Posts Tagged ‘Ram Gopal Varma’

The first part of the “Satya” series was posted here. And now the second one. Written by its editor Apurva Asrani.

Satya

–> 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…

1997.

Sequences 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. His vision was broadening before our eyes. Saurabh Shukla was on set playing Kallu Mama as well as collaborating as a writer. Anurag Kashyap too was writing on location, other times he wrote in the evenings at Ramu’s large but modest Four Bungalows apartment.

It was a vodka/whisky darbar and young non-drinkers (or beer-drinkers like me) spent evenings like this without a glass. I can be corny and say that we were intoxicated in the air of a brilliant collaboration! The fit and pretty Urmila Matondkar hung out with us too, she was warm and charming, a complete departure from her cold & reserved self on set.

Along with the other assistants like Barnali Ray (now Shukla), Pradnya Lokhande (now Sharma), Feroze and Dev, I too pondered about the plausibility of the Ramu-Urmila affair as was reported. We looked for clues in those casual evenings, and convened later on to exchange notes. My close friends would often ask for gossip and I would try to look for evidence. If you’re eager to know, I never did find it; nothing conclusive at least.

First day of shooting. 12th of August 1997.

The location was a stinky stable in the suburb of Jogeshwari where Manoj Pahwa’s character introduces Satya to his new home. I wasn’t sure about Chakri’s dialogue delivery, but there was comfort in the talk that it might be dubbed later. A few hours into the shoot, Ramu received a phone-call. I saw before my eyes the blood drain from his face. His friend, media baron Gulshan Kumar had been murdered, riddled indiscriminately with bullets.

Ramu became very disturbed. We stopped work and followed him around for more news, he was among the few with a mobile-phone. It dawned upon me for the first time, how close to the truth our film was. Ramu was taking a great risk by making a film on the extortion enterprise while gangsters still ruled Bombay. I didn’t know then, that much of the film’s story-flow would be altered post this incident.

Satya2

Chakri & Manjo

I liked Chakri (Chakravarti). He came from an acting background that I was familiar with. My mother is a Telugu girl and I had seen many Telugu film’s while growing up. I empathized with Chakri’s discomfort with Hindi and we spent a lot of time together, discussing his plans for the character. I was also privy to Chakri’s soft-spot for another crew member and I often dispensed to him the wisdom of a 19 yr old.

Manoj Bajpai also became a close friend. I called him ‘Manjo’. Manoj often hitched a ride with me on my rickety-old Kinetic Honda, came out clubbing with me and my friends, and even had a few drinks with my father. Manoj had the utmost awe for the work I was doing, and encouraged me to follow my style. One day Manoj signed an agreement with me stating that he would act in my 1st film for 2 rupees. Even though it was written on a paper napkin, I was sure that it would stand the test of time. Manoj was a talent like we had never seen before, and I remember feeling like I had hit the jackpot.

I learned much later that ‘editors are an actors best friend’. So when I bonded recently with the talented Rajkumar Yadav during the making of Shahid, we added a line to this pearl of wisdom…‘till the film is complete.’ 😉

Chakri and Manoj were another ‘hit-duo’ from Satya, who’s celluloid chemistry didn’t exactly come from admiration for the other. Their rivalry was less subdued than the other’s, and it worked wonders for the film. It was the battle of the North Indian vs the South Indian, of the NSD actor vs the commercial actor. I thought that both vied to be Ramu’s pet actor. But then everyone was in awe of Mr Varma, he commanded it effortlessly.

I had mentioned in my previous blog, the tension between Anurag & Saurabh, and I think from Anurag’s reactions to my blog, that he took my claim very seriously. I didn’t mean to say that their friction over credit on the promo caused any bad blood. It seemed quite innocent, and was obviously channeled correctly, which is why they wrote a cracker of a film. Besides the ones mentioned above, there were a couple of other ‘teams’ that struggled for their inpidual place in the sun.

Two’s company

Let me pose a few questions, and see if there is a one-word/one name answer that comes to mind.

‘To whom would you attribute the cinematography of Satya?’ Would you say it was the American veteran DP Gerhard Hooper or the realistic documentary cameraman, Mazhar Kamran? Both were eventually credited.

‘Whose words were Satya really based on?’ Were they Saurabh Shukla’s–who was basking from his association with the semantic Bandit Queen & Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi or were they Anurag Kashyap’s–who was this wonder-kid that everyone was talking about and had just written Jayate (Hansal Mehta’s first tryst with the courtroom). Both were credited.

