Serish Nanisetti listens as director Ram Gopal Varma etches out the philosophical framework in which he makes his movies and handles criticism
There is very little that has not been said or written about Ram Gopal Varma. In person, Ram Gopal Varma is built like a stocky wrestler with an unruly mop parted in the middle.
He walks with his palms in his trouser pockets and if he is sitting on a chair, the fingers keep twiddling with the Blackberry whose red light keeps flickering as soon a message has been answered.
As he talks, you realise that Ram Gopal Varma is an ordinary bloke who wears his attitude on his sleeve and keeps the sleeves rolled up for all to see. Infamous for his use of media to peddle his movies, he talks about ‘Dongala Mutha' which is being touted as a technology wonder that can make movie cameras obsolete and cinematographers redundant. The movie has been shot with a Canon 5D which is primarily a still camera.
What is the interplay of technology with your creativity?
Technology is just a facilitator, a tool. At the end of the day a director is a story teller. You can go overboard with technology and spend a load of money, or you can use technology and reduce the costs to bare minimum, which I am trying to do with Dongala Mutha which has been shot in just five days with a few technicians. More than technology it is the content, there is story, screenplay, performances, dialogue; cinematic application is what creates the cinematic experience. Without content technology cannot do anything. Technology makes life simpler and faster. Dongala Mutha will help make more movies with lesser cost in lesser time.
Are we ready for a situational comedy minus the songs and dances?
I wish we are. I would have made Appalraju at one fourth the cost and the result might have been better. I have been too long in the business to be disappointed with audience or media response. There are too many parameters for the success of a movie. The audience comes to the cinema hall with certain expectations, the promos are created with certain ideas and the director makes a movie with something else in his mind.
I am making a movie called Trishank with Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek and Sanjay Dutt. In Company I showed the political side of the underworld, here we are looking at the inner workings of the police department. And yes, I will be shooting with the same minimal equipment that we used in Dongala Mutha.
Do you visualise the movie before you mount it?
No. I work in the reverse. I work on the characters, the body language, the movements and how they go about their tasks. Once this is taken care of the rest falls in place.
In your book (Na Ishtam , nakey ankitham bad translation: My choice, dedicated to me) there is an essay about Friedrich Nietzsche's influence on Hitler, do you bring these philosophical insights into your movies?
Philosophy in movies? Maybe in the characterisation. I am more interested in the philosophical idea of characterisation. Not in the stories or themes but the way I show the characters there might be something that I have drawn from my readings.
You are drawn to dark themes?
Dark themes? I am drawn to realism. Life is dark, gritty, it is serious. And there is more humour in dark aspects of reality than what we consider comedy.
How do you see criticism of your movies?
To talk ill or think ill about others is as given as the sunrise, it is human nature. We indulge in it all the time.
That's why I am never upset when somebody criticises my movies. They cannot question my actions.
Which is the best chase sequence in your movies that you shot?
I think the court sequence in Rakta Charitra where the camera wanders from one person to another heightening the expectation and when the man fishes out his revolver it is totally unexpected. That was good.
You always wanted to be a director?
I was a film buff and a voracious reader. I watched movies and devoured books written by Ayn Rand, Fredrick Forsyth and others. I barely passed my exams and that too by copying. In the engineering college I was known more for the nuisance value, the gang fights and trouble. But I was a good narrator of stories. One of my friends Mohan Krishna said if he ever made a movie, he will have me as a director.
That was the first time I remember the word used with my name and I was hooked. It became an obsession and here I am.