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Is Ram Gopal Varma floundering?
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Ram Gopal Varma figures among four visionaries of contemporary Hindi cinema whom the BBC is profiling in a documentary.
While no one can question the credibility of BBC's list, which also includes Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Yash Chopra and Karan Johar, fact is that Varma's productions haven't done well at all lately.
Long hailed as a path-breaker and a pioneer, his films are not succeeding even at the urban centres where they are targeted.
The year opened with Varma's production "Ek Hasina Thi". Even though it starred two extremely charismatic actors like Saif Ali Khan and Urmila Matondkar and Varma indulged in his usual extravagant rhetoric - "this is the best film I've ever produced" - the film directed by Sriram Raghavan fizzled out.
Barely a month later, another new director, Shimit Amin, did a documentary-styled take on police encounter killings in Mumbai. Varma's company claimed the film made loads of money.
But "Ab Tak Chhappan", in spite of brilliant performances by Nana Patekar and newcomer Nakul Vaid, hardly made a substantial impact.
And now comes the third Varma production in six months. "Gayab" directed by Prawaal Raman is a very tricky proposition. It's a sci-fi satire about a common man (Tusshar Kapoor) who can vanish at will.
There have been earlier films on the same theme, notably the Kishore Kumar-starrer "Mr X In Bombay" in 1964 and "Mr India" in 1987. Both clicked.
"Gayab" is likely to disappear soon, for a very elementary reason - poor special effects. Intricate special effects would have required more resources and skills than Varma's small-budgeted films can afford.
With special effects of the highest calibre amply visible in new releases from Hollywood like "Van Helsing" and "Spider-Man 2", why on earth would Indian audiences want to spend money and time watching their poor country cousins, especially since both the Hollywood films have been dubbed in Hindi.
Also, Tusshar Kapoor, Antara Mali and Ramman Trikha are hardly worthy of drawing audiences into theatres. There was talk of Rekha also featuring in the cast. But after the raw deal she got in "Bhoot" - Varma's only bona fide success since "Rangeela" a decade ago - she wisely opted out.
The next from Varma's stable of delights are two films - "Galti Se" and "Jaan Boojh Ke" that show the same story with different endings - that are being released simultaneously. Hope that doesn't confuse audiences!