder case, of just under 18 years old Juhi (Karisma Kanwar) and her family servant Hemant (N.K.Pant), has come to the court. They were both killed in Juhi’s house, on the same night. After initial investigations by a bumbling Police Inspector, Arvind (Naveen Sharma), Juhi’s parents Sukesh (a dentist, played by Prithvi Zutsi) and Indira (Anupama Sharma), are considered to be guilty of both murders, based on circumstantial evidence. Whether they are guilty or not is yet to be proven, but there are many deep and dark secrets in the Sarkaar family, and many a skeleton in their cupboards.

Juhi and her mother Indira Sarkaar (Anupama Sharma)’s relationship was sour. Indira had married several times, and her step-son, Sagar (Manoj Malhotra), and her daughter Juhi from an earlier marriage) wanted to get married, something that would surely create a scandal. Among the other possible murder suspects are Slim Kumar (Shashi Ranjan), the dentist’s compounder and Sejal (Sandhya Raj), the Sarkars’ maid. After Crime Investigation Department (CID) Inspector Rathi (Anand Rathore) has done his job, the matter is argued in the court, of a judge (played by Hemant Sharma).

More than half the film is set in the court. The two lawyers passionately arguing the case are Sajan (Amyt Kumar/defence) and Sheetal (Arti Joshi/prosecution). Conveniently, Sagar has a long-standing crush on Sheetal, who has since married and is now a widow. The judge behaves inconsistently. Most of the time, he is the stock-in-trade justice dispenser, but occasionally, he gets into farcical comedy. In fact, a long-winded riddle-cum-joke that I first read some 50 years ago is played out by Sheetal and the judge. Having had too much of the other stuff already, the Central Board of Film Certification has ordered the muting of the two punch lines. Funnily enough, the makers have retained the joke, which, therefore, becomes a headless…or rather tailless…wonder.

Since it was launched, the film has had two significant changes: the original financer backed out and writer-producer-director Pandit Pradeep Vyas replaced the lyric writer, in a fourth role. Of the two songs, one goes ‘Kissam kissa ho gayaa, ishqam ishqa ho gayaa’. While to those who appreciate good poetry in film songs, these words might sound atrocious, the song is neither any better nor any worse than the stuff that often passes these days as a song.

Pandit Vyas is obviously a real life priest, judging by the clothes and accessories he wore at the press preview of the film. Beyond the fact that there were many familiar ingredients, I wonder what he saw in Bina Puglia’s concept that could lend itself to interesting cinema. It is almost certain that Vyas has no previous experience in the medium, though his dialogue are just about average,with a near judicious mix ofHindiand Urdu. Sarkaar Haazir Ho should prove the beginning of a learning curve for him, that is, if he is interested in pursuing this career at all.

All the actors perform as it they are waiting for the director to give them instructions. Prithvi Zutsi is tentative while Anupama Sharma tends to get unconvincingly hysterical. Both keep staring blankly here and there and at the ground, when asked pointed questions. That may be in keeping with their characters, but the writer and director needed to create some novelty in the boring routine. Arti Joshi gets puffed up too often and her emotions distort her bony face.

Amyt Kumar is passable, Manoj Malhotra is awkward. Karishma Kanwar tries hard to exude oomph, with limited success. N.K. and Shashi Ranjan turn in some good work, apparently improvising on the script. Ramesh Goel is the only film veteran in the cast, which is almost entirely picked from television serials. Sandhya Raj does not fit the role while poor Anand Rathore has only one scene. Routine support comes from Pooja Dixit and Sushama Kale, to a cast that has four actors with the surname Sharma—the other two being Rekha and Navin. Pandit Vyas puts in a longish cameo himself.

However much you might be called to be Haazir Ho at the nearest theatre showing this film, you are better off remaining ghair-haazir (absent) from Sarkaar Haazir Ho.                                                                                                                                 

Rating: * ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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