Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'I hate being ignored'

The Rediff Interview / Ram Gopal Varma

'I hate being ignored'

Raja Sen | November 18, 2004

The Ram Gopal Varma chronicles continue, as seen in the first part of the interview with Raja Sen. Here, the filmmaker talks about making bizarre cinema and why his surreal Daud didn't work.

Okay, now I'm going to ask about Daud. It stands apart from all the other films you've made, it's the most bizarre of the lot. What were you really trying to say with Daud?

A film, I feel, is a state of mind. A film eventually comes from an idea: based on an idea, you make a decision, and once you make the decision, you keep comparing everything to that, but don't question the decision itself. That's why most of the time you make mistakes in life. Even in personal life.

With Daud, basically, I wanted to make a very Mad Max kind of a film: that was my original intention. But there were too many things conflicting, contrary to that: the success of Rangeela, Sanjay Dutt's star status, Urmila's sex-symbol image, the success of Rahman's music in Rangeela, the well-shot songs.

When a film does not have a strong emotional hook, which acts as a guideline, it's very hard to maintain the balance. You are likely to make more mistakes with a light-hearted film than a serious one.

People understood only halfway through the film that it was a comedy! (Laughs) The title, Sanjay Dutt's image, and my reputation with films like Shiva, prepared the audience to expect a very intense action film. So they got confused with what was happening: the film starts with high intensity and suddenly takes on another turn, some comedy happens, and suddenly it jumps back to something serious.

If I had trained the audience's mind in the campaign, even before they stepped into the theatre, to expect a bizarre and offbeat film, it could have been different. I don't know.

Another major aspect is that, I don't think I went all-out! In fact, in the opening scene of Daud – a friend of mine in Hyderabad suggested, in the film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the guy talks about treasure and kicks the bucket before he dies. He said if you had one shot like that in the opening sequence of Daud, I wouldn't have taken the film seriously, leaned back, and enjoyed whatever insanity is happening!

But I confused them. I keep telling Manoj (Bajpai), 'You screwed up Daud. You did it so sincerely, the film took a serious turn. None of the actors, or me, we didn't take the film seriously. You just acted so seriously in that beginning scene, it set the tone. Then it confused them. So it looks bizarre.'

Yes, it's hard to find a track to settle down in the movie with. I think it's actually enjoying a decent run on TV. A lot of people watch it now and have a good laugh.

(Laughs) Yes, because they don't see it with the same intensity with which they came into the theatres. When you're watching TV, you're doing other things: talking to someone on the phone, going into the kitchen, coming back. So the expectations and emotional connectivity are not as intense as the theatrical audience. That's the reason they work on TV.

But I still feel with Daud, I'd decided to completely make a wacko film by intention, but I didn't have a conscious design. I was just having fun on the locations everyday.

Are you going to go all-out and bizarre in a film ever? A surreal film with something incredibly risky, which you haven't been averse to earlier. Something possibly with killer robots and zombies and the like? Just pushing the envelope as a filmmaker to the complete, insane extreme.

I'm not so sure I'll make that kind of film again. Maybe I will, I don't know. First of all, I don't think I take risks. People think I do, but I don't. In fact, I think conventional formula-filmmakers take more risks than me (laughs). Why I try things differently is because I don't think the previous film will work again (laughs). That's the truth.

Coming to pushing the envelope, I'd like to do anything that interests me. I get an idea, and it excites me, and I maybe call a couple of writers and say this is my idea, let's do something about it. I'm busy, am doing several other things, so whenever this guy comes up with what I feel is a reasonable position in the script for me to start, I get so excited I want to start off with that! Immediately!

So they could be killer robots, as you said. Sounds interesting. Suddenly, someone tells me let's make a monster film: I don't know what the monster is, but it sounded nice. Could be like The Predator maybe (laughs). Let's do it.

So you don't limit yourself to anything?

(Smiles) No, I don't limit myself to anything. It should just be startling; it should be shocking. I don't mind making a bad film, an ugly film, I just don't want to make an okay film. I don't mind being hated, but I hate being ignored. I want an extreme reaction. 'Kya bakwaas film banaata hai!' – I don't mind that. But I don't want them being indifferent.

Films, today, are a medium of entertainment. I don't think it's really so much about business and risk.


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