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The Varma film factory forges ahead
He is one filmmaker who defies definition. Ram Gopal Varma is the messiah of undiscovered talent, Bollywood's most different filmmaker and easily the most prolific with plans to release nine films this year.
In the last one year, Varma has given major directorial breaks to untried talent like Chandan Arora in "Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon", Sridhar Raghavan in "Ek Hasina Thi" and now Shimit Amin whose "Ab Tak Chappan" is the surprise hit of the season.
But Varma isn't resting on his laurels and is moving on with seven other productions to be released over 2004.
After "Ek Hasina Thi" in January and "Ab Tak Chappan" in February, his other productions on the floors in various stages of completion are "Gayab" (Tusshar Kapoor-Antara Mali), the two-version "Galti Se"/"Jaan-Boojh Ke" (featuring Anil Kapoor), "James" (introducing Mohit Alaawat), "Darnaa Zaroori Hai" (a sequel to "Darna Manaa Hai"), "D" (a prequel to "Company") and "Naach" (featuring Abhishek Bachchan).
And then there's his own directorial project.
Isn't that a surfeit of productions for one company, no matter how large?
Varma avers: "I could've added a couple of more productions to my list by the time I finish talking to you. I don't think the output should be quantified. It should depend on a company's capability. And I feel my company has the capacity.
"Moreover, all of these films are being directed by different people not me. Once I choose the right person for a project I leave it entirely to the director. Each of my productions has a life of its own.
"My production house provides a coordinated platform for all the individual units who're working together. Except for finalising the subject and director, I've nothing to do with any of these projects except 'Naach', which I'm co-directing with newcomer Kiran Reddy."
Varma's next directorial venture will be the long-delayed "Ek".
He says he'll start that in August. "The script is complete. But my attention has been taken up in getting my new office," he adds.
There's a serious belief in the film industry that Varma is now more enamoured of production that direction but he disagrees.
"I wouldn't agree with that. I just find these new guys are so full of passionate ideas. I may not be able to do the detailing that they do in their film. My production house aims to create a parallel entertainment organisation. Whether it's Chandan, Sridhar or Shimit they're free to create films without thinking of every member of the audience. The intention is to be true to one's vision, and achieve that vision within a budget. Once these two goals are met, I believe every film can find an audience."
So does he think universal hits aren't possible?
"It isn't a possibility that can be planned. Any film can become a universal hit. But you can't pre-empt the audience's response. That's why I make films only for myself. I've a feeling that's what most filmmakers do. Either they make the films they want to or they follow other successful filmmakers. Some filmmakers pretend to be making films for an audience. But secretly they're doing it for themselves.
"Not even a Karan Johar or a Yash Chopra can predict what an audience likes. Their films have a mass appeal. But they don't plan it that way. I feel the concept of the universal hit is going to fade out. So far I've been able to make the films I want without bothering with the audience base."
The success of "Ab Tak Chhappan" verifies Varma's faith in his operational scheme.
"Not that I'd have changed my working methods if 'Chhappan' hadn't done well," chuckles the factory man. "But yes, the fact that a dark film has done so well proves that the presumption that that audiences are dumb has got to stop now. No one wants to watch dumb films any longer."