At first, the tale of an ominous political leader, Subhash Nagre (played by the inimitable Amitabh Bachchan), indulging in power games seemed novel.

But that gripping concept can lose its charm, if it’s milked to death. Sarkar 3, the third instalment of the political saga from director Ram Gopal Varma, is guilty of that crime. It’s an exhausting and a cheesy rehash of the elements that worked wonderfully in the first and second instalments.

Not much has changed in the Maharashtrian political patriarch Nagre’s sepia-toned lair. After the death of his two sons, which formed the crux of the first two parts of this franchise, Nagre’s life has little charm, but his clout over poor people who look up to him as a messiah of hope hasn’t diminished.

The film begins with Bachchan’s rousing speech to his supporters on the importance of holding on to principles without fear. It will fill you with a sense of deja vu, but Bachchan has enough gravitas to make it mildly interesting. But the next scene where his loyal aide, Gokul (the ever-dependable Ronit Roy), advises him to meet a wealthy businessman who wants to expand his business in Mumbai by displacing poor people, will confirm your worst fear. Sarkar 3 is going down the same treacherous route as its first two parts.

The greedy industrialists are forced to enlist the help of the revered Sarkar to carry out their dirty business. Sounds familiar?

What has changed is the dwindling collective quality of the supporting cast. If Kay Kay Menon and Abhishek Bachchan complemented the old thrillers with their rock solid performances, the new players in Sarkar 3 such as Amit Sadh, Yami Gautam and Jackie Shroff — as this lascivious Dubai business man — are struggling to find their feet and are left to spew corny dialogues.

Nagre’s grandson, Shivaji (Sadh), is eager to be a part of his grandfather’s powerful world. His treacherous and troubled past after his father (Menon) is murdered by his own brother (Bachchan) doesn’t stop him from seeking his grandfather out and gaining his trust. While Sadh tries in earnest to inject that much-needed magnetism, arrogance and swagger as the heir apparent of Sarkar, that intensity that comes so easily to Bachchan, is missing. Gautam, as the vengeful adversary of Sarkar, is glowering for most parts to communicate her wrath.

Speaking of glowering, that seems to be one of the favourite expressions of the Sarkar 3 team. When Sarkar’s cronies and enemies couldn’t articulate their thoughts, the stared you down. It isn’t fun to watch. But what is even more frustrating is watch Shroff utter some of the most audacious lines ever. Bombastic dialogues such as the Indian sweet is sweet, but it’s also too sweet — to communicate his scheming nature — are unintentionally funny. The scene in which he is lounging in a pool and masterminding an attack on Mumbai and that moment where he’s explaining his mean nature at an underwater aquarium to his dim-witted moll are exhausting to watch.

Dubai featuring briefly to show his decadent lifestyle and a scene to promote a local jewellery brand is a poor example of brand placement.

Manoj Bajpayee as a political adversary to Sarkar held promise, but his character wasn’t allowed to flourish and was snuffed out way too soon.

But a redeeming quality of this film is that there are no songs. Varma sticks to business of creating a political quagmire filled with deceit, betrayal and double-crossing. The twists in the second-half in this thriller may not be mind-boggling, but it’s engaging enough to make us sit it out.

But this whole drama may make you wonder if Sarkar, the commanding chief, should gracefully retire from the political scene? Just a thought.

The details

Language: Hindi

Run Time: 130 minutes

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Rating: PG15

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Amit Sadh, Yami Gautam, Manoj Bajpayee and Jackie Shroff.

GN Rating: 2 out of 5