I know Ram Gopal Varma for a longer time than I know almost anyone else in the film industry,except Shabana Azmi and Sanjay Leela Bhansali whom I have been friends with from much longer. These two apart, Ramu is a friend who has come many times .
We became friends soon after Satya was released. Back then he was seen as the best thing to have happened to Hindi cinema since R D Burman. The whole industry was in awe the raw.Ramu couldn’t care less. To him Satya was just another film which acquired a super-cult status. “I worked harder on Daud .And look at what happened to that!”
In his self-definition of creativity Ramu is a true democrat. To him there is no difference between Shiva ,Satya, Company , Kaun ,Bhoot and Rangeela(without doubt the pillars of his repertoire) and the torrent of wet blankets that fell on us from the later part of his career: Aag, Phoonk,Darling, Not A Love Story, Department(this one wasted the Sanjay Dutt-Rana Daggubati combination) and the never-ending torrent of garbage which he has unleashed on us for the past 15 years.
Ramu is unstoppable. That he makes movies is a mere coincidence. If he were manufacturing safetypins his output would be just as prodigious. Ramu is unstoppably prolific. He will make films for the big screen, small screen, phone screen..anything at all as long as he has a story to tell. And he will never run out of stories to tell. Ramu has a genuinely healthy interest in the lives of others.He doesn’t probe into your private affairs. But he know what’s going in others’ life.
There is lot that I find extremely annoying in Ramu. His constant attempts to shock and stir up a controversy by needlessly needling the sacred cows. There is no way he can claim to be unaware of the affect his shock talk and questionable action would have on the moral police. e knowingly courts controversies by making provocative statements.
But there is one quality that makes me ignore all his failings. It is his respect for women.In all the years that I’ve known him I’ve never heard him talk cheaply about any women. His name has been linked with several actresses. But he has never given me any reason to believe he was seeing any actress beyond the sets.
How contrary to the derogatory tone many filmmakers employ to describe their leading ladies when they think no one is listening. I still flinch when I remember a hotshot producer describing a female superstar as a ‘raand’(whore).
I had shared this incident with Ramu. “Why would he call her that?” Ramu had wondered genuinely puzzled. I thought was such a decent thing to say. You may have your own opinion about Ram Gopal Varma, the filmmaker. You may think his cinema sucks, and you may be right.Ask him if he cares!But the real Ramu is nothing like the films he makes.
As he turns a year older, I remember his old birthday refrain , ‘What is so happy about your birthday? It is a reminder that you are inching closer to death.’
Ramu’s words of wisdom can be as repetitive and annoying as his recent films. But no one can deny his unflinching honesty. He knows he can never make another Satya. He isn’t trying to.