Anukshanam Movie Review: A Glimpse Of Ram Gopal Varma’s Glorious Former Self

Ram Gopal Varma is a name that evokes admiration and dread in equal measures. The admiration can be attributed to his earlier films (Shiva, Rangeela, Satya to name a few) which largely changed the way movies were made in India. The dread can be attributed to his recent works which have mostly caused grief to the audiences (RGV ki Aag, Department, Agyaat to name a few) mainly due to the technical indulgences employed by him in the name of filmmaking. Once in a while we would see flashes of his glorious old self in films such as Rakta Charitra I, Attacks of 26/11 keeping alive the hope among his fans and audiences.Continue reading “Anukshanam Movie Review: A Glimpse Of Ram Gopal Varma’s Glorious Former Self”

Satya: 100 years of Indian cinema, 15 years of the truth

Lie, one last time... I'll handle the rest...
Lie, one last time… I’ll handle the rest…

In “Satya”, directed by the ever notorious Ram Gopal Varma, there is a scene, when Satya, played by a bearded  J. D. Chakravarthy tells Bhiku, played with free flowing relish by bearded Manoj Bajpai, that he wants to leave underworld only because he wants to settle with Vidya (Urmila Matondkar), and that, he doesn’t want to lie to her, and doesn’t feel like being a gangster anymore. Manoj Bajpai insists that he lies one last time, and he will make arrangements for him in Dubai. Immediately after that Bhiku says he’s jealous of him. I have not seen this film for quite some time now. Yet, I remember this scene, very clearly. Because this is the crux of the film. Gangsters are, ultimately, human beings with same good ol’ insecurities.

The film begins with images of a man throwing a newspaper on floor, and shooting it. How much difference does it make? Shooting a newspaper? Does it change anything? The city is burning already… does shooting the newspaper also kill the bad news? No, bad news prevails, every moment, every second. This is Ram Gopal Varma’s world, or, under world. Where there is no good news. Almost always bad news. Anything good that exists, it exists beyond the realms of this world. When these characters aren’t being gangsters, but buddies, husbands, boyfriends. Even in Jail, when they are not gangsters, but inmates, talking personal things, they feel, but they swallow the pulsating, aching veins. Or, are they used to it? Are their lives as messed up as those lives they play with, tease, trouble, and leave them behind, hurt?

A scene from Ram Gopal Varma's SatyaIn a sensational shot, a handheld camera, captures the dirty, rain hampered muddy roads, and Satya enters the city. Cut to the emphatic narration which solves no purpose, but adding just another sad undertone to the film, and to the city, where everyone is always afraid. Of whom, or what, no one knows. The truth is, no one wants to know. This is the truth, was, and forever will be. We are always afraid of something. At-least, of losing what was never ours. Same goes with these people as well. They are gangsters together, more because everyone else is a gangster as well. Given a chance, all would move, away from a fearful life. But then, people become gangsters, so as to become (or, at-least project being) fearless. But nobody ever really gets what he/she wants, from the bottom of his/her heart. This is a film where gangsters enjoy being gangsters not only because they can scare the hell out of someone else and be powerful, but because mostly their best friend (and their worst enemy) is a gangster, and they can’t be anything else rather than being one. Imagine Bhikhu Matrey doing some business, say, running a restaurant. I believe he would still beat the hell out of a notorious customer. While most of the patrons, in India, are notorious. Few can even create an issue if their bread is over toasted. I think Bhiku would never tolerate such nuisance. But he does tolerate his wife’s nuisance, because he loves her, and she is beyond the realms of underworld. But that doesn’t mean she is not associated with it, and that also doesn’t mean when the time comes, she won’t be at the receiving end.

