Ambitious! Yes he is! Calculative! Yes he is! Fearless! Yes he is! Creative! Yes he is! However, what he is not is and will surprise many, Ram Gopal Varma is not at all financial secured and slowly over the last two and a half decades is deep in financial crisis. That is why I have titled my article as - The Deceptive World of Ram Gopal Varma! Let us take a look from where this maverick civil engineer, who owned a video library in Hyderabad, became the most sought after filmmaker of the last one and a half decades!
Every Tom, Dick and Harry and aspiring maidens want to work with none other than Ramu, as he is popularly known in Bollywood! He keeps announcing projects at the drop of a hat and most of his films have over the years been postponed because of various reasons. Some gets release after two years and others after a year of completion. His creativity is slowly slipping away from his hand just like his financial partners over the years. He owes a lot of money to actors and technicians, who have worked in his films. However, no one is ready to go on records, as Ramu is still most revered entity in Bollywood. However, the fact is evident that those (actors, actresses, technicians, assistant directors & others) who have worked with him earlier and not being paid their respective remunerations have slowly left him and vowed not to work with him again.
Ram Gopal Varma started his film journey as director, courtesy Telugu superstar Nagarjuna, who believed and trusted in him to produce SHIVA (1990). SHIVA was indeed a cult film in many respects and Ram Gopal Varma was born in the world of cinema. SHIVA was made in Telugu and dubbed in Hindi and it ran to full houses almost everywhere. A year after (1991) Ramu directed KSHANAK SHANAM (Telugu), which was again a hit. However, he started his Hindi film career with a dud called RAAT (1991) as director and producer. For two years, Ramu was busy with as many as four movies as director-producer. In 1993, ANTHAM (DROHI in Hindi), GOVINDA GOVINDA, GAAYAM (DESAM in Tamil) and MONEY, all in Telugu failed to make money for Ramu. The writer in him also made him to write THIRUDA THIRUDA (Telugu - 1994) for Mani Ratnam, which did an average business in Andhra Pradesh. And in the same year he produced a film titled MONEY MONEY (Telugu).
With not much luck in Andhra Pradesh, his home state, Ramu realised that to reach nationwide, he had to make a hit Hindi film. 1995 was Ramu's year in many ways as he came out with the only real blockbuster of his career RANGEELA with Aamir Khan and Urmila Matondkar. The film lifted Ramu to such an indomitable height that almost overnight every Bollywood actor wanted to work with him. However, the Arian quality saw him fighting with Aamir Khan, who vowed never ever to work with the maverick director. RANGEELA also brought Urmila laurels, who went onto become a permanent feature in most of his films and made every other filmmaker to notice the oomph that the child artiste turned actress lacked in her earlier films. A new chapter was written in Ramu's life in many ways. He repeated Urmila with new find JD Chakravarty in Telugu film ANGANAGA OKA ROJU (1995) as producer-director. The film didnt do too well.
Ramu's penchant for unusual topics saw him producing-directing various Telugu movies in the next two years. While GULABI, DEYYAM (1996 Telugu) and WIFE OF MR. VARAPRASAD (1997 Telugu) and DAUD (with Sanjay Dutt & Urmila Matondkar - 1997) didn't created much ripples in Andhra Pradesh and all over the nation, Ramu surely bounced back in 1998 with SATYA (as producer-director).
SATYA was again a new leaf in Ramu's life, which lifted his shagging career as a filmmaker. Almost overnight all the other filmmakers started incorporating SATYA's style of violence in their film a la Ram Gopal Varma. Ramu failed as executive producer for Mani Ratnams DIL SE (1998) with Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala. Once bitten twice shy, as they say but Ramu never-never really learnt from his earlier mistakes and kept making his way of films (world of criminals and fear). He has been quoted many times saying, "Even if my film is being watched by 10 people, I feel I have made my money!" Indeed a very tall claim, however, the fact remains that it also contradicts his own statement - "At the end of the day, I am a businessman, who has to make money and next film." Ramu's dilemma is that in fact, he has failed as a producer. Every time his film doesn't run at the box-office, he says, "I dont make films for the box-office!" However, the truth in Bollywood is that every producer and filmmaker makes film for the same, so that one can reap the fruits (make money). Few from the camp say, Ramu owes a lot of money to various actors, actresses and even his favourite technicians, who are not too happy about the situation they are in.
