I have three words for anyone who reasons it's presumptuous to think that any artist should be disallowed from creating- Ram Gopal Varma. Now that I have your attention and now that you know my intentions, suddenly the idea doesn't sound audacious.
Much like the indisputable aura of Asif on historical films and Guru Dutt on the tormented artist, Varma, too, is tied forever with the gangster genre. The fact that barring Parinda (1989) every cinematic gangster or any encounter specialist seems like a figment of Varma's creation is testimony enough of his contribution. Varma is a true product of films who, in his own words, learnt more about filmmaking from watching Sholay (1975) endlessly than anything else. It's a different thing that his tribute to one film that inspired him was pathetic. Even cinephiles have a life beyond movies but not RGV. There are only two things that this man does- watch films and make films. From being a video storeowner one day to directing Nagarjuna in Shiva (1990) the next, RGV is the story that inspired a whole generation of dreamers. But that was so long ago and RGV has ceased to be what he was. What's worse is that he doesn't even resemble his own shadow and while the entire world knows this, RGV seems to be only one who thinks otherwise.
Ever since he started out, RGV not only managed to get big stars but also made them do the oddest things with the greatest conviction. This is what separated him from the rest. Had it not been for him there wouldn't have been a Satya (1998), a film that created a whole line of actors who were far from being stars but sparkled brighter. He singlehandedly created a parallel industry where writers, actors, and budding directors got more freedom than they could imagine. It wouldn't be incorrect to say that Yashraj Films' production slate was fashioned on RGV's Factory model. Initial hiccups apart most films from Yashraj stables escaped being wannabe Aditya Chopra films but the passage of time saw every Factory production transform into a film that RGV wanted to but couldn't make. He misunderstood people when they said they wanted to be like him; he broke away from those who spoke his language but continued to surround himself with those who'd only listen.
Being a product of films helped Ram Gopal Varma to make them. But looking at what has become of this filmmaker it's clear that films which a product of his environment are new methods of self-torture. There is an interesting story from the time Ramu was directing Shiva. He told the cameraman to hold the camera and take the shot of Shiva chasing some goons across the college campus. The bewildered cameraman asked for specific instructions for filming the chase and Ramu said just run behind them before walking on. Today, he's the only one who believes that he's inventing a new language of cinema when he devises something that can, at worst, be described as a crotch cam shot.
Ramu eats, drinks, breathes and lives films. For someone who's so detached with everything else he's always believed that there's noting to his life beyond his films. It's only us who think that what kind of a mind frame would RGV be in to come up with a Not a Love Story (2011), or a Department (2012). He never cared about Rangeela (1995) or Staya or Company (2002) beyond the time he was making them and so, he can't understand what's the big deal with a Department or Not A Love Story or even a Contract (2008), Phoonk- The Black Magic Story (2008), Agyaat (2009), Rakta Charitra (2010)…
Ran Gopal Varma has no time for family unless it was a title of one of his film. He doesn't have any friends beyond the people he's working with or those who fund his projects. He doesn't take time off; he isn't interested in holidays or introspection. Why would he? He doesn't bother with the success or failure of his films so what's the point in mulling. The only thing that keeps him going is the next film and he will continue to make them as long as he can. If he can't get stars, he will cast his driver. If he can't get a musician he'll make them without songs. If he can't hire a film camera he'll make one with his nephew's camcorder or his cellphone. Looking at the last few films he may not have anyone to watch his films. But that doesn't trouble RGV. Even he doesn't like to waste time watching his own films.
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
From HT Brunch, March 18
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