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Open Letter to Ram Gopal Varma
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September 4, 2007

Open letter to Ram Gopal Varma

I was never the fan of any star, and would watch a movie if I felt it was good, else no. But you were the one person whose movies I used to await with expectation. In 1989 you had created a sensation with Shiva. The innovative camera angles, the dark and light shadows, the hard hitting realism, the action sequences, the dialogues made this movie a trendsetter not just in Tollywood, but in Indian cinema industry. And the memorable set of characters you created, Shiva, Durga, Bhavani, Chinna, Nanaji. For days together, this movie was on every one’s lips. Fed up with a Tollywood, full of star egoes, and mediocre stuff, being thrust on to the audiences, youngsters like me, looked up to you. From then on, you were the only person whose movies I would see First Day First Show. You showed that Shiva was not a fluke by coming up with movies in different genres like comedy( Kshana Kshanam, Anukokunda Oka Roju), horror( Raatri), underworld( Gaayam). We were willing to forgive your occasional duds like Antham, Govinda Govinda , Deyyam and Prema Katha. And as a producer you also introduced many talented directors like Shiva Nageswara Rao( Money) and Krishna Vamsi( Gulabi). We admired you for taking on the big daddies and star system, which was choking the Telugu movie industry to death.

When you made a big impact in Bollywood with Rangeela(1995), as an Andhraite I was proud that one of ours has made it. And in 1998 you came up with the masterpiece Satya, you became my idol and role model. If ever I wanted to become a director, I would take you as my inspiration. Like countless others, I admired you. I admired you Ramu, for having the guts to do away with hero meets heroine formula in Swiss Alps, and sing 6 songs. In a movie industry, where we had to put up with star kids, who had no talent whatsoever, we admired you for unleashing brilliant talents like Manoj Bajpayee, Makarand Deshpande, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh, Rajpal Yadav into the industry. And none could bring out talent like you, Brahmanandam must have done so many movies, but he would forever be remembered for Khan Dada( Money) and Michael Jackson( Anukokunda Oka Roju). Has Kota performed more brilliantly as a villain than he did in your Gaayam. You could make Jagapati Babu act in Gaayam, when he was still raw. You transformed Urmila Matondkar from a plain Jane with a hideous look into the nation’s sex symbol, and yet the same Urmi became a totally different character in Satya. To date none in Bollywood could have ever done a Kaun. Whenever I would talk with my non Telugu friends, and they would speak of you highly as a director, my heart swelled with pride. Satya, Kaun, Company, Bhoot as a director, Ab Tak Chappan, Ek Hasina Thi as a producer were solid proof of your talent.

And when you teamed up with Amitabh Bachan for the Hindi version of Godfather, my joy knew no bounds. You and AB together could have been India’s answer to Martin Scorcese- Robert De Niro. But unfortunately Sarkaar disappointed me badly. You seemed to be so much in awe of Amitabh Bachan, that you let the actor dominate the character. Don Vito Corleone was one of the most memorable characters in movie history, yet in Sarkaar, Subash Nagre was such an ill defined character, we don’t even know what he is, whether he is a gangster or a political leader. When you come out of Godfather, you remember Don Corleone and Michael Corleone, two of the most iconic characters. But it seems you wanted to project Amitabh and Abhishek Bachan more. Sadly, Sarkaar was a let down for me Ramu. You had made a wonderful adaptation of the Godfather some time back with Gaayam, and you redefined the gangster genre with movies like Satya, Ab Tak Chappan, Company, D, but when you came to big stars, you suddenly chickened out. Why Ramu? Martin Scorcese hero worships Robert De Niro, but he never let De Niro dominate the character. When you see Taxi Driver, you see Travis Bickle, you don’t see Robert De Niro. In Satya you created such memorable characters like Kallu Mama, Chander, Bhiku Mhatre, Bhau, by sharp contrast, the main character in Sarkar itself was not so well defined.

And from then seems to have begun your downhill journey. Shiva 2006, Nishabd were bad, but your RGV ka Aag was horrendous. Is this the same Ramu, whom I admired in Satya? Is this the same Ramu, whom I used to defend, whenever people pulled you down? Once upon a time, you blooded exciting newcomers to the industry, but nowadays you have lost that touch. Prashant Raj, Mohit Ahlawat, Nisha Kothari, Jiah Khan is that your idea of talent. Why are you so much hell bound on promoting Nisha Kothari? She is an average looker at best, and can’t act to save her life. And Babban must rank as one of the worst villainous characters I have seen. Gabbar Singh scared audiences, Babban irritates. You created such memorable characters in the past, and now all I see is caricatures in your movies. And for a person who fought against the star system, you are now pandering to the same star egoes.

Also what is this idea of cutting dialogues into mono syllabic movies? Can you imagine how Godfather would have been if “Give him an offer you can’t refuse” is truncated to “Offer cant refuse”? Could Scarface’s climax scene have been the same without Pacino’s memorable “Say Hello to My Little Brother” line? And why are you mixing up dialogues and music. Ramu, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, has the most memorable background music, yet when it is played, you don’t hear a single piece of dialogue. Neither in Shiva 2006 or Nishabd, I could make out what the characters wanted to say.

Ramu, its natural for everyone to have an ego. However when ego dominates the human thinking, and you start to imagine you are God, that’s when your down fall starts. No Ramu, you cant do this to your fans. We are the faithful fans who have stood by you. The industry needs you Ramu, there are people waiting for you to fail. Your failure would be an excuse for them to start inflicting their designer formulae on the audience once again. We loved a maverick called Ramu, we want that maverick again. And please stop acting like a family agent for the Bachans. No Ramu, we want the stars to subordinate themselves to you, not the other way around. Go for broke Ramu, go back to your video library, come up with a script like Satya or Kaun. Get totally raw newcomers, tell the stars to go take a hike. I still remain your fan Ramu, but I need to see the person whom I admired, I want that rebellious maverick, not a soundbyte specialist who has forgotten how to make movies.

[email protected]

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