‘Who’s music will Satya be remembered for?‘ Vishal Bharadwaj’s?–The man who infused emotion into the film with songs like the dreamy Badalon se kaat kaat ke or Sandeep Chowta–who’s stark and intense themes reverberated in a shattering new system called DTS. Both were credited.

‘Who actually edited Satya?’ Apurva Asrani, the urban kid who had made promos for Sanjay Bhansali’s Khamoshi and Ramu’s Daud or was it Bhanodaya-the Telugu editor who had earlier edited Ramu’s Ana Ganaga Oku Roju & Daud? Both were credited.

While Manoj-Chakri, Saurabh-Anurag, Gerry-Mazhar, Vishal-Sandeep will be best suited to answer how they felt about sharing credit at the time, they will also be able to tell you why why none of them ever teamed up again. I can only tell you how I felt. I got asked for years, ‘who edited Satya?’ and that question used to make me angry. I guess, the simplest thing for me would have been to say ‘we both did’. But to me, that would have been a diplomatic answer, not necessarily an honest one.

Jump Cut to: Bhanodaya

If I remember right, Satya was the first Hindi film to be cut on avid. We were choosing a work-flow that required us to make a print from the negative, transfer the print to tape, digitize the tapes onto the hard disk and then start editing. The process was fascinating and I think we used Avid to its fullest potential to maintain a fresh & compelling rhythm, now synonymous with the film. But it is when the film was edited, and the technical process had to be reversed, that Ramu began to get angsty. He was nervous about matching the negative to an Avid produced cut-list. He was worried that something may go wrong with the negative. He began to feel that his judgment would work best if he saw a print before locking the film. So Ramu brought in his Daud editor Bhanodaya, specifically to match the print to the list.

What I didn’t see coming, was that I would have to share credit with Bhanodaya. This came as a bolt from the blue. I first heard about it from Ramu’s cousin, Satya’s Executive Producer, Som Shekhar. I felt somewhat cheated by Ramu and began to find it impossible make-up lies about how Bhanodaya had co-edited the film. Jitesh Pillai, then the bright kid at Filmfare had interviewed me for his magazine, and had asked me about Bhano. I remember saying, ‘I don’t know Bhano, I never met him during the editing of the film’. It was the truth, but my lack of diplomacy and patience brought out the arrogance in me.

What made things worse were the rumors going around. I would hear that Ramu had gone about telling people that I had only cut the promos of the film, and that Bhano was the editor. Now whether the rumors were true or whether people were fanning my anger, I was too naïve to know.

Filmfare Awards, February 1998

I remember the night of the Filmfare awards when the award for ‘Best Editing’ was announced. I was sitting among my loved ones who became very emotional and pushed me towards the stage to collect the award. As I walked, from the corner of my eye, I looked at a familiar man, wearing a black shirt, who also began walking towards the podium. I remember thinking ‘I hardly know that man, have not had a single creative exchange with him, but he is sharing my award.’ Bhanodaya was being celebrated for my work, and it just didn’t make sense.

There was only one award statuette. So I buckled my speed. Bhanodaya also walked faster. He had the advantage of being two rows ahead – with Ramu. I was like an energizer bunny, high from the industry’s acknowledgment of my skills, but somewhat wounded by the sudden U-turn of my mentor. I somehow got to Jeetendra and Poonam Dhillon first, and they handed me the statuette. Bhanodaya followed behind me and shook hands with them after I did. As I held up the coveted statuette in the air, a much shorter Bhanoday reached for it, touched it, and smiled.

If only I had known then, that I would get opportunities to prove myself again; to be part of some meaningful cinematic attempts. If I had know then that I would see other awards and some rewards that are far greater than trophies, I would have shared that award gracefully with Bhanodaya. After all, his efforts touched the final product too.

So my dear colleague Bhanodaya, I guess it isn’t too late to say ‘Congratulations….! for our Filmfare award for Satya!’

– Apurva Asrani

( You can follow Apurva Asrani on Twitter here and his blog is here)

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One of the best things about your favoutite film is that you are never tired of reading about them. And if it’s a landmark film, then with every passing year as its cult grows bigger, stories surrounding those films became urban legends. Satya is one such film. And though we have heard so many stories about its making, one is always interested to read more. So as its editor Apurva Asrani  started writing about its making on his blog, we thought it would be nice to share the post here too. Over to him.

