Not many filmmakers are in a position to recover from a disaster like Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, a film that may go down in Bollywood history as one of the worst ever made. But producer-director Ram Gopal Varma is made of sterner stuff.

Varma has moved on to his next film, Sarkar Raj, the much-awaited sequel to his critically and commercially successful 2005 film Sarkar. Featuring the entire Bachchan clan – Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai – in full-fledged roles for the first time together, Sarkar Raj carries high expectations.

Varma's comeback vehicle

Varma has had a string of flop directorial ventures such as Nishabd, Aag and Darling. His production house has been consistently delivering unbearable duds such as Go, Shiva and Darwaza Bandh Rakho. It is crucial for the filmmaker to regain his credibility with Sarkar Raj.

However, Varma begs to differ, saying, "For me, Sarkar Raj is another film in my career. Once the film is complete, it is for the audience to pass their verdict while I move on to my next film.

All the speculation regarding Sarkar Raj being my comeback film or me being down after the failure of Aag is media generated. In fact, I have already moved on to my next film, Contract."

The Bachchan clan

The last time the Bachchan clan was seen together was in the item number Kajra Re, that had audiences going berserk. Naturally, movie-goers are eager to watch the Bachchans onscreen once more in meaty roles. Amitabh and Abhishek reprise their roles of Subhash Nagre and Shankar Nagre respectively.

Shankar takes over the powerful parallel government, an empire established by his father. Rai plays the role of Anita Ranjan, the CEO of a multinational company that proposes to set up a power plant in rural Maharashtra before the Nagres do so.

Did Varma add Rai to the cast of Sarkar to ensure that the movie got plenty of media and audience attention? "Sarkar Raj is not exactly a sequel to Sarkar. It is not a continuation of the original story, but another chapter in the Nagre family's lives. All the actors are in the film because they are best suited for their roles. That applies to Aishwarya too," he says.

The Abhishek-Aishwarya pairing

Sarkar Raj will see Abhishek and Aishwarya together onscreen for the first time since their marriage. Guru was their last film together.

So has their working equation changed after marriage? "Sarkar Raj is special as we resumed work together after marriage. So, in a way, doing this film was like an extended honeymoon," says Abhishek. "It's great fun acting with Aishwarya.

We both know that once we face the camera, we are professional actors and need to keep our personal relationship aside. Moreover, being professional actors, I believe that with marriage, our working relationship will only improve."

Abhishek and Aishwarya are not paired together in Sarkar Raj as their characters are involved in a political conflict. Moreover, Abhishek's character is already married to Tanisha Mukherjee's character, leaving no scope for romance.
But this is not the first time Abhishek and Rai are not paired together in the same film. In Dhoom 2, Rai was paired opposite Hrithik Roshan with whom she shared a controversial kiss.

In Sarkar Raj, being a fiery corporate executive, Rai's character does not have time for mushy moments. "I am playing a corporate woman representing a power company
that wants to set up a project," Rai said in a video conference during the launch of the film's soundtrack.

Controversies galore

Controversies have surrounded Sarkar Raj ever since it was launched. For instance, the film is supposedly based on the infamous Enron power plant project in Maharashtra that got mired in a political storm. If Sarkar was based on Shiv Sena (regional political party) chief Bal Thackeray then Sarkar Raj
has a character based on Raj Thackeray
(Bal's nephew).

Actor Rajesh Shringharpure's character bears a striking resemblance to the politician. Varma has openly admitted to his friendship with Raj and was influenced by Raj's personality to sketch a similar character in his film. Ironically, Raj has questioned the Bachchans' loyalty to the state of Maharashtra in his political speeches, while their characters in Sarkar Raj are extremely concerned about the welfare and development of Maharashtra.

Amidst all this, Varma was involved in a legal battle with T-Series regarding musical rights and payment issues for some of his films, including Sarkar Raj. It was finally settled with T-Series acquiring the audio and video rights of Sarkar Raj.

The film was also delayed as Varma reportedly re-shot portions of it to ensure it was gripping. This led to some of Rai's scenes being edited out.

Though Varma may not admit it, he must be on his toes with Sarkar Raj after disasters such as Nishabd and Aag. It is good to know that Amitabh still has faith in Varma's cinematic capabilities. But it remains to been seen if Sarkar Raj will restore audiences' faith in him as well.