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Maverick, megalomaniac, movie mogul, marquee king—some of the titles bestowed upon Ram Gopal Varma. But Ramu has no time for flak or flattery. In just under 15 years, this engineer from Andhra Pradesh has brought about a mini revolution in Hindi cinema and continues to defy the system. In his quest for something novel, he is constantly experimenting with art and mart, with genres and styles. Immediate plans include 10 movies within the next two years from his Factory, with everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Saif Ali Khan, Sushmita Sen to Antara Mali featuring in them. There’s much to talk about. Over to the man himself:

Has Ab Tak Chappan put you on a high?

What a film collects at the box office or what people perceive to be a box-office hit is not what my banner makes films for. The problem with the film industry is that it runs on emotions. If you take film-making as a business, and if you really understand the mechanics and economics of it, I don’t think there is anything such as a hit or a flop. It’s all to do with arithmetic—what is the kind of money you put into the film and what is the return? That’s what counts.

My intention in making Ab Tak Chappan was getting into the mindset of an encounter cop. I wanted to recreate that reality. And I wanted my actors to give me a certain level of performance. That’s what gave me a high.

Sometimes what you create is liked by many people. Sometimes it is liked by only a few people. I believe a film is like a conversation. If I am having a conversation with you, it’s possible you may enjoy it. Some other person sitting in this room may be irritated with it and someone else may disagree with it. But that doesn’t take away my right to say what I want. That’s what a film is also about.

According to me, a film is not intended to be made in such a way that it is liked by everyone. This is something people don’t seem to understand. Out of 100 people, if 10 like it and you can make it in a budget where an audience of 10 can return your investment, then it is still worth the effort. It is not intended that all 100 viewing it should like it. So box-office collections or a hit as people understand it is not what I make films for. I don’t make films to make money, I need money to make films.

That is what I have always been doing. So I never have a high or a low.

Well, in the case of your Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon and Ek Hasina Thi, even the investment wasn’t returned! Right?

Look, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon got a lot of appreciation. I haven’t met anyone who told me that it was not a good film. Or that it bored them. People told me it was a nice, sweet film. But I don’t think one can make Rajpal Yadav a hero. The main problem is that no one came to see it. People look for something interesting in a film. What will catch whose fancy is something one can only guess. Some may go see a film for the hero, someone else may go see it because of an innovative poster design. The promotion of Main Madhuri failed and the simple proof of that matter is that no one came to see the film.

For me Main Madhuri struck a personal chord. Every single day I watch strugglers coming to my office looking for a break. I see the hope in their faces when they enter and the disappointment when they are turned away. I connected to the film in a way. That is one of the main reasons why I made it.

Now big screen entertainment is about creating high excitement. Cute little sweet stories don’t run.

I remember that as a teenager I watched Yaadon Ki Baraat because of Dharmendra’s fights and Chori Mera Kaam because I liked Zeenat Aman’s legs. Around the same time, Rajshri’s Chitchor also released. So many people recommended the film to me. But I was very reluctant to go and see it. It was only when the film ran successfully for 50 days in a theatre in Hyderabad that I braced myself to go and see it. And I loved the film. It made such a tremendous impact on me that I saw it four to five times. I remember the film till today. Rangeela came out of the influence of Chitchor. The difference between the two films was that Rangeela was mounted on high excitement.

Main Madhuri was made exactly the way Chitchor was made some 25 odd years ago. I guess this kind of film can’t attract a wide audience today. This is my analysis.

And what is your analysis of Ek Hasina Thi?

Ek Hasina Thi did better business than Main Madhuri. But here again, the title gave it the feel of a love story. Or perhaps the promos, which I thought were exciting, didn’t excite the public. But according to me, Ek Hasina Thi, with all its flaws, was a first in its genre. It had good performances and it was a slick thriller made in Hollywood style. Sriram Raghavan, the director, did extremely well. Maybe Ek Hasina Thi could have worked on another day. But it is films like Main Madhuri that are dangerous.

Rumours are Ek Hasina Thi was Urmila Matondkar’s swan song with your company.

That is rubbish. The Factory is busy working on several scripts simultaneously. Once we are ready, we will definitely approach Urmila and other artistes for a narration.

People also give you complete credit for getting such an incredible performance out of Urmila in Bhoot. It is said you’re the only one who is able to bring out the best in her.

I think it is unfair to take away credit from Urmila for her performance in Bhoot. Anyway, I thank people who are giving me the credit for bringing out the best in her. But when an actor and a filmmaker work with each other time and again, there is a level of trust and understanding, which in turn may translate into a fantastic performance.

I personally think Shah Rukh Khan is at his best in movies directed by Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. And Robert De Niro is superlative in films made by Martin Scorcese. I guess the equation shared by certain actors with certain filmmakers is different from the equation they share with other filmmakers.

So much for credit. How well do you handle criticism?