More than hits in his career (41 films with just 4 hits), Ramu has made more dud films with actors, who have been considered jinx at the box-office. And what is surprising is that all his proteges (Aftab Shivdasani, Vivek Oberoi, Randeep Hooda, Mohit Ahlawat, JD Chakravarty and Antara Mali and Nisha Kothari) have been a top failure in their career too. However, each time, he announces a new protege, he claims, "Watch out, he is the next superstar!" While he was in love with Urmila Matondkar, he kept repeating her in most of his films, even when projects after projects failed at the box-office. Such is his passion that Ramu is known, to eat, sleep and talk only cinema. In 1999, KAUN (a psychological thriller), PREM KATHA (as director of Telugu film), SHOOL (as producer) and MAST (producer-director) all failed at the box-office. However, Ramu's popularity rose among newcomers, who were too eager to be featured in his films.
With no money in his coffers, he reduced making number of films in a year. In 2000, he made the only flop JUNGLE, followed in 2001 with two more flops PYAAR TUNE KYA KIYA and LOVE KE LIYE KUCH BHI KAREGA. With his love in full bloom with Urmila Matondkar, Ramu found a new muse in photographer Jagdish Mali's daughter Antara Mali. Antara Mali was introduced in COMPANY (2002) along with Suresh Oberoi's son Vivek. Urmila made her displeasure for not being in the film in media and at the last minute Ramu shot her for COMPANY's opening song. COMPANY did average business only in metro cities but if sources are to be believed couldn't recover its investment. ROAD (2002) again with his new find Vivek Oberoi and Antara Mali was the biggest dud. This was also the period, when Urmila realised that she was slowly loosing her place in Ramu's life to the new find Antara Mali.
Like a true faithful Arian, Ramu gave Urmila's falling career and love, the last gift by making BHOOT (2003) for her. The film did well in metro Mumbai, which was a rehash of his earlier RAAT. With Antara Mali by his side, Ramu also realised that he had to raise money fast for his production house by joining hands with other financial institution, who were too eager to be part of RGV's (Ram Gopal Varma) projects, in spite of his track record. 20th Century Fox and RGV joined hands for FOUR film projects, which turned out to be a loser for both the parties. Films produced under the collaboration were (DARNA MANA HAI / MAIN MADHURI DIXIT BANNA CHAHTI HOON & EK HASINA THI) a big failure at the box-office. The fourth project never really shaped up. Not being the one to give up and learn through his mistakes like all Arians, Ramu's luck blossomed to join hands with the NRI Company K SERA SERA, who were too smitten by RGV Banner's hyped profile.
The joint venture lasted for less than three years, for K Sera Sera and Ramu's love interest Antara Mali. The reason was simple as both wanted true commitment from the man, who is considered to be creative as a filmmaker and faithful as a lover respectively. Few from the industry strongly feel that Ramu will never learn from his mistakes even though he is losing money from all his projects and the humiliation when K Sera Sera asked Ramu to leave the premise (THE FACTORY at Andheri, Mumbai), has left him shattered, as per various sources. In fact, not only 20th Century Fox and K Sera Sera, but also Sahara India felt that Ramu duped them by not giving hit films. It is a different issue that the last project SARKAR (2005), produced by RGV, Sahara India, ABCL and K Sera Sera became a hit at many centers, though not nationwide.
2004 was Ramu's most horrible year in terms of box-office because all his movies EK HASINA THI / AB TAK CHAPPAN, GAAYAB, MADHYANAPU HATYA (Telugu), VAASTU SHASTRA and NAACH all flopped one after the other. 2005 saw Ramu joining hands with ABCL for SARKAR and also Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan acting for the very first time together after BUNTY AUR BABLI. However, four of his films, namely, the much hyped prequel of COMPANY, D / JAMES / MY WIFE'S MURDER and MR YA MISS (a parting gift to Ms. Mali) failed miserably at the box-office. Even Ramu's 2006 opened with the biggest dud DARNA ZAROORI HAI, a sequel to DARNA MANA HAI. The film was supposed to release way back in November 2004, almost one and a half year after it was ready.
