India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

The Attacks of 26/11: Revisiting the ghosts of Mumbai

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(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.

Bhoot Returns – That’s not the spirit

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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.

Department: Mr Varma, please spare us the trauma

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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.

Not A Love Story: Compelling tale, amateurish film-making

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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.

Rakht Charitra: Bloody tale

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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. Vivek Oberoi plays Prakash Ravi, the son of a local politician who is killed by his one-time mentor. Determined to take revenge when his elder brother is also killed, he transforms from college student to fugitive, hiding in the jungles and surfacing only to eliminate his father’s killers. The film traces his journey from a murderer to political leader, a minister in the cabinet with a swanky house of his own, a far cry from his makeshift shelter in the jungles. What Varma doesn’t do, however, is give us a glimpse into the minds of his characters, whether it is Ravi or his rival Bukka Reddy (Abhimanyu Singh who plays a despotic killer to the hilt). Instead, he chronicles every murder they commit, whether it is with a sickle, a gun, a handpump and several other weapons I cannot even begin to describe here. We get that the politics of the region is bloody, but exactly why it is like that, Varma doesn’t tell us. With the result you are left cringing at the amount of fake blood that must have been used during the making of the “Rakht Charitra”. Vivek Oberoi is intense as Ravi and Shatrughan Sinha as his political mentor will surprise you with a toned-down but effective performance. And Abhimanyu Singh brings the right amount of insanity in his eyes to convince you of his intentions. However, these aren’t enough to save the film, so unless you want to see some gruesome blood-spilling, you should avoid this one. Also, “Rakht Charitra” has a sequel coming up, releasing just three weeks later, and it’s also described as a “terrifying saga of revenge”. I cannot imagine how much fake blood they must have used for that one.

rc1At 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.

Phoonk 2: Hardly scary

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phoonk2I 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.

Festivities on celluloid

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It is difficult to live in Mumbai and not get a whiff of the Ganesha celebrations on in the city.

In fact, if you live in India, it is difficult to be in any city this time of the year and escape the festive air that pervades everything.

Agyaat: You really don’t want to know

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Right at the end of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Agyaat”, there comes a moment that scared me more than any scene in the film. As the credits rolled, it said “Agyaat 2, Coming Soon.”

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.

Jana Gana Mana ‘Rann’: new-age anthem?

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Nearly 60 years after Rabindranath Tagore’s composition was adopted as India’s national anthem, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s interpretation of it is raising conservative eyebrows.

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”.

Like horror films? Here’s how you can win some cash

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Way back when I was in college, a friend challenged me to watch “The Exorcist” all alone at home, after midnight, in exchange for a thousand rupees.

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.

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