Look, if you don’t like my face, too bad. What can I do about it? I will not sulk nor will I take revenge on you. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. (But what I object to) is when I make chapatis and you make chapatis too and your chapatis are worse than mine (and the whole world certifies this) but you criticize my chapatis. Or call them bad. You have no right to do this.

You said The Factory is working on several scripts. What are the forthcoming attractions?

Oh, I am working on a whole load of films. I am firing with both guns at the same time. When you constantly fire bullets, one bullet or the other is bound to hit the box-office.

Gaayab with Tusshar Kapoor and Antara Mali will come first. It will be followed by a film with Anil Kapoor in the lead. This film is about a man who kills his wife and tries to hide the body. In one version, titled Jaanbuzke, we show that the killing was intentional. In another version titled Galti Se we show that the killing was an accident. The difference between the intentions completely changes the sequences. I intend to release both films simultaneously. This is a first in cinema. If I am not mistaken, it is a first even in world cinema.

Naach with Abhishek Bachchan and Antara will follow. And then there is Vaastu Shastra, a horror flick with Chakravarthy (of Satya) and Sushmita Sen.

Those who have seen sneak previews of Naach say it has some steamy scenes between Abhishek Bachchan and Antara Mali. Yes?

(Laughs) I am not aware of such steamy scenes. Naach is a musical love story in the cliche of Hindi cinema. But I’m doing it in an extremely radical manner. It has all the ingredients of a mainstream romantic film but it’s been shot in a style that is completely the opposite of how a mainstream film is done. The choreography, the clothes, and the locations are all different.

You keep using actors who have been largely ignored by the rest of the industry. Chakravarthy and Nana Patekar, for instance. Is that a deliberate move?

Nana Patekar is an unbelievably great actor. The problem with the film industry is that it is self-obsessed. They don’t want to look very far. They make the rules themselves and they float all kinds of notions about people. They are the ones who spread notions like, this actor is hibernating. Or this girl is rejected. Or this actor is difficult to get along with. According to me, the audience doesn’t care about the personal opinions of the industry or the media. They either like something or dislike something. Nana Patekar may have been disliked in three films but liked in the fourth.

As filmmakers, only Shimit Amin and I understand what a great contribution Nana has made to Ab Tak Chappan. You have to see the way the audience reacts to him in the theatre. It really is something else. The way Shimit shot the movie was good but according to me Ab Tak Chappan wouldn’t have been possible without Nana Patekar.

Oh, one also hears that you have a 30-crore project, Sarkar, with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead.

Yes, Sarkar is one of our most ambitious ventures. It will roll sometime in August-September this year. Amitabh Bachchan has been signed for the lead role. Other details are still being finalised.

Is it true that Saif Ali Khan and you are entering into a partnership to produce movies?

Yes, Saif and I have talked about doing a film in partnership but we have not decided what the film will be.

Have you also forged a partnership with Sahara India for your next 10 films?

Sahara and I have tied up for producing 10 films or for two years, whichever comes first.

People are highly amused that you have named your company The Factory, presumably because of your prolific filmmaking style.

Let me explain why and how I decided on The Factory. The film industry has created an impression with outsiders that there are very few blessed people who can become directors. This is a myth. Outsiders do not know this, but I’m a director myself and I can call the industry’s bluff.

I’m a film buff. I love to see the kind of films that I want. When I meet people who come up with fresh ideas, who have a good vision, who are educated and exposed to world cinema, I get so excited. As a director I don’t have the time to make all those films; at the most, I can make one film in a year. And it is unfair if a project has to wait for me forever.

When I meet people with so much enthusiasm, passion, and desire, I want to provide them a platform to make movies. I want to use my position to facilitate filmmaking. So we are going about our productions in a systematic, disciplined manner.

When I announced the list of films from my banner last year, someone joked, “Isne factory khol rakha hai kya?” I thought to myself, why not call my office The Factory. It’s a damn good title.

Are you also going to get into merchandising goods from The Factory?

I have many ambitious plans. I’m constantly toying with ideas. Merchandising goods from my movies is definitely on the agenda. But it’s not an immediate plan.

Work, work, and more work. It’s said all work and no play have made you a dull guy.

I don’t look on filmmaking as work. Work is defined as something you have to do. It is not something you want to do. I’m having a ball making movies. I’m on a constant high.

You are never seen at film parties or mahurats. Kyon?

I find parties and social dos very taxing. Meeting people formally and saying, “Hi how are you?” is tiring. Answering the invariable “What is your next film?” or asking them what their next film is, is equally tiring. I’d rather catch up with people one by one. And assault them one by one. I’m incapable of taking on a group.

Your off-screen life is very well concealed. You’re more mysterious than a lot of actresses put together. What is your personal life like?

Why would anyone want to know about my personal life? I read an article on myself once which said, “This guy probably gets up in the morning, sees a film on his DVD. His personal work completed, he comes to office.” I loved it. This is exactly what my life is all about.

Source: Filmfare