There are very few people in Indian cinema who dare to be different from the time they start out, who have made their own set of rules and don’t care what other people think. They are beyond remakes and inspiration from normal doings and instead make other people get inspired from their art and it is people like these who have a cult following. People like Anurag Kashyap, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Shimit Amin, Rajkumar Santoshi minus Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani. But there was another person in this list for a very long time. In fact he has given some of these gems and for a long time was one of the most creative and dynamic personalities of Indian cinema. His name of course is Ram Gopal Varma. When he used to make a film everyone used to stand up and take notice simply because he was the person who basically made us use words like kuch hatke, fatang, bhari, Kuch tho naya rehega and so on. And before that, the words that were used was same hain re, kuch naya nai, Ye idhar se copy kiya hain etc.etc.
The first Ram Gopal Varma film that I happened to see was Raat and I was scared to shit. The slow-moving camera, lonely place and haunting background score was just something which we don’t see that often especially in those times. It wasn’t as succesful because it had it’s loopholes. But Bhoot was a more polished version of Raat where he had improvised on a lot of elements which he used in Raat, but which didn’t work much earlier. Some of the great Ramu moments are not just there in his trendsetting films but even the flop films like Daud which is still remembered. There are movies which you like when you were in school and college but when you watch now won’t tell anyone that you had liked it. Maine Pyar Kiya is such movie where it tries to be so sweet that one may die of diabetes as it is so full of over acting which can’t be borne now. But that’s not the case with movies made by Ramu which even today creates the same impact which it did say 10 years ago. Some of his epics are:
Shiva : Need I say anything more, Oh !! yes I need to, it is the 1989 classic and not the 2006 chaos. Shiva gave a whole different meaning to a college film. It was gritty, tense, riveting, but it still had that college feel to it. This college political gangster flick had everything needed in a proper masala film from mind blowing drama to gripping thrill without comprimising on the realism that was so subtly put across. The chain scene is still one of the most remembered scene whenever action scenes are in discussion. From the performances to the screenplay it was something else.
Rangeela : He was rightly called Maverick and this film pretty much approved why. A romantic musical about a girls dream to make it big in Bollywood, Ramu displayed his versatility with this film. From Urmila’s sex appeal to the love triangle with awesome Rahman tunes and above all else Aamir Khan’s tapori act; this movie is one of the biggest grossers of Ramu’s career and easily the most likeable one by the masses affirming his genius.
Satya : The most redefining moment in Indian cinema was Satya. Out went the gloss and glamour and in came the real locations, hidden cameras and true grit that is so needed for a gangster film. The Sholay of gangster films, the way Mumbai was captured in this film was something that was astonishing and there are very few times when a location becomes as important a character as the rest others in a film.
Company : A stylised and a more urban verison of Satya but definitely not in the same league, Company remains a splendid watch for its superb performances, the gloomy nature through which it was shot adding up with a tight screenplay. It can’t be ignored in the list of great gangster flicks made in India.
Bhoot : A horror film set in a normal middle class home with no haunted trees, no smokes and dark jungles, owls, cats and dogs. This is horror Ramu isstyle and how. This movie scares the daylights out of you for its slow camera movements, intense build ups, background scores and above all Urmila Matondkar. The horror film which depended on performances of the actors as much as the ghost & spirits. Easily the best horror film that anyone could want to see in the last decade.
Sarkar : Unfortunately, this is the last film that could be in this list. India’s answer to The Godfather, Sarkar was very different to Satya & Company. More of a political gangster thriller, this movie gives you chills more in silence than in words. The power that you feel when you watch this one is credited to the intense performances gelled well with cracking use of lighting and background scores.
Forget all about the movies that he has directed, some of his productions are right up there. Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon!, Ab Tak Chhappan, Ek Hasina Thi, Shool. He had tremendous eye for talent not only with respect to actors like Rajpal Yadav, Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai but even writers and directors like Anurag Kashyap, Prawaal Raman, Sriram Raghavan, Manish Gupta, E. Niwas, Shimit Amin, which is one helluva list. He knew how to extract good performances from a cast and it seems that he has rubbed out all his talents among the above mentioned guys, keeping none with him.
Sarkar came out in 2005 and since then it has been a downward spiral for the once maverick genius and I have being waiting since 2005 for him to come up with something even close to the ones he had made earlier. He has never been a director whose every film that come out were as good as the previous last, which does happen considering the fact that he used to experiment with his subjects. However, after every Drohi he used to produce a Rangeela, after every Daud he used to produce a Satya, but since 2005 he hasn’t even been able to produce a Daud too, forget Satya. Ramu just seems to have lost his touch as a filmmaker and the unfortunate part is he seems to be too content as to where he is.
The biggest problem seems to be that he just doesn’t have the team right now which will help him to recreate the magic that he used to. There is no Jaideep Sahni or Anurag Kashyap or Manish Gupta. The captain is as good as his team and right now his team members are not in the level that it should be. He does also seem to be lost in the Ladki Ka Chakkar, Babbu Bhaya. Trying to get a Urmila again and again is not something that is possible and he seems to have fallen in the “Booby” Trap (literally) . Antra Mali, Jiah Khan, Nisha Kothari with no talents and even no clothes couldn’t save them in this industry. But hell-bent he was to prove everyone wrong and thus he put us through hell with Antra Mali (Naach, Mr Ya Miss, Road), Nisha Kothari (Go, Shiva (2006), Agyaat). There is no doubt that he was always arrogant, but he did seem to have got carried away and his ego got bigger than him, especially during the time he was making Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag. Since then he has just slid abysmally.
Ramu’s next is supposedly Department with an ensemble cast. If he can just control the camera gimmicks by not taking it everywhere from between the legs or a 360 degree turn and concentrate on conveying a story and a good one at that, he will be much better off, otherwise which we can consider this post as his obituary.