Ram Gopal Varma says he has cut out a smoking scene from a song in his upcoming Agyaat for television after the censor board objected to it. The filmmaker also stressed the movie is a thriller and not a horror flick as people are perceiving it to be from the promos.
"We have altered the song because the censor board thinks it is not viable for audiences of TV, which is a mass medium, though the big screen version might carry it in accordance with the certification of the film. The DVD version will however carry the scene without any doubt," Varma told IANS on phone from Mumbai.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had asked the director to re-edit the music track Jai Shri Shambhu as it encourages substance abuse. The track shows leading lady Priyanka Kothari puffing a 'chillum' (pipe) while she sings Dum Maro, yeh hai Sahara.
This is not the first time Varma has been associated with controversies.
He first sparked one when he visited the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, one of the sites of the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, with then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his actor son Riteish. Protesters thought he was collecting material for a film on the tragedy -- something the director has denied.
He was again in the news when the censor board refused to clear another of his forthcoming films Rann unless he removed a song Jana gana mana rann -- a take-off on the national anthem, which he refused to remove.
Asked if the controversies were coincidental or a publicity gimmick, Varma said: "I take a subject matter which is very hard hitting and obviously many people have problems with that and raise their voice against it.
"I just do my job and shoot whatever I think is right for the film and they do theirs in pointing out whatever they think is not right for the masses."
Coming back to Agyaat, Varma said its promos might be spooky, but it does not belong to the horror genre.
"People are perceiving that Agyaat is a horror film. I would like to make a point here that it's not a scary film. It's an adventure thriller," he clarified.
Produced by Varma and Ronnie Screwvala, Agyaat is about a film unit on a shoot in a dense forest and then crew members start getting killed one by one under mysterious circumstances by an invisible creature.
"Hollywood has made thousands of such films about people stuck somewhere and getting killed under unknown reasons. I thought what if this time people don't see what is killing them...the idea was to compel them to use their own imagination as a weapon, which is more lethal," the filmmaker said.
Releasing Aug 7, Agyaat has an ensemble cast and includes Telugu actor Nitin Reddy.
The promos of the film suggest stark resemblances to Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer sci-fi action horror Predator, which showed a special task force being hunted down by an extra-terrestrial life form in the jungles of Central America.
Asked if inspration for Agyaat came from the 1987 movie, Varma said: "It's not only from 'Predator' but also from other such films like The Blair Witch Project, Anaconda, Alien and The Thing. In fact what sets Agyaat apart is that you don't see what's killing you, which makes it even more adventurous."
Shot mostly in the Sigiriya jungles of Sri Lanka and the Athirapally forests in Kerala, the film's location was crucial for Varma, considering the invisibility of the creature.
"As the basic point was not to show the creature at all, the location had to make up for most of it. And among all the jungles I've been to in my life, Sigiriya is the most scary of them all where the bulk of the film is shot.
"My excitement was also to shoot a jungle, as it has been never done before, which I achieved with the background score, special effects and camera movements," he explained.
Varma's future projects include Rakta Charitra and a three-dimensional film.