Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)
Just before the intermission in Ram Gopal Varma’s “The Attacks of 26/11“, a police constable stumbles around with a rifle, searching for the two gunmen who had just wreaked havoc at Mumbai’s busiest train station. He slumps to his feet on the blood-stained floor and lets out a cry of anguish.
There are prolonged shots of a dead dog, fake blood squirting out of people, and much gore on screen as Varma recreates the horrifying events of Nov. 26, 2008. If the aim of the film is to chronicle these for posterity, this is certainly not how the story should be told.
Varma’s re-telling of the 26/11 attacks is shown from the point of view of a senior city police officer giving a statement to a government committee set up to investigate the attacks.
His narrative is interspersed with the journey of the ten gunmen who made their way to iconic Mumbai landmarks such as the train station and the Taj Mahal Hotel, gunning down anyone in sight.
I remember watching Ram Gopal Varma’s “Bhoot” in 2003 in a movie hall in Delhi. Or rather, I remember trying not to watch it. Most of the time, I had my face in my hands and had shielded my eyes because I was just plain scared.
Varma set a ghost story in a modern apartment, with two people and everyday settings, but he did it skillfully enough for you to be on the edge of your seat throughout the film. For weeks afterwards, I couldn’t look into a mirror because I’d remember the scene where the ghost appears in the mirror behind Urmila Matondkar’s back. That’s what a good scary movie should and can do.
In my head, I always imagine Ram Gopal Varma, sitting in his office, legs up on the table, going through a checklist on the last day of a film shoot. Hyperactive camera angle – check. Lots of fake blood – check. Added some element of “Satya”, “Company” or “Sarkar” to the film – check. Leading ladies showing off cleavage – check.
How else do you explain a film like “Department”? That someone (Varma) thought they could make a film with such tacky production values, a convoluted and weak script, and some scenes that could be straight out of a soft-porn flick, and still convince a major studio to fund it and market it as a A-grade movie, is baffling.
If you didn’t know better, you would almost think Ram Gopal Varma made “Not A Love Story” just so he could give his audience motion sickness. Crazy camera angles that peer into everything from the leading lady’s skirt to hidden corners of a house dominate this film and that is what stays with you, even after you leave the theatre.
Varma draws inspiration from the sensational murder case of Neeraj Grover, a television executive who was murdered by aspiring actress Maria Susairaj and her then fiancé Emile Jerome. He even shoots in the same building where Grover was killed and makes only cosmetic changes to the actual story.
At the outset, I have to confess that I didn’t watch a lot of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Rakht Charitra”. Most of the scenes have so much blood and gore and what can only be described as disgusting methods of killing a human being that you are forced to avert your eyes.
The film, based on the true story of Andhra politician Paritala Ravi, is less of a portrait of his time and life, and more of a gory chronicle of the bloody revenge saga he and his rivals are engaged in.
I hate watching horror films. I am easily scared and even the most innocuous sounds or predictable of horror scenes make me flinch.
Milind Gadagkar’s sequel to “Phoonk”, imaginatively titled “Phoonk 2″, is however less about the thrills and chills and more about unnecessarily loud background music, badly made- up ghosts and an inane storyline that has no beginning and no end.
As if it wasn’t enough that I had to bear the ordeal that is “Agyaat”, I would now, at a later date, have to endure a sequel. Yes, this two-hour comedy badly disguised as a horror film is not worthy of a second look, let alone a sequel.
Varma uses the tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and adds to the lyrics, making it a full-fledged song for his film about India’s media industry — “Rann”.
Of course, being the coward that I am (when it comes to horror films), I declined the offer. Being richer by one thousand rupees wasn’t worth putting myself through such an ordeal.