Satya

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. I try to clean up the rough edges in performances, sometimes cheating moments to bring on the desired effect. ‘There is no one above the film’ is a motto that I have tried to follow in a career spanning 17 years, 13 films, 5 tele-films & 3 theater productions, often confronting ego’s that were infinitely bigger than the film.

When factors bigger than the film were in control, i.e stars, marketing gimmicks and/or producers with no real love for cinema, the films found no audience. Some were appreciated in part, but not in whole. But several times, the power of the story was above all involved, and the crew worked selflessly, leveled under the radiance of good intention. For me, Satya , Snip!, Chhal, Jalpari-The Desert Mermaid & the yet to release Shahid are all examples of good teamwork.

I spent my 20’s thrilled like a kid in a celluloid store. I have had intimate creative relationships with incredible film personalities like Ramgopal Varma, Hansal Mehta, Anupam Kher, Basu Bhattacharya Bhupen Hazarika & Nagesh Kukunoor. My joy knew no bounds when I spent days with legends like Mehmood & Shammi Kapoor while putting together a show for TV. I have even worked with some incredible people who I could never relate to, like Vashu Bhagnani. This blog is my attempt at documenting memories from some of those relationships.

Ramgopal Varma & Satya

In 1997, when I was a teenage promo producer, a mad-man named Ramu asked me to edit a film called Satya. Mani Rathnam’s Iruvar was about to release and I had heard that it had been cut digitally, i.e on Avid. I had already befriended the digital editing system through my TV & promo work and found that I had an ally in Ramu in going digital. Ramu was high from the failure of Daud and the man mesmerized me. Instead of getting crushed by rejection of his biggest budget film to date he was reveling in its failure. He knew that he was garnering a cult following, and was being admired for making the offbeat comedy the way he wanted to. He carried the creative air of a man who had produced & directed the biggest musical hit of those days, Rangeela, and soon his revelry was to became rebellion against the popular grain.

Ramu, me & Avid Media Composer spent one year in a 6 by 8 foot cabin while editing Satya. I met a man who gambled with life and had a mischievous disposition while doing it. ‘Ramu’ truly wanted to tell Satya’s story. He was living vicariously through the character. The South Indian producer penetrating the Bombay market was a striking parallel with Telegu cinema’s Chakravarti penetrating Manoj Bajpai & Saurabh Shukla’s underworld in the film. In the film, Chakravarti ordered the sudden killing of ‘Bollywood star’ commissioner Paresh Rawal, and Ramu had made his point. The fact that the film found cult status only cemented the man’s journey thus far.

 Ram-Gopal-Varma

The Team

Ramu had put together an incredible team for Satya. There was the unlikely writing duo of Saurabh Shukla & Anurag Kashyap, both chipping into the film with more than just their writing roles. There was the American director of photography Gerard Hooper, who closely collaborated with his Indian counterpart Mazhar Kamran to bring us grit like never before. There was the Industry veteran Krishna who has over a 100 film titles to this credit, but only one as Art Director–for Satya. There was Vishal Bharadwaj, at the start of his juiciest creative phase.

I remember riding with Ramu in his red Maruti Esteem and we were listening to the songs of the Chandrachur Singh starrer, Betaabi. The film was a wash-out but Vishal’s powerful music fueled this car to the Versova sea side office, where Ramu was putting together a team for his underworld film. ‘You like this, Apurva?’ Ramu had asked me, a gawky 19 year old, still numb from the opportunity that had been presented to him. Having been a fan of Vishal since Maachis, I vehemently supported his decision to go with him. I was beginning to feel the onset of a magical phase in my life.

Anurag Kashyap was the irreverent mischievous kid on the set, often getting into sulks with Ramu about Saurabh’s involvement. I remember this huge stand-off about whose name should appear on top, when I had cut the first promo of Satya. Ramu used good humor and leveraged the awe each team member had for him, to manage the ‘children’ on set. I was younger than Anurag, but I was the more serious kind. Diligently trying to prove myself on-set and in the editing room. I knew nothing about film editing, but I would trip-out on the wild material in the darkened room, sometimes not going home for hours and days on end. I seemed to enjoy telling stories & after writing, I found only editing to be an uncorrupted creative space. Besides, the rushes for Satya were honest and ‘ballsy’, unlike the cinema of the day. You couldn’t help but become consumed by the material.