That however happened with Vidya. Nevertheless, Ramu is least interested in all those plot points. Those are all plot gimmicks he seems to be wary of, the only thing he understands is, if I, as a person, am not told, the guy living next door is a gangster, who fixes electric connections on request, who is humble, quite, and his smile is as formal as anyone who has learnt humility from thankfulness, who sees me as just another troubled man, and I seem to see him the same way, will I ever think he is a gangster? He is not very rich, he doesn’t seem fearless. Can he be a gangster? Who shoots, or scares to earn a living? Yes, it seems, because he chose to. Because there is nothing else he can do.

In such a case who is right? The gangster, or the police, who answer them in their own tongue? When Amodh Shukla (played relentlessly by Paresh Rawal) is shot, he screams, achingly… Ironically Khandilkar (Aditya Srivastava) was there, inside his house… as soon as he goes out, he shouts, he pulls out his gun, points randomly, in places, runs randomly, and shouts instructions uncontrollably, and of course unclearly, but ceases to cross a perimeter… why? Was he afraid that gangsters may now attack the family? Or was he afraid beyond a point he himself may run into trouble? Is it so that by, shouting randomly the killer would come out and say, “Hi… Don’t shoot… I did it!” shivering? The truth is, he himself didn’t know how to react… it was an erratic situation. One that was beyond his control, and his capabilities, and his authorities. His was the dilemma of an ordinary man… subconsciously, he might be afraid of an attack, and he might be giving a damn about the commissioner, rather cursing his fate for being a police officer, or even being a human in the first place. But we can never know what he was thinking. Only thing we know was, he was scared, to his sweating teeth.

The Iconic Scene From SatyaAnd in that world of fear, and insecurity dwelled our protagonists. Who loved, each other, cared for each other, wanted to run out of it, yet stayed for each other. They were jealous, angry, frustrated, and that’s why they drank, forgot, forgave, joked, and laughed. Perhaps, we crack best of the jokes when we are together, with the best of our friends, who are probably equally (Or even more) insecure? Pseudo consolation? May be…

Urmila in SatyaI was not even 10 years old when I watched the film, when this film released. It released on a Sunday (July 3rd), now that I know.  In Kanpur then, In Nishaat talkies they had set up brand new DTS sound system for the film, and hand coloured posters were put up outside the cinema hall. In those traditional single screens, they have a gallery protruding out of the face of the cinema hall. People can walk on it, it is that broad, like an upper lip, only, on a large rectangular face without a nose. Above that gallery, on the face of the cinema hall, they spread out a huge theatrical poster, and occasionally on the face of the gallery, at times, they write the name of the film, with 3D thick plastic letters, or, then, when I watched the film, they pasted a wide, hand drawn poster of the film, covering the face of the gallery. The wide gallery poster exhibited an intriguing forehead clouded with sweaty hair, and eyes through those hair staring right at me. Right next to that forehead (on my right), in its original font, in Hindi, the word Satya was written, followed by a logo of the DTS sound system, and towards further right the letter ‘A’ was written, encircled, telling us the censor rating of the film. It is unbelievable, from almost 10, to almost 25, years have passed by, time stepped further, we have changed, and so have our sensibilities. Yet, this film still continues to work the way it did in 1998. Not that I understood it completely then, but then still, I remember laughing at Bhiku’s jokes, drooling over the song “Baadalon se kaat kaat ke”, being afraid when that haunting background score sounded. I remember that dreadful face shooting the newspaper, and that narration, from that voice softened after being rough for a long time, seeped sadness and loneliness into my nerves, then, or even when I watched it last.

“Satya” turns 15 years old today, and now, it seems more mature a feature than those we are watching and relishing now… or is it a proof that we have become more childish? Accepting circus in the name of cinema? Or we have become more materialistic? Is Satya the greatest film of all time? From last 15 years? The modern Indian cinema? I don’t know… all I know is, Cinema changed after Satya… I remember stepping inside Nishaat talkies… that was a day when people literally whistled, clapped, and cheered in euphoria, not because Salman Khan, or Shah Rukh Khan appeared on screen, but Ramu’s name did. Since then, that has changed as well, rather dolefully.

Satya and Ram Gopal Varma: Whose Truth is it Anyway?

