Trust Ram Gopal Varma's films to be at the centre of controversies constantly -- the latest being the Telugu "Madhyanam Hatya" that has evoked the ire of women's groups in his hometown Hyderabad.
Taking a breather from the tight schedule for "Sarkar", his adaptation of "The Godfather" that brings together Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Varma said: "Did you ever wish your wife was dead? That's the caption that caused all the trouble. I could've never imagined this throwaway line referring specifically to the situation in the film would evoke such strong protests.
"'Madhyanam Hatya' is a routine thriller about a man who accidentally kills his wife. The caption refers to the man's impulsive rage. Even when we quarrel with our mothers or sons, we tend to say things we don't mean.
"Even a teacher gets furious with a student if he doesn't do his homework. Only a criminal carries that anger forward," Varma told IANS.
There was an attempt in Hyderabad to link the caption in the film's posters to the director's own broken marriage.
Varma sighs: "My marriage broke up 10 years ago. Why would I suddenly wake up and decide to vent my feelings about it in such a way?"
What baffles Varma about the protests is that those behind it haven't watched the film.
"Imagine making a social issue out of a caption which you don't even know the context! To take a line out of context and make an issue out of it is wrong. And now I believe they're burning my effigy!
"When I told Abhishek about this, his reaction was, 'Congrats. They burn your effigy only when you are a political force.'"
The director smiles about his new venture.
"Abhishek is amazing in 'Sarkar'. He isn't the least awkward with his father. He's incredibly confident. They're terrific together. If he was nervous facing the camera with Amitabh Bachchan, he didn't show it to anyone even on the first day of shooting."
Varma's connections with south India remain unsnapped. His Hindi film "Bhoot" was remade in Tamil recently.
"I'm more or less cut off from my hometown Hyderabad. I'm now a Mumbai guy. However when one of my scripts is seen to have regional appeal, I don't mind making it in Telugu, like I did with 'Madhyanam Hatya'."
"Madhyanam Hatya" has also been made in Hindi with some changes, with Anil Kapoor in the lead and will be released soon. The Telugu version stars Chakraverthy who starred in Varma's "Satya" and who then dissociated himself from the man who discovered him.
Varma shrugs. "I don't think about these things. He didn't come back to me. I went back to him. A lot of my so-called discoveries speak against me privately. At least he had the guts to do so publicly. If I take things said against me to heart I wouldn't have anyone to talk to, let alone work with. The number of my detractors is awesome."
The director is all praise for Amitabh Bachchan. "It's very boring to rave about him. Every director does so after working with him. Now after having worked with him for a few days I know why they do so.
"After so many films he still has the capacity to surprise you. People say he's doing too many films. But I'd like to evaluate him solely for what he does in my 'Sarkar'. Bachchan has reached a legendary status where he can never be blamed for a film's failure.
"His credentials have been proved umpteen number of times. I am not looking at what the others are doing," he puns about Amitabh Bachchan's latest release, "Hum Kaun Hain", a remake of the Hollywood film "The Others".
"I'm very happy with what I'm doing with the two Bachchans in 'Sarkar'. They've gone beyond my expectations." After shooting for a couple of days, the current schedule of "Sarkar" will be over and Varma will resume shooting in November.
Varma has three productions due for release this year -- "Vastu Shashtra" (featuring Sushmita Sen), "Galti Se - Jaan Boojh Ke" (Anil Kapoor, Nandana Dev Sen and Suchitra Pillai) and of course "Naach" (Abhishek Bachchan-Antara Mali).
"And then it'll be Sarkar," Varma said, looking forward to unleashing the two Bachchans on screen.