Editing Satya

‘Stay out of the room’, I’d shout, sending my assistant Pradnya to stand as a barricade to the studio door, so that Ramu’s curious eyes couldn’t see what I was cutting. I had a desire to shock and I knew early on that directors must wait till the cut is complete, before they can see it. The Ramu of 1997 was a humble man. Like a child, he would plead to watch it, try and peer through a small window in the door, but he would wait outside till he was allowed in. Most often, the results would please him to no end, and there would a deluge of film personalities who would be invited to see the brewing magic.

Two meetings that I will never forget are with Gulzar, also the lyricist of the film & with Shekhar Kapoor, high on the success of Bandit Queen. When Gulzar walked in, a nervous Ramu forgot to introduce me to him (Ramu always introduced me to his guests), I was also very nervous to turn around and look at the legendary kurta-pyjama clad auteur. Then I distinctly remember there was a soft touch on my shoulder, I turned to see Gulzar who smiled at me and said hello. I was floored. Shekhar Kapoor was all chatty and excited. He couldn’t stop raving about his editor Jill Bilcock who had just cut his film Elizabeth and I was already feeling jealous.

Ramu allowed me break up, re-align, mold and reshape the film the way I wanted to. I believe that’s how he dealt with the writers, actors and camera crew as well. Allowing everyone he trusted to interpret his vision. I never really understood then, how rare it was to find great teamwork. I think Ramu also soon forgot.

Satya was never intended to open the way it did. The opening scene was written with Satya’s character’s arrival in Mumbai. I remember thinking that the opening was flat. What was needed was a fiery and sinister set-up, the correct atmosphere for the silent Satya’s arrival. I wrote an opening voice over about the city of Mumbai and cut it to a montage of city shots. I got actor Aditya Srivastav to correct my Hindi and dub a VO on the avid. I used climatic shots of the long-haired gangster Sabir Masani shooting angrily at a newspaper right at the start of the film, and inter-cut shots from Vidya’s (Urmila Matondkar) fathers funeral pyre (from later in the film).

The sequence got its desired reaction. Ramu jumped up from his seat and clapped in awe. I knew in that moment, that there was no other industry I’d rather work in.

(To Be Continued)

( You can follow Apurva Asrani on Twitter here and his blog is here)

Ram Gopal Varma’s Department released last friday and as expected, had a disastrous opening at the box office. Well, that’s not new. He wrote an open letter to clarify his stand. That’s also not new. And then started blaming Sanjay Dutt and Dharm Oberoi for the debacle. Now, that’s a smart pitch for the potential producers.

I strongly believe that what Amitabh Bachchan is for directors, Ramu is for producers. Everyone aspires to direct AB in at least one film and every producer wants to make at least one film with Ramu. Just for good old nostalgia. But most don’t realise or are blind to the fact that both don’t have any box office pull now. What else can be the explanation for still giving shitloads of money to RGV? What kind of blind faith is this? Even if you forget box office, in terms of intangible gain also, it gets you nothing. Not even a single decent review. Or may be, he knows some kind of black magic to woo the producers. That’s the only talent he still has.

It’s hard to digest that someone will give him 27 fucking crore (via HT Cafe) for getting AB, Sanjay Dutt and Rana Daggubatti. And opening weekend collection is just 7.25crore – the lowest opener of 2012. And please don’t even to call it an indulgence – crotch cam is just being stupid and banal. That doesn’t qualify as cinematic indulgence by any rulebook.

Interestingly, Ishaqzaade – a film with newcomers managed almost the same amount in its 2nd weekend which Department collected in its opening weekend.

Going back to HT Cafe again, here are the opening weekend figures of Ramu’s last few releases –

Not A Love Story – Rs 2.1 Crore

Rakht Charitra 2 – Rs 1.25 Crore

Rakht Charitra – Rs 3.85 Crore

Rann – Rs 4.45 Crore

The list is quite long. To say that the man has lost it, will be putting it very mildly. And i can bet that the man is going to deliver ten more duds. Reason – he thinks he is making cult classics (read the open letter). He is dismissive of everything good or bad – it just happens by chance. And he is surrounded by yes-men. There was a time when he used to attract the best talent. Now it’s the opposite – anyone who is good, leaves him.

And here’s the bait for potential dumbfcks who will put money in his next films – his open letter which he tweeted yesterday.

