‘If Sholay was not made Aag wouldn’t have been made’ – Ram Gopal Varma


    From launching Ram Gopal Varma Ke Sholay to taking rounds of the court for infringement of Sholay copyright to finally re-titling the movie as Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, this film will finally the see the light of day at cinema halls on 31 August.

    As puzzling as it sounds, these are some hurdles that the film faced. But Varma feels this will not hamper the film. He is of the opinion that people who know that Aag is a remake of Sholay, will come to cinema halls to see the remake and the others will come to see an altogether new movie titled Aag.

    In an EXCLUSIVE no holds barred interview with Businessofcinema.com’s Rohini Bhandari director and producer Ram Gopal Varma gives a peek into his forthcoming film Aag. The maverick Varma feels that if the audience comes with the mindset of — “Apna film Shiva to bana nahi saka, Sholay kya banayega sala,” — it might work better for him and his new movie. What’s more, he also admits that the debacle of Shiva made him work that much more harder on Aag.


    Now that Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag is ready and due for a release, how much of it is actually a remake of Sholay and how much does it belong to your own school of filmmaking?
    Thematically, in a remake you try to re-do the film exactly the way it is, probably in a contemporary technique. In that sense, I do not think Aag is a remake. But having said that I would say that, if Sholay was not made Aag wouldn’t have been made.

    The plotline of Sholay and Aag is around a cop wanting to take revenge with a dacoit by hiring two people for that job. But the moment you change the setting and put in a modern 2007 setting like a city; obviously the sequences will not remain the same, but yes the spirit is the same.

    On script Gabbar may be a villain but if the audience comes out loving the character then how can he be called a villain? When Gabbar was massacring Thakur’s hands I was enjoying the line ‘Yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur!’, so in a way I think it defeated the purpose of the story.

    So the intention here is not to have Amitabh Bachchan play Gabbar but to create a character, which probably might have a similar appeal, not necessarily better. Babban and Gabbar are different kinds of villains. But the common thing is the intention of the filmmaker to create a character, which may have this kind of an appeal in the audience.

    Since the time you announced the film till date you have only been saying that you have so much respect for the film and that you owe your being as a film maker to this film. Then why is it that people are taking to offence with you and this film?
    I couldn’t understand the emotions for a long time but now what I can think of is that they almost feel an intrusion into their personal space because the film has become so legendary. And then when someone comes and says he wants to recreate the characters and the story, it is like someone treading into their space. But the point is that they do not know what I am making. I am not making Veeru as Veeru but as Heero.

    I truly respect Sholay much more than anybody else because I am yet to meet a man to knows and understands the film more, but that doesn’t mean my intentions are to make a better film than Sholay. It is just to change the setting. In simple terms, if Sholay is a beautiful girl in ghagra-choli, I would want to see how she looks in a different set of clothes.

    Without knowing what I am doing people are reacting, which is fair because if I were in their place and someone told me – ‘I want to remake Rangeela,‘ maybe I won’t like it. I really don’t know! CONTINUED… < Page Break >

    After the release of a well made film like Sarkar in 2005 you had some not so good films like Shiva in 2006 and Nishabd in 2007. So do you think that these films may hamper the opening of Aag?
    Lower expectations might work for me. If the audience comes with this mind set — ‘Apna film Shiva nahi bana saka, Sholay kya banayega sala,’ — it will be better. They might just like the film. But if Shiva and Nishabdh would have worked very well, then people would think that I am going to do something extraordinary with this. As it is I have the baggage of Sholay on my shoulders… I don’t need more expectations than that (Laughs).

    Shiva having flopped is the biggest thing that happened to me and Nishabd was a little off the track. If Shiva was a hit I would have totally messed up Sholay. Shiva’s debacle put me on a very careful footing. So I think everything happens for a certain purpose. I am not saying I made a great film in Sholay, but because Shiva flopped I made it 50 per cent better than what I would have otherwise done.

    Since the Bachchan’s are the only ‘stars’ in your periphery, will you continue to make films with them?
    I have a very good equation with them and have great respect for them both as people and as stars. With the kind of personality they have on screen, it excites me to make films with them. After Sarkar Raaj we haven’t really finalised anything yet. Time Machine is a film that will be made, but we have haven’t yet decided on the specifications.

    How do you manage to work with stars (who mostly work in films which are shot abroad and wear designer clothes) and other actors, in films with the smallest of budgets?
    There is no such thing as a good location, it is in the way you capture it. All locations are about beaches, valleys, rocks, mountains, roads and some buildings and have been exposed since 1960 in black and white films. Most of the times it is the unit that feels happy to go for an outdoor shoot.

    Once the actor is in the frame and the focus is on the actor, everything else blurs. When the actor is in the frame nobody looks at the background as it is reduced to being just a supporting colour. So fundamentally in a cinematic frame there will not be any difference between a Mauritius beach and a Madh Island beach. Now especially in DI times you can do so many things like colour correction.

    In Rangeela, 10 or more years back, I shot the ‘Tanha Tanha’ song on Madh Island and because Urmila looked so beautiful, people thought it was a beautiful location.

    In 17 years, you have made a lot of successful films but why haven’t you been able to taste monetary success?
    It is the intention what one sets out for. Is it money that you want to make, or is it films, or do you want to live life the way you want to? For me success is to get up in the morning and do what I want to till the night, and I have always been successful.

    Some people measure it in terms of how much money they made and the bank balance, but for me it doesn’t really matter.