Note- This is the 2nd part of my Satya story. The 1st part can be seen here.

–> Disclaimer: There is a term called ‘The Rashomon Effect‘; in which observers of an event produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of ‘the truth’.

So it is possible, that my truth, may differ from yours…


Satya 1998Sequences from Satya were getting a fabulous response from those that previewed it. We were editing alongside the filming. Ramu was a very instinctive director and was confident enough to alter characters & screenplay as he went along. Continue reading “Satya and Ram Gopal Varma: Whose Truth is it Anyway?”

Satya and Ram Gopal Varma: The Journey Begins Part 1

My name is Apurva Asrani. I am a film editor. My job profile includes receiving shooting rushes and putting together a cohesive film. I attempt to choose the most honest moments in the material to string together a tableau of scenes. I try to work at proper punctuation. i.e moving around silences, action, music and dialogue to flow rhythmically. Continue reading “Satya and Ram Gopal Varma: The Journey Begins Part 1”

Cinematic Moments That Never Left Me

There are moments in cinema that never leave you. For weeks, months.. Years.

It is impossible for me to write down all the scenes that I saw and never left. If there are 100 scenes that never left me, I will be probably able to write down just 9 here. I have restricted myself to Hindi films. A combined list would be impossible to compile without touching 100 pages! So here I attempt writing about some that still make me sit through 1000 films in the hope that somewhere, I might find another one scene that keeps reiterating my faith in the power of cinema.Continue reading “Cinematic Moments That Never Left Me”

Anurag Kashyap: An Auteur Demystified

Anurag article cover image
Anurag article cover image


Auteur‘is a French word which translated in English means ‘author’,  the creator of the work. Having said that, cinema unlike the other arts like poetry, painting etc. is a collective art and includes contributions from other artists to make it a completed film and is not the work of a sole artist. However, the ‘Auteur Theory’ suggests that there is one prime force that leads to the creation of the film and that individual guides all the processes of filmmaking. It is the vision and worldview of this individual who makes the film special and thus a work of art. Continue reading “Anurag Kashyap: An Auteur Demystified”

The farce called Bollywood Awards

“These awards are a joke….. its a place where the industry likes to get-together and pat each other’s back……” – Naseeruddin Shah, CNN IBN

Its raining awards in Bollywood.The biggest blockbusters are making their ways into the nominations for the best film, director, actors, supporting actors. the list is endless. The question which arises over here is are these films indeed the best works of the previous year or are we overlooking better films simply because they could not make it big at the box office ?Continue reading “The farce called Bollywood Awards”

Ram Gopal Varma – Ram Naam Satya Hain

There are very few people in Indian cinema who dare to be different from the time they start out, who have made their own set of rules and don’t care what other people think. They are beyond remakes and inspiration from normal doings and instead make other people get inspired from their art and it is people like these who have a cult following. People like Anurag Kashyap, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, Shimit Amin, Rajkumar Santoshi minus Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani. But there was another person in this list for a very long time. In fact he has given some of these gems and for a long time was one of the most creative and dynamic personalities of Indian cinema. His name of course is Ram Gopal Varma. When he used to make a film everyone used to stand up and take notice simply because he was the person who basically made us use words like kuch hatke, fatangbhari, Kuch tho naya rehega and so on. And before that, the words that were used was same hain re, kuch naya nai, Ye idhar se copy kiya hain etc.etc.Continue reading “Ram Gopal Varma – Ram Naam Satya Hain”

Are you really in love with MOVIES?

..or are you in love with the idea of loving MOVIES . I’ve had this thought going through my mind for about a year. It always crops up when I end up sitting through a crappy movie, which I always knew would be crappy going in, but out of some compulsion I just keep going to these movies. What is this compulsion of catching every new movie in a theater? Its like going through some cine-syllabus over the weekend.  Friday evening Dookudu, Saturday afternoon Killer elite, Saturday night Mausam and Sunday afternoon Moneyball.Continue reading “Are you really in love with MOVIES?”