Ram Gopal Varma’s Guns & Thighs: Why I Called Amitabh Bachchan an Idiot, The Women in My Filmy Life, My Affair with the Underworld and Other Stories from My Life is an entertaining read. In this excerpt from a chapter entitled ‘The Day I Toppled The Maharashtra Chief Minister’, RGV, director of Hindi film classics like Satya and Rangeela, explains how he came to be at the Taj Hotel in the aftermath of 26/11, and examines the reasons for the outrage that ensued.
There were reports in the media that I was planning a film on the 26/11 terrorist incident that shook Mumbai and India, and since I was casting Riteish Deshmukh in it, his dad Mr Vilas Rao Deshmukh invited me to visit the site—which understandably created widespread outrage.
These reports were completely false.
What happened was this:
I have known Riteish for years, as I have done films with him and also since we belong to the same fraternity. On that day, I went to meet Riteish to discuss Rann my new film with him, which incidentally has nothing to do with terrorism. As we were talking, Riteish said that his dad was going to the Taj and he wanted to go with him. So since I was with him, I accompanied him there. Mr Vilas Rao had never been formally introduced to me, and he didn’t even know that I was with Riteish, as Riteish and I were in another car.
As far as Riteish is concerned, his information was that the areas we would be able to see were the ones where investigations had already been completed.
By the time we reached the Taj, there were more than sixty-seventy people there including police officers, bureaucrats and hotel staff. In that whole crowd, I doubt Mr Vilas Rao even noticed me.
Yes, an amazing coincidence gave me the opportunity of seeing the site of the carnage, and I would like to know how many people would have passed it up?
Now my question is, what is it that could have been affected by my being there? If the officers thought that it would amount to a breach of security or I would see things which I was not supposed to, they would have stopped me. And if they had stopped me, why the hell would Mr Vilas Rao have forced them to let me in. The reason they did not stop me was simply that the areas we were shown were those where investigations had already been completed and footage of which had already been shown thousands of times on TV. In fact, I saw far less there than I had already seen on TV. So why did my seeing broken glass, upturned tables and bulletriddled walls, which the whole country had seen a thousand times on TV, create an outrage? Here’s why.
After seeing the footage which ironically was shot by Mr Vilas Rao’s own team and given to the TV channels, media minds started speculating about my presence there and developed conspiracy theories, and to support their speculation they used slow motion techniques, putting a red circle around me and flickering arrow marks pointing at me. Add to this voiceovers of their interpretation of why I was there and why Mr Vilas Rao took me there, and you have the story which resulted in the understandable outrage.
Even assuming for a moment I went there to research for a film I was planning, what possible information could I have gained as a filmmaker, considering that I had already seen much more on TV? Visiting crime scenes cannot generate research for a film for me, as I am not a forensic scientist. Only one-on-one conversations with investigating officers after they had completed their investigations could have given me the kind of information I would need for a film. Some news channels even suggested that we were disturbing a crime scene. If that was the case, it was a serious lapse of duty on the part of the investigating officers. They didn’t stop us because, like I said, they were only showing us areas where investigations had been completed.
Watch: Trailer of Ram Gopal Varma’s The Attacks Of 26/11
I find it shocking that in the wake of such a terrible incident, the media could waste so much telecast time on such inanity, while their job was clearly to debate much more serious issues thrown up by the incident, like national safety and security.
The media likes to portray itself as the sole champion of people’s rights in the country, and this makes people believe in it blindly. This is a classic example of the blind leading the blind. The outcome of this can often be ridiculous. If, as some media reports suggested, this episode can even remotely affect the government’s standing, I find that almost as dangerous as terrorism.
If people who attack the unarmed are defined as terrorists, then the media at various levels with its coercive methods and insinuations resorts to very similar tactics. A terrorist attacks the mind with fear and kills the body with weapons, the media attacks the mind with its interpretations and kills a person’s spirit with its insinuations. In a way, I would say that media is more dangerous than terrorists because it attacks under the guise of safeguarding values.