Ram Gopal Varma on Sarkar 3: 'Amitabh Bachchan is like wine, he gets better with age'
Ram Gopal Varma was once known as a versatile filmmaker, skilled with horror (Raat, Kaun, Phoonk), romance (Rangeela) and gangster dramas (Satya, Company). However, off late has been in news for all the wrong reasons.
Time and again, his controversial tweets have been eliciting bitter responses from various quarters. But despite his eccentricities, the filmmaker has one of the country’s biggest stars as a permanent feature in his films: Amitabh Bachchan.
Ahead of the release of Sarkar 3, Firstpost meets the maverick director, who claims to never take anything seriously in life. Excerpts from the interview:
You have decided to never put any negative remark about anyone on twitter and yet you are embroiled in another controversy with your latest tweet that you would make Bruce Lee biopic better than Shekhar Kapur.
Look, I just feel I am a huge fan of Bruce Lee and I tweeted in fun. I said that I know more about him than his daughter Shannon Lee, his wife Linda Lee and Shekhar Kapur. It was done all in fun. I just tweeted about it, I am not making the biopic.
You say that you are honest about your feelings and opinion but people take offence.
I am the joker of twitter. But on a serious note, I am a prankster. I tweet things on the spur of the moment without taking them seriously. I never took anything seriously in my life and I applied the same thing on twitter. However, I have now decided that I am never going to put negative remarks about people.
Your tweets have landed you in trouble several times. You have courted trouble with feminists, activists, political parties and offended people from your own fraternity.
Yes, especially where Tiger Shroff is concerned, I think it was a very, very wrong thing to do on my part. I felt terrible about it and I apologised on twitter. But now I will never ever tweet against any individual, I swear on Ganapati. I may do it against a thought, system or organization but I will never ever tweet against a person. I am still on social media but now I won’t insult people.
Is it an impulsive thing in you, or you want to be in the news by way of sensationalism? Don’t you fear the aftermath of such controversial tweets?
Mostly it is impulsive. But I have always been like that, it is not that I had some sudden transformation. I have been tweeting like this for last five years or so, if I was worried about the aftermath, why would I do it.
Sarkar Raj was released in 2008. Why has there been such a long gap between the two franchises?
When we made Sarkar Raj, it was not on anyone’s mind that we are going to make a sequel or franchise, but over the years many people started asking Mr Bachchan and I about another part and two years back we roughly thought of an idea.
What would attract the audience this time on?
I always believe that Sarkar is a kind of realistic Superman.
In the sense, a superman’s job is to rise up to the occasion. That is what a superhero does. The only difference in a movie like Sarkar is that it is realistic, he is not shown flying but more or less he serves the same function for society. I always consciously never wanted the continuation of the same story. It has always been a different milieu, different character and different set-up.
Movies made in the past on Maharashtra politics, like Gulzar’s Hu Tu Tu(1999) or Shankar’s Nayak (2001), haven’t worked at the box office. What is the reason of the success of the Sarkar franchise, so much so that you decided to make the third one?
I don’t consider Sarkar to be a political movie. It is not about Shiv Sena or Bal Thackeray. That is not the back drop, all that has been created by the media. I don’t know what Maharashtra's politics is like. Every movie has its own setting. Sarkar is not based on any political group. I believe every village, every state, every company has a ‘Sarkar’; a person who has power, no matter where he is. I think that was the factor that connected the most with the audience.
But Sarkar was always believed to be a depiction of the life of Bal Thackeray.
Just because the movie has a reference point doesn’t necessarily mean that it is based on someone’s life. A person who has power without involving himself in politics is a real aspect.
With both the previous versions having worked, did you feel any pressure while making Sarkar 3?
Sarkar is a very situational movie. When you move with time in life, you face situations; it is those situations in the character of Mr Bachchan that the narrative takes forward. I don’t think the makers should be worried about comparisons or live in any pressure. It is for the audience to decide if the film matched up to the franchise. A filmmaker makes a movie with his vision and that duty I have served.
