You can love him or hate him but you just can’t ignore him… because he won’t allow you to! You only need to trawl through Ram Gopal Varma’s Twitter timeline to see for yourself that he quite revels in playing Agent Provocateur and doesn’t need any outside help – the media, PR consultants and what-have-you – to be in the news.
For an industry that is so accustomed to playing out the ‘one happy family’ stereotype that it has borrowed from its own films, one senses a certain bafflement as to how to react to this loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules of stated mutual admiration and respect and mouthing of brotherly, humble platitudes that make for standard industry-speak.
It is with quite the same bewilderment that not just the trade, but also the movie going audience, has come to anticipate his films. When one walks into a cinema hall to watch a new film from RGV, one has no clue whether it is a path-breaking Satya or a gripping Company or a brain-dead Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag or a disastrous Department that awaits one.
And to be brutally honest, if one looks at the quality graph of RGV’s filmography, one would see not only a volatility erratic line, it would also unfortunately be a line with a pronounced downward slant in recent years.
That said, I get a feeling that one perhaps judges RGV with a greater degree of harshness than one would another filmmaker. For two reasons. One, his brashness and refusal to abide by the industry template of good behaviour, as mentioned earlier. Two, because we know he is capable of such greatness and magic as a filmmaker that we feel almost personally let down when out of bad judgment or diffused focus or sheer bloody-mindedness and arrogance he delivers a film that is not worthy of his proven potential.
Ram Gopal Varma is by no stretch of imagination the greatest Hindi filmmaker that ever was, and the objective of this note is not to eulogise him or defend him. However, we must acknowledge that he is among the most influential filmmakers of our times, if not the most consistent one.
And his contribution lies way beyond the cinematic gems that he has given us over the years – Shiva, Rangeela, Satya, Company, Bhoot, Sarkar et al. To him must go the credit for single-handedly expanding the narrative spectrum of our films which were comfortably and almost exclusively ensconced in glossy, NRI-friendly romances till Satya literally shook up the industry.
And that’s not his only contribution. A lot of the prevailing motifs that are a part of our cinema today have been made possible largely because RGV set the trend – the high-on-concept-low-on-face-value movie; the stylised gangster caper; the up-gradation of the horror flick; the moving away of our films, both narratively and in terms of shooting locations, from Mumbai studios and Switzerland meadows to earthier, grittier, truer India. Add to that the diverse and ample wealth of talent in cast and crew that he has introduced to our fraternity.
As someone once said, history hardly feels like history when you are living through it. Perhaps shorn of the immediacy of it all, and reacting to the man’s professional legacy rather than his personal impudence, history will be a more generous judge of the on-going filmmaking career of Ram Gopal Varma.