My Sholay is ready to roll: Ram Gopal Varma
A conversation with Ram Gopal Varma is a tad like watching one of his hi-octane films. He minces no words, counters every argument with a combative theory of his own, and throws quotable quotes at you faster than you can say Q.
Show the man a spade and there's no way you can get him to call it a toothpick, no matter how desperately you want him to do that. As he does as the boss of his famed Factory, Ramu always manages to set his own pace in the face of a pen pusher's probing.
Express any hint of a misgiving about the foolhardiness of his grand plans to remake Sholay as an urban underworld drama and he is ready with an answer. "I know that people think I am making a huge error of judgment," he retorts, barely concealing a I-knew-this-was-coming smirk. "But that feeling probably stems from their fear that I might actually pull off the impossible."
No matter what the sceptics might think, Ramu is going full steam ahead. "I will start shooting in the next couple of months," he announces. "I have already completed casting for four of the principal roles."
As things stand, Amitabh Bachchan is slated to play Gabbar Singh and Mohanlal will reprise the role of the revenge-seeking Thakur. As for the roles of Jai and Viru, originally essayed by Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra, Ramu has zeroed in on Mohit Ahlawat, the lead actor of his upcoming film, James, and Abhishek Bachchan respectively.
The decision to cast the Big B in a negative role has probably been prompted by the fact that Gabbar Singh is by far the most popular character of Ramesh Sippy's Sholay. "In that sense the film failed," quips Ramu. "The villain, who should have provoked hatred and loathing, actually ended up being the film's biggest draw."
Sholay was, of course, a huge influence on Ramu in his formative years. "After watching Sholay, I started understanding the technique of filmmaking, the importance of camerawork and the use of sound. It was like a school," he recalls.
Another big question mark on Ramu's filmmaking career springs from his obsession with the underworld. Here, too, the prolific producer-director puts up a characteristically strong defence. "No filmmaker in Mumbai has attempted as wide a variety of genres as I have," he asserts.
He says: "Sarkar isn't a film about gangsters. It's a family saga. Similarly, while my version Sholay will be set in the Mumbai underworld of 2005, it will be designed as an action-packed popular entertainer," he adds. So all ye Ramu baiters banish all dark thoughts.
Has the runaway box office success of Sarkar, the first genuine blockbuster of his career, changed anything for Ramu? "Nothing at all," he says. "A filmmaker will always make the films that he is capable of, not the ones that he is expected to make. So don't expect any dramatic shift in my strategy."
Ramu does, however, agree that a big budget production puts some pressures on a filmmaker. "You have to think about what the masses want. You have to worry about commercial viability," he says.
But even in the making of Sarkar, Ramu chose to follow his own instincts. "Some people told me that they found the soundtrack of the film too strong and insistent. But hadn't the soundtrack been the way it is, Sarkar (with its otherwise low-key narrative and acting) would have looked like an art film," he argues.
In the wake of the commercial success of Sarkar, will the RGV Factory now focus on bigger and fewer films? "No, not at all. We are in fact now planning 10 to 12 films a year, a film for every month. We want to eventually move to a one-film-per-week model," says Ramu.
He's obviously getting there. This Friday, My Wife's Murder, based on a story that Ramu wrote way before he thought of becoming a filmmaker, hits the multiplexes this Friday. The action-packed James, designed to restore screen heroism's lost glory, is due for release next month. Interestingly, both the films have been helmed by first-timers, Jijy Philip and Rohit Jugraj respectively.
Despite having achieved a big box office triumph with an Amitabh Bachchan starrer, his distaste for "Friday stars" is still intact. "The central role in Sarkar was meant for Amitabh Bachchan. He isn't in the film simply because he is a superstar. I wanted to project the kind of Amitabh Bachchan persona that I admired when I was growing up. I was trying to recapture the dignity and the intensity of the Amitabh Bachchan of Zanjeer and Deewar," says Ramu.
"Just a star can't guarantee success," he continues. "You need actors and characters that can strike a chord. Take the case of Abhishek Bachchan. He was exciting even when his films were not clicking. He was equally good in Naach and Sarkar, only, one of the films clicked, the other didn't. That doesn't take away anything from his performance in Naach."
Courtesy: Wide Angle