Having severed ties with other producers like 20th Century Fox, K Sera Sera, Sahara India (by giving them only flops), Ramu has cracked a 100 crores deal with none other than countries richest production house Anil Ambanis ADLABS. However, as per various sources from RGV's and ADLABS, Anil Ambani has surely put Ramu in a tight spot. Because like his earlier co-producers, ADLABS is playing safe and has asked Ramu to first shoot the movie, show them the results and if he (Anil Ambani) finds it worth, then the filmmaker can raise the invoice and then only the real money (cash) will be handed over. Meaning, late payments to the starcast and technicians and paying interest rates for the money Ramu requires to shoot the film before hand. ADLABS also has strict instruction for the filmmaker that no films will be directed by his assistants, like earlier he had been doing. Hence, Ramu was wrapping up projects at a faster space as director.
ABCL's NISHABDH, a remake of LOLITA with Amitabh Bachchan and newcomer Jiah failed miserably. Because of NISHABDH Ramu's other projects have suffered like SHIVA, starring Mohit Ahlawat and Nisha Kothari, his new muse, flopped too. GO starring new find Gautam and Nisha Kothari also has been re-shot and almost three directors have been changed so far. If sources are to be believed, Ramu plays a very safe game by asking rich brats, who wish to star in his film to invest money, so that he doesn't lose money. Like Mohit Ahlawat, Randeep Hooda and his new find Gautam (son of Producer Susheel). The latest news is that to resurrect Rikku's sons failing career, Ramu has made him (Rikku) to invest into the project called ZABARDAST, starring Karan Nath and Nisha Kothari (his current favourite after Antara Mali), which will be directed by Prawaal Raman (The project never really took off). Needless to say, after Amitabh Bachchan having co-produced SARKAR and now NISHABDH, even Shah Rukh Khan had once agreed to produce the next venture starring the King Khan. The project again didn't take off at all.
Ramu's deceptive world is surely crumbling just like his announcement of projects like CHALA VINDO TIWARI DIRECTOR BAN NE / NIMMI (director Taufiq Ahmed), GALTI SE / JAAN BUJH KE / EK (bilingual) / international venture WITHIN (with Percept) / SHER / CHUDAIL / LET'S CATCH VEERAPAAN / LET'S KILL VEERAPAAN / and SHOCK. The deception to his assistant directors (who claim off record having not been paid for their hard work by Ramu) too have seen them walking out of RGVs banner. Chandan Arora (MMDBCH), Sridhar Raghavan (EK HASINA THI), Shimit Amin (AB TAK CHAPPAN), Rohit Jugraj (JAMES), Vishram Sawant (D) and Kiran Reddy (NAACH) have all walked out from his banner and are doing projects for other producers.
Ramu should start directing movies (ADLABS surely have made it mandatory for him) and relive his magic of SHIVA, RANGEELA and SATYA once again. Will he bring back the magic of Aamir starrer RANGEELA again? While people do talk about his SHIVA and SATYA (about criminals and underworld), but ultimately the only film that Ramu has really made a great success (in terms of real nationwide box-office hit) is the romantic film RANGEELA. Surely, he is learning that it is the stars, who will make him reap the fruits of his creativity and bring in the moolah in crores, and not the talent he has been introducing in the industry without much luck. After working with Bachchan in SARKAR, Ramu surely has realised the bitter truth of Bollywood. Will Ramu reinvent himself to be known as better filmmakers like Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra or the fun of his most films Karan Johar who had and have been giving hits one after another in terms of true box-office collection and not just hype. As they say, empty vessel sounds much! The deception is very clear but how long will Ram Gopal Varma close his eyes, is what one has to wait and watch!
- Johnny D