Ram Gopal Varma tells Jyothi Venkatesh that he does not believe in shifting genres as a filmmaker
Is the sequel Phoonk 2 scarier than Phoonk?
I would not say that my sequel to my earlier film Phoonk is scarier than the original version, because both Phoonk as well as Phoonk 2 deal with different type of fears. I’d say that scare can be of two kinds where one is of a kind which scares you due to a completely helpless situation you catch yourself in, and the other which scares your senses. Bhoot falls in the second category whereas Phoonk falls in the first category. If you are caught in a situation in the second category, you are in obvious fear, not just helpless. I’d say that Phoonk 2, which will be called Bommai in Tamil and Aavaham in Telugu, falls in the second category too.
Where does the sequel take off?
If the entire Phoonk story was about how the evil woman Madhu who practices black magic was bent upon torturing and killing a little girl in order to make her father suffer and how the father in desperation gets a tantric who in turn kills the evil woman, Phoonk 2 starts off with the spirit of Madhu coming back from the dead and brutally murdering the tantric.
Where does the element of scare in Phoonk 2 come from?
The scare in Phoonk is meant to create an internal fear in the so called non believers and atheists and to make them question themselves on what they would do if they are caught in such a situation. To that extent it serves its purpose and is not an obvious and straight in the face scary film like Bhoot and that’s where the tag line of ‘Phoonk- Its superstition till it happens to you’ came from.
Though you had directed Phoonk, why did you ask Milind Gadagkar to direct the sequel?
If I asked Milind Gadagkar to direct Phoonk 2 though I had myself directed Phoonk, the reason is simple. When Milind came up with the idea of Phoonk 2, the opening sequence itself made me jump up in my seat. The moment I read the entire script, I was convinced that he should direct it as I was amazed at the clarity he had in detailing of the story. Besides the fact that Milind had come up with the concept for the sequel, where the evil woman who is killed in the first part comes back as a ghost to wreak revenge on the tantric, I was busy with the making of my film Raktha Charitra in three different languages- Hindi, Tamil and Telugu with actors like Vivek Oberoi and Surya. I do not believe in directing more than a film at any time because I feel that in that case the quality of your film is bound to suffer.
In what way has your approach as a filmmaker changed from Satya to Rakta Charitra?
I should confess that over the years ever since I had made my debut with Shiva, my approach has changed radically. I’d say that your expressions and exposure will have a certain effect on what you set out to make as a filmmaker. The way you watch people and understand the characters and their relationship, when you set out to write your script does change over the years and it reflects in the films that you set out to make.
You had pioneered the genre of horror films after Ramsays had given them up. What is the reason that you are yet to make a horror film in 3D?
I am just now working on the script of a film which I intend making in the 3D format. I am not the kind of film maker who just sets out to make a film to prove a point just because the others are also making it. If a particular subject matter interests me greatly, I decide to make a film on that subject. If you ask me whether I like shifting genres as a filmmaker, all that I can say is that I do not think at all in terms of genres.
As a filmmaker, to what extent to you believe in driving home any message to the audiences?
I do not believe in driving home any particular message down the throats of my audiences. I think that it I s a question of the intention of the director, whether to let the viewers have fun when they set out to watch his film or drive home a message. All said and done, I also believe that the audience today comes to watch a horror film to have fun
What is filmmaking for you?
For me making films is a compulsion. My way of definition of filmmaking is my means to tell a story to create an emotion. It is only after the film is completed that you tend to get into the business aspects of the film when you set out to market it and release it. It is not the primary intention of any film maker.
What next after Phoonk 2 is released?
After Phoonk 2 is released, I have plans to release my Rakta Charitra. Just watch out for Surya in Rakta Charitra. To put in one word succinctly, Surya is just brilliant as an actor and what’s more, he also knows Hindi.
Is it true that you are planning to make God and Sex based on Swami Nityanand’s sex life?
Yes. I am toying with the idea of launching God and Sex. Let me reiterate that God and Sex is not a biopic on Swami Nityananda who was caught with an actress on bed recently. My film has only been inspired by recent sex scandal involving him. God and Sex will once and for all explore, examine and expose everything that goes on behind the closed ashrams of both the ‘God-men’ and their followers. I am making the film not just to titillate the audiences but because I am intrigued to know what exactly lead a lot of gullible devotees, especially women to go to Swamijis, in spite of several exposes which have been done in recent times.
Do you tread cautiously when you make a film like God and Sex, which could stir a hornet’s nest in society?
As a filmmaker, you can say that I am as bold and brave as a journalist is, when it comes to exposing the state of affairs in the country through his newspaper or electronic medium. Like a journalist does not have any fear, I do not have fear when I set out to make a film which is issue based. It is a question of how and whether I make a decision in a free country like that of ours.
You have dabbled in all – writing, direction and production. What gives you maximum satisfaction?
All the three – writing, directing or producing a film give me satisfaction immensely. It just depends on the subject matter. However, if you ask me to name my best film, I’d just say that none of the films that I have made till date is my best, for the simple reason that I do not look at my films as an outsider does.
- Jyothi Venkatesh / Sampurn Wire