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Since 1st March, 1999
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Faith in fear

Films may come and films may go, films may boom and films may bomb but nothing about Ram Gopal Varma seems to change. He was his usual nonchalant self when t2 caught up with Ramu at Fame (South City) after a promotional bout for his new scare flick Phoonk. Here goes RGV again...

Before Contract you said you were revisiting the underworld genre because you had something new to say. Are you making another horror film after Bhoot with the same logic?

No... I think horror is more emotional than say something like the underworld which changes with technology or the economic condition of the country or the political situation of the country. Horror is primarily based in fear. And fear is an emotion which is universal, irrespective of the culture and time and everything. That doesn’t really change...

Raat to Bhoot to Phoonk, do you think you have been able to stylistically treat the horror genre differently over the years?

Hmmm.... That’s an interesting question... What has changed over the years is my understanding of the horror genre. It’s much more mature now. In a film like Raat I was more excited about impressing everyone with the technique and steadicam and everything. In Bhoot I think the concept of demonic possession was articulated much better than in Raat. Phoonk is much more deeper in terms of impact. Apart from the physical aspect of scaring you with sound and camera and music, it will make you question your faith. Believe in black magic or don’t believe in black magic, either which way the point of making you question yourself will let you take the film back home.

Is it important for someone like you to believe in a subject before making it? Do you believe in black magic?

No... That’s the whole point. I think it’s fashionable to say I believe in black magic or I don’t believe in black magic. Both of them are talking about a thing they don’t know. Unless you experience it yourself... That’s why I put the line in the film that it is superstition until it happens to you. Now I have not experienced it myself. But I have met people who have. If I say I don’t believe in it, it will sound very childish or idiotic. I have a very limited knowledge about this aspect to say something like that. The belief has been there for hundreds of years and for me to make a sweeping statement would be wrong.

Before Bhoot you had said you cast Rekha and Victor because they carry a certain image and do not need scenes to establish their characters. So why work with rank newcomers or unknown faces in Phoonk?

I have always believed the Steven Spielberg formula — to put ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Take Close Encounters, take ET... the families are very believable. They are like your neighbours. They are like your family. That gives a tremendous amount of believability. The moment you take established stars who have an image over the years, they become a burden on these kinds of scripts. In Bhoot the whole treatment was such that it was larger than life. Which is not the intention in Phoonk.

Why don’t we make more horror films here in India?

I wouldn’t really know but I think horror is a very difficult genre, you know... There is a very subtle difference between a horror film…. Phoonk is a scary film and not a horror film where you would have heavily made-up faces appearing like zombies and all. If you look at drama or comedy, it’s so simple to capture. But in a scary film, the technique and the command over the medium and the judicious use of sound and music are very important. That’s why maybe people don’t like to venture.

In your blog you mention that you made Rangeela because you wanted to shoot songs like Mani Ratnam did in Roja. Does that mean the films around you today do not inspire you to do something light and musical?

Possible! Because at the end of the day every film comes out of a state of mind. It’s difficult for a film-maker to know whether he is taking a right decision or a wrong decision till the outcome is out. A person who watches the films being made from the outside may question why he is not making other kinds of films but being an insider I may not be aware of it.

The perception is that after a series of flops from RGV Films, you are now only directing for other producers to try and resurrect your career...

Resurrect to what?

Your glory days of Rangeela, Satya, Company...

No matter how many times I answer this question, I don’t think it’s going into people’s heads. So it’s no use clarifying my position.

But why have you stopped producing films, for yourself and others?

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii am producing films again...

What films?

There are a couple of ideas... I haven’t yet zeroed in on them.

Do you feel hurt that your films haven’t being doing well?

No.. it’s not about being hurt or sad. See, there are many parameters of how a film is received. A critic has his point of view. The numbers have another perspective. So the viewer has to decide whether he likes the film or not. Sometimes some ideas are accepted, some are not. People may not be in the same state of mind while watching the film as I was while making it. It’s an impossible battle to win if you try so many genres.

So a film doing well or not at the box office has no effect on you?

I am saying there’s very little I can do about it. The fact that Satya worked doesn’t mean it was right. Every film of mine was a state of mind and so was Satya. Things falling into place and people liking it is absolutely random.

So what matters to you?

See, for me, the moment the film’s mixing is over I don’t think about it. After that what interests me is people not praising me or criticising me but telling me their reactions. I like a comment on it. Liking it or disliking it doesn’t mean anything at all. They may trash it but if they have logic or reason, I like that.

Which is your best/worst RGV film and why? Tell

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