He's directed over 30 feature films, including 22 in Hindi. Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) has produced, written and directed most of his films, from “Shiva” (1989), which brought him into the limelight, and Bollywood blockbuster “Rangeela” that elevated him to dizzy heights, to his more recent offerings.
Meanwhile, our own Suriya is busy wrapping up guest appearances in “Manmadhan Anbu” and “Avan Ivan”, working with Shruti Hassan in “7aam Arivu” and preparing for his Bollywood debut with RGV's tri-lingual “Raktha Charitra”.
Based on the life of the late Paritala Ravindra, a gangster and political leader from Andhra Pradesh, “Raktha Charitra” has Vivek Oberoi playing Ravindra, while Suriya essays the character of Maddelacheruvu Suri, Ravi's nemesis. The story, based on real-life factional feuds, is set in Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh.
For Suriya, “Raktha Charitra” is an important film. “This will mark my debut in Hindi, and it will be my first straight film in Telugu. I am looking forward to my Bollywood debut, but the deciding factors in signing up for this film were RGV and the character I play; there are so many facets and emotions to it,” says the actor.
The film takes on different avatars in each language. Explains RGV: “In Tamil, the film will be released as one full-length film, whereas, in Telugu and Hindi, it will be released in two parts. Telugu audiences know the real story very well, and will expect to see every detail; hence the need to do a two-part film. Hindi audiences are used to the multiplex culture, and, I believe, a sequel will go down well there.”
Considering the fact that the film is based on real people and incidents, there is bound to be a lot of interest about it in Andhra Pradesh, right? RGV feels otherwise. “The characters will lead the narrative; the theme and story will follow. So, the film will appeal to people across the country. ‘Godfather' was based on the Italian mafia. Didn't it appeal to audiences worldwide? Similarly, this story could be set anywhere in the world. The story of gangsters, revenge and power is common across the world. However, since Suriya is a big star in Tamil Nadu, we've managed to condense the story into one full-length film thanks to some deft editing, and treat this as a Suriya vehicle,” says the director.
RGV's career in Bollywood has been turbulent, with some of his films, such as “Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag”, facing flak. But, he has hit the bulls' eye with the gangster trilogy “Satya”, “Company” and “D”.
Says RGV: “For me, every film is an exciting project, and I approach it as if it were my first. Even with ‘Raktha Charitra', it is like making three different films for totally different audiences. And, it has been a great challenge. Since Suriya was comfortable in Tamil, we did the Tamil bit first. After he understood the emotions and the needs of the character, the other languages were a cakewalk. For Vivek, I shot the other way around — in Hindi first, and then in the other languages. ‘Raktha Charitra' has changed my mindset when it comes to film-making — in the very concept and style of creating it.”
About working with RGV, Suriya says: “I have always been fascinated by his characters and selection of actors. There is always a close synergy between both. When this story was narrated to me, I felt it would give me ample scope to perform. And, while it was difficult to portray the various facets of the character's life, I've derived a lot of satisfaction from the fact that I've done justice to it. Initially, when I watched Vivek's sequences, I wondered if I would be able to match his screen presence and acting. But, as we went along, I worked really hard on my role. The end result is fantastic.”
RGV wanted the perfect cast for “Raktha Charitra” to convey the turbulent emotions of the two central characters. “My challenge was to do justice to the emotions of the real Ravi and Suri. I saw a fire in Suriya's eyes that I felt would translate the character's emotions beautifully,” says RGV.
As with most of RGV's films, “Raktha Charitra” is also bound to be violent, but that is the reality of life, feels the director. And, director Mani Ratnam summed it up appropriately enough at the audio release function: “I've known RGV for a long, long time. He continues with the same vegam (speed) and same violence. I wish him well.”