Hyderabad: On April 7, Ram Gopal Varma turned 59. He might as well be 18 or 24 or 36. He couldn't care less. His energy, perpetual insistence on living in the present and enjoying every moment, seeking no gratification from the public by way of approvals or peer adulation, all these qualify him to be a
teenager, in mind, and forever.
His intrepid courting of controversies with zeal, one after another, is his
passe-partout into every slice of life. "I have done more genres than any
other film director," he gasconades. "Maybe every single genre out there."
"You have not done mythologies. Or a historical," me retorts, wondering if
he would be offended.
He, for sure, can't be offended. He has a more open mind than anyone else
our society is familiar with. He does not judge and wishes rather to
understand. In a Dostoevsky-ish fervour, he focuses his emulous passion
towards the truest subalterns of society - the rejects and the outcasts, the
rebels against morality and the enemies of the state - criminals, underworld
dons, hired assassins, and their ilk.
"I don't believe in God, so I can't be interested in mythology," he says. "I
don't have the patience for history - the research it would take... like, I
don't want to lose my time getting the costumes details correct."
I wish to ask him how for a man who does not believe in God he loves ghosts, but I let that pass.
RGV decides to invite me inside of an editing studio where he shares with me
a promo of Dangerous, a movie he stresses is India's first truly lesbian
love story on screen. Flashes of Shabhana Aazmi and Nandita Das in Fire, an
avant-garde polemic movie which opened Deepa Mehta's brilliant and epic
trilogy; but I am not wont to mention Fire, lest a reference to Ram Gopal
Varma's Aag being funny. Has he seen Four More Shots Please, I wonder.
Almost reading my mind, he expands the qualifier, "In Dangerous, India will
see its first lesbian duet."
He is set to launch Spark OTT along with a partner, very shortly, which will
also fuse RGV World.
"I am at the peak of my career and life. Filmmakers can pitch their ideas,"
he says, and he would find the funding, professionals, team and wherewithal
to take it to fruition. He has launched more newcomers than most other
Telugu film directors put together.
Does he believe in providing opportunities to talent or prefer being a
mentor? No, he says, reverting to the familiar safe zone to fustigate social
mores. "I don't believe in helping anyone. I just want to do what gives me
pleasure in the same moment. At this point, I want to see not tens but
hundreds of films being made."
Is this the most-amazing era of filmmaking, the most democratised context,
where digital technology has broken barriers in production, editing, and
then, when YouTubes of the world have broken distribution too, and the OTT
has ended even the tyranny of the film theatre screens.
"Yes. Filmmakers can boldly speak out their thoughts today. Many barriers
have been broken. I made a film recently with my mobile phone, spending Rs
3,000 to Rs 3,500 but earned a lot from it. Today, you can make a movie in
five or 20 minutes, or in one hour," he beams with youthful exuberance.
Spark will not only be about bringing to the cloud everything RGV wishes
himself to create in future, but will be an entry and launch platform for
talented filmmakers. All what one has to do is send him a two-odd minute
trailer of an idea. If RGV likes it, it could become the next Shiva or
Satya, or Sarkar or Company.
We speak about censorship and morality, discuss pornography and the dangers of children getting access to things they are not ready yet for.
"With an internet-connected mobile phone, what can people today not see or
know of? If we cannot censor the internet, we should stay away from
censorship of OTT also. They used to take 20 days to give a censor clearance
for a movie. The sheer number of films, short films and documentaries on OTT and the Internet makes this impossible. Besides, as a society we have surely moved past the idea that five people can dictate to a billion what they can see, or cannot."
We look at another trailer, a movie called Ladki. "India's first martial
arts movie with a lady protagonist," he reveals. "It is an Indo-Chinese
I reflect within the silence and soothing calm of martial arts movies I have
personally loved - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Zhang Yimou's Hero.
RGV's take is loud, very loud. But he's clearly in love with making changes
as he focuses his attention on even the minute details.
RGV is a good litmus test for society. In an age where we are easily
offended, or hurt, when the authority refuses to be questioned and tries to
silence those who dare ask, he does it all.
"Were you ever threatened or under pressure from the underworld," I ask. He is making a movie called the D-Company, on Dawood Ibrahim, and tries to recreate the Bombay of the '80s.
"I tried to understand criminals. What motivates them? What fears they have
and how they face them? I did not try to humanise them but I did present
their points of view too. Why would they want to hurt me?"
Have you lost your genius? I ask him. "Maybe I never had it. It is insane to
think I can make another Shiva or Kshana Kshanam but am not making it. I or anyone else can only make a film. It is the viewers who make it a hit or a
phenomenon. I can only enjoy the process of the next shot, and that's all
there is to it."
Why do you like to shock people and create controversies, I feel like
asking. I don't. That is the whole point of being RGV. And I had quite
clearly not come to talk to Rajamouli.