As Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag” envelopes the silver screen this Friday, director Ram Gopal Varma is nonchalant as ever.
I don’t think Gabbar was negative in the first place. If he was, why was he used to promote biscuits soon after the release?
His critics should know that Ram Gopal Varma’s favourite dialogue from “Sholay” is De thakur jitni gaali deni hai. Yes, the man is ready with his homage to the film that he says stays with millions of Indians 31 years after its release. He himself watched it 27 times in the first four months of its release.
Is it the biggest challenge of his career? “It would have been if I were vying for one-upmanship. It’s just my take on a film that has intrigued generations with its characters, plots and technique. It is not a risk either, for there are three kinds of people. One, who remember the original by heart, then those who know ‘Sholay’ but have forgotten the spirit of the film. It has been copied and spoofed so many times that few remember what the original stood for, and the third – 16-25-year-olds – who haven’t seen the original. All of them should have a reason to watch ‘Aag’.”
Yes, it is called “Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag” after a bitter tussle with the Sippys’ in the court over the rights. “Initially, I wanted to buy the rights of the original and G.P. Sippy (who passed away recently) was agreeable. While pondering over the idea I felt I should not make a scene-by-scene remake and for this I didn’t need the rights. In the meantime some internal feud happened in the Sippy clan and they refused to part with the rights, made it a trademark issue and moved the court to stall the release. I could have continued to fight but it would have delayed the release indefinitely. So I changed the name of the film and characters. I don’t see it as defeat. I have not made a copy…there are already several copies of the film in the market…one is ‘Chinagate’, which is set in a similar terrain.”
He says his is a tribute to the formula films that were a rage in the ‘70s and the genre was inspired by films like Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”.
“People should not expect the intellectual class of ‘Company’ in it. It’s my way to try formulaic.”
Ramu says though Gabbar (now Babban) is central to his idea, the film has not been made from Gabbar’s point of view. “I feel the original could not answer why Gabbar severed Thakur’s hands and killed his entire family. That Thakur arrested him could not be the only reason for such an act of vengeance. So I have tried to look into Babban’s mind. It’s more rounded than Gabbar. As for the comparisons Superman and Batman basically do the same thing but in their own way.”
The promos make one feel that the film is more violent and Ramu is going back to his raw days of “Satya”. “It is high on mental violence, as I always feel it’s all in the mind and as the original set some benchmarks in terms of technique, we have also tried some new angles, frames and colour schemes.”
On his choice of Amitabh Bachchan as Babban and Ajay Devgan as Hero (Veeru), Ramu says the attempt was to go as far as possible from the original. “People would say how Ajay could replace Dharmendra. My contention is Ajay is playing Veeru, the character…he is not supposed to mimic Dharmendra.” But Ajay has never played Veeru in his career? “True, that’s what I mean when I say I wanted to take the characters as far as possible from the original. Otherwise, I would have got trapped in the match-up game. People would only feel that they have seen a similar character somewhere.”
As for Bachchan, Ramu says as a filmmaker he always feels tempted to try something new with Bachchan…to challenge the actor in him. “And once again people will see him in a new light. As for negativity, I don’t think Gabbar was negative in the first place. If he was, why was he used to promote biscuits soon after the release?”
Ramu is not concerned about the loss of image and fan following if the film fails to live up to the expectations of people. “The consumer is very selfish. If the film is ripped apart, there is nothing I can do. Nobody goes to watch a film because of my name. Had it been true, ‘Naach’ and ‘Nishabd’ would not have met such fate. And in between they would not have returned for ‘Sarkar’.” But this time there is an attempt to make him look silly? “Yes, there is, but nobody can stop a good film. After ‘Aks’ Rakeysh Mehra was projected as if he knows nothing about cinema. But look how things changed after ‘Rang De Basanti’.”
All said and done, is there something left to pay homage? “No”.