I LOVE YOU TOO

I am not surprised at the hatred of some towards “Department” for the reason that when you do anything completely different from a beaten path many tend to pounce upon you with claws and knives. When Oliver Stone made “Natural Born Killers” most reviewers said it’s a piece of visual crap, exhibitionistic, he lost his head etc., which then in the later years came to be recognized as a cult classic. When DW Griffith cut to a close up they said how can a man be shown cut in half and when the camera moved in a Georges Melies film they said how can a point of view suddenly move.

Anyways the norm of critics these days is to bury the baby even before its born and kill the mother for giving it birth. It’s incredible to see the sadistic glee they take in running the Director down on a personal level even more than they run down the Film.

They accuse me of chaotic self-indulgence. I don’t know what that is but a Film eventually is a self expression of a subject matter which I as a maker chose to tell in a certain style and in Department I chose a graphic pattern in terms of angles and movements which were intended to represent the mindsets of the characters the film is dealing with.

A photographic image is a combination of the look of the location, the lightning, the costume, the make-up, the look of the actor etc. and any camera will only record whatever is kept in front of it. Then ofcourse there are the features of lensing, angles, movement perspectives etc., which would be employed as per the intended effect. In Department it’s the rapid swish pans and some hitherto unseen movement perspectives, which bothered some people, but the same were also liked by lots of others.

Also the rogue method I employed for Department is an alternative method I proposed but not as a replacement to a conventional method. The conventional usage of the cameras used for Department have been already used in “Slumdog Millionaire”, “127 Hours” and many other films the world over. In Department it’s their unconventional rapid movements, which created problem for some.

In “Department” I just attempted to do a realistic story with characters that intrigue and make one think rather than spoon feed and I attempted to package that in a never before seen visual style and some people got it and some didn’t.

It goes without saying that at the end of the day a Film’s likeability is about its content and its narrative grip and the technical style employed doesn’t matter to the viewer.

But having said that a constantly evolving innovative usage of the medium does add and sometimes also gives an emotional tone to the content and film eventually in its purest form is an emotional experience.

– Ram Gopal Varma

It seems like Subhash K Jha has converted this open letter into Q and A for Rediff. Click here.

And if that wasn’t enough, he has now put the blame on Sanjay Dutt and his manager Dharam Oberoi. You can check Ramu’s twitter timeline here or the snapshots here.

Wow! Some points for being candid at least.

Well, over to Dutt and Oberoi now.

Ram Gopal Varma doesn’t surprise and shock me anymore. He is the only filmmaker whose zero budget film was also a flop! You can’t beat that!

What baffles me is the fact there are “morons with money” who wants to blow it away by giving it to him. And at a time when films like Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani, Vicky Donor are re-writing the rules of the box office. If you have excess, just donate it. And if you don’t have a big heart, just burn them – That’s a better thing to do.

UPDATE (22nd May) – Sanjay Dutt and Dharam Oberoi have reacted to Ramu’s tweets. Click here to read Mirror’s report.

23rd May – Ramu drags Abhishek Bachchan into it and blames him for getting Dutt into the film. Click here to read.

Starring Mahie Gill and Deepak Dobriyal, the film is inspired by the Maria Susairah-Neeraj Grover case. Directed by Ram Gopal Varma, the film is “cinematographed and edited by FX School”. Can someone please explain this to us?

 

Yes, here it is. Ramuji ke dil ki paak awaaz!

And if the background music and the song in the trailer is any indication of the film to come, well, its time for #BOJam (Inspired by #MeterJam). Again! Southern Superstar Surya makes his bolly debut with this one. Plus,  it has the bolly superstar (atleast he thinks he is) Vivek Oberoi alongwith Priyamani, Shatrughan Sinha, Abhimanyu Singh and Radhika Apte.

Whats more, its in two parts. So, two movies, back to back, one after another in just few weeks. Get ready. Seriously!

So, the big question is will Superstar Surya save Ramu’s almost dead career or will Ramu manage to kill Surya in his bollywood debut! Though the hindi promo of the film is not out yet but this one surely looks like Satya-meets-Sarkar-meets-Sarkar Raaj! Ramu doesnt even give a new frame to stare at, forget anything else. Anyway, we will continue the bitchfest later on, have a look.

It stars Vivek Oberoi, Surya Sivakumar, Priyamani, Radhika Apte, Shatrughan Sinha , Kota Srinivas Rao and Tanikella Bharani.