What is the different take in the third film?
Sarkar 3 is about the resonance of nepotism and its integral factor is that it happens everywhere, be it in a family, politics, industry or any other place. The negativity nepotism creates is taken advantage of by some people, and Sarkar 3 is based on the same concept.
Nepotism, recently, became the talking point in Bollywood leading to war of words between Karan Johar and Kangana Ranaut.
The very fact that people know the word nepotism, which is actually quite complicated, means that everybody feels it to some degree or the other. But I don’t understand why there's so much of a debate around it. It is so simple. If Dhirubhai Ambani has money, he will give it to his son, why will he give it to my son? Anybody who gains something in life, they will pass it on as a legacy to their immediate family members, or whoever they choose to. It could be the perception of outsiders that the relatives don’t deserve but you are not going to give your legacy, your fame or the rub off of your fame to your neighbour’s son. This issue is concentrated upon only because it is a film industry.
This is your eighth film with Mr Bachchan, almost the same number of films that Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra have made with the actor in his heydays. Why this obsession for him?
There are two reasons, one is because I have stood in long queues for hours and bought tickets of Bachchan’s movies. For me he’s the only star.
Secondly, it is the kind of cinema I believe in, the kind of cinema I connect with — which is gritty, raw and realistic.
But from the looks of it, both of you share a very professional relationship, and that's it.
Yes, that's true. In fact, I am the only person in the industry who Mr Bachchan never invites to his place, his home for Holi or Diwali party. We meet, or text each other only when there is some work, otherwise we don’t connect.
Did you notice any change in him since both of your came together after over five years?
Amitabh Bachchan is like wine, he gets better with age.
People often wonder how you continue to make films even though they don't work at the box office. Neither do the critics nor do the audience appreciate them. And how do you convince Mr Bachchan to do your films?
Probably it’s because of my ideas. For an actor, investor, technician, that's what they are interested in. Despite Aag (2007) or Department (2012), Mr Bachchan still trusts me and the reason is very simple, he knows that my intentions are good and he appreciates that.
Do box office numbers bother you?
I am just a filmmaker, I never look at numbers, I never look at distribution strategies and stuff.
Will there be another Sarkar?
I define the character as Superman and if I think I can come up with a situation that excites all of us then why not?
Manoj Bajpayee’s iconic gangster character, Bhiku Mhatre in your film Satya (1998) is still memorable. What role does he play in Sarkar 3?
Manoj has a powerful but short role, its impact will definitely be felt. He is playing the rival politician. We go a long way and unlike media speculations that we have had a fall-out, any time I feel strongly that I want Manoj for a role, all it takes is a phone call. We share a very special relationship and he is the kind of actor who invariably will rise far above the writer or director’s imagination, or what is on paper.
You said that his character in Sarkar 3 is inspired by Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.
(Laughs out loud) I said the violent version of Arvind Kejriwal.
So was Amit Sadh recommended by Mr Bachchan?
I have not seen Amit Sadh’s films but yes, it was Mr Bachchan who had suggested his name. The character is that of a cocky, arrogant kind of a person, someone who is not instantly likeable and pushes you on the edge, so we felt he will fit the part.
What are you planning next?
I am making a film called Arrest with Abhishek Bachchan.
Your office is becoming a tourist attraction (RGV’s office building with a wood-panelled entrance has the word ‘COMPANY’ written across its front in giant lettering. Statues of a huge gun, bull dog and a lizard greet visitors as do nude photographs of women. Rooms with wooden flooring and fairly high ceiling are named after Gandhi, Urmila, Dawood, Hitler, Trump. A full-length poster of Bruce Lee adorns one of the walls, sporting the caption: “I care a f*** about circumstances. I create my own opportunities”)
Thank you. I always feel that any place where you live or operate from should be an extension of your own mind and personality.
Updated Date: May 10, 2017 18:58 PM