Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Rawness, Guns, Violence
Romance, Guts, Villainy
(A Nigerian-ism – tough to explain), Guys, Viciousness
Reality, Genius, Vision

Redemption, Grittiness, Variety

This is fun, I think I’ll do more ‘RGVs’ later… of course RGV also stands for Ram Gopal Varma – and his films are the subject of this post. This is my second post focusing on the work of a particular Indian director – I did one on Hrishikesh Mukherjee a while back.

I think the words I’ve used above describe different elements of Ram Gopal Varma’s work… I’ve seen only three RGV movies – 'Rangeela', 'Company' and 'Shiva' (that’s also the order in which I viewed them). The first one is lighter, romantic, typical Bollywood ‘masala’ fare – the latter two are edgier, darker, harder-hitting crime movies – the kind of work which has resulted in RGV being called India’s Tarantino. And what I really like is that the films belong to such different categories, you can still see RGV’s distinctive film-making style shining in all of them.

I think RGV has a flair for several things: shooting fast-moving acting scenes, building a sense of heightened anticipation and suspense, using his actors effectively in terms of character exploration, shooting dramatic, confrontational scenes; and injecting very striking and strong visual images into his films.

Of the three RGV movies I’ve seen, ‘Company’ is probably my favourite. Starring Vivek Oberoi, Ajay Devgan and Manisha Koirala, it’s the story of an underworld kingpin (played by Devgan) who takes a young ambitious hustler (played by Oberoi) under his wing. At first, things go swimmingly – the protégé does his boss’s bidding and it’s all gravy for the gang, but then the dynamic of the relationship changes and it all goes awry. This film has many strengths – the cinematography is beautiful, the action scenes are gripping and realistic, the sets are brilliant (I love the maze effect of the buildings during the crucial chase in Kenya) – but the best part is the acting and the wonderful way the actors navigate the intricacies of the characters’ complex relationships, all played out against the fascinating backdrop of organized crime and ‘un-organised’ law enforcement.

There is a fabulous rawness to the film, a grittiness and a realness – but there’s also a softness, a sweetness and a simplicity. I love the dynamic between Ajay and Vivek – both of whom deliver marvelous performances (especially Ajay). I also like the restrained, conflicted-but-too-tired-to-care moll played by Manisha – at first I thought she was just wooden and boring but later I got it. Other stand-out performances are by two actresses – the fantastic Seema Biswas (playing Vivek’s mother) and newbie Antara Mali as 'Kannu', Vivek’s love interest (a very, very good performance). That’s another thing I love about RGV’s films: I love the fact that RGV really allows women to take centre-stage in his movies, and he’s not afraid to use strong female characters in his stories – that’s pretty damned hot. But the best performance of the film, for me, is by Mohanlal, as the police boss. Ajay is a very close second, though.

Hmm… my second fave RGV film is ‘Rangeela’. This will probably seem a bit heretical to many who regard ‘Rangeela’ as a classic slice of Bollywood, but I far prefer ‘Company’. Anyway, the best thing about ‘Rangeela’ for me is Aamir Khan – definitely one of my favourite Aamir performances. He is so sweet and so believable and natural in this film, and I just love the way he said ‘Arre Milli’. Urmila Matondkar’s performance as the heroine is also lovely – she is bright, sparky, fun and adds depth to what could have easily been a shallow character. Even Jackie Shroff is ok, although my worst part of the film was definitely him dancing around in the ocean in a tight black Speedo and then proceeding to suck Urmila’s toes – blech!

There is also a lot of colour and style to the movie; and it’s a fresh, light-hearted take on the tired ‘young female with big sapnay becomes big famous movie star’ story. What I didn’t like about ‘Rangeela’ though is that there were way too many songs, only 1 or 2 of which I liked, and Urmila did way too much pouting and ‘winding’ in the songs for my taste – but I guess that’s part of why people like this movie so much. For me it’s just ok, not great.

‘Shiva’ is my least fave RGV movie so far – not because I don’t like it though – I really do, I like it a lot – it’s just that the other ones had an edge for one reason or the other. I really like ‘Shiva’ because RGV used fresh young faces in his lead roles – I love directors who don’t always use the same established faces, who aren’t afraid to try newbies and less commercially-successful artists (hint, hint, K-Jo), and RGV is definitely one of them – he gave Vivek Oberoi his big break, and routinely uses actors who are ‘off the beaten track’ (e.g. Seema Biswas), simply because they are good.

‘Shiva’ is good in some parts – the action scenes are good, the chemistry between the leads (played by the TDH Mohit Ahlawat, and the potentially very good Nisha Kothari – in a nice strong role for a woman) is engaging – again, RGV can shoot a good love scene. The story is interesting and dramatic, there are lessons to be learnt, the relationships between the characters are beautifully explored, and what’s hinted at is even more interesting than what’s explained. There’s also a cute and funny song mocking the police.

It’s a bit silly in some parts, though. The ‘little monkey man with a curved knife thing’ was dumb – I mean, come on! He obviously was no good with a knife if he couldn’t put a single nick on our hero’s body in all that time he had. It was good comic relief though. Some of the acting was bad – especially the guy who played the villain. I did not ‘feel’ his ‘evil-ness’ at all – he was just dead boring. Some parts of the plot just did not work, they just beggared belief – but I like that RGV gave them a shot anyway. I really like that kind of adventurousness and experimentalism in a director.


Sanket Vyas said...

Saw 'Rangeela' in Bombay when it first came out. Paid Rs.300 (black market) to get balcony seats & eagerly anticipating the special 'intermission laser show'. After getting samosas we settled in and got to see a bright light shone on a spinning disco ball with the 'Spirit of Rangeela' playing on the speakers - classic! Great movie - Aamir at his most vulnerable and can't ever forget him in his yellow suit.

Daddy's Girl said...

Awww.... I love it when you have such special memories and such great atmosphere tied to seeing a movie. That's what makes movies magical.
Maybe my lack of enthusiasm about 'Rangeela' stems from the fact that I watched the DVD on my laptop on a very boring day. We were visiting family (under compulsion) and we were grumpy about having nothing to do and nowhere to go. My sister (who watched it with me) liked it better than I did, though. I think I need to watch it again...

Lidia said...

Why haven't i seen these movies??? I need to see them :) I quite like Vivek Oberoi, he definately has that cute puppydog cuteness :) I really like how you reviewed the director instead of just focusing on the actors...very different and refreshing for me!

Daddy's Girl said...

@amy: Yes, Vivek is very very cute... glad you liked the review. I definitely think 'Company' is worth a watch if you like crime movies (although it's more than just another crime movie), and 'Rangeela' is worth a watch just for Aamir's performance.

Aparna said...

Speaking of Shiva, RGV made a Shiva way back, probably at the end of eighties....with Nagarjuna and Amala...it was a classic...and my first shuddering foray into watching 'violent', and 'hard hitting' movies....it also had good movies.

Daddy's Girl said...

So RGV remade his own movie? That's kinda weird! I bet the old one was way better than the new one.

Aparna said...

Umm no..he did not remake the old one, the old one had a different story.
The new one, was made because he was not happy with the way his 'assisstant' handled 'James', so he wanted to remake 'James', in order to 'better utilize' Mohit Ahlawat. And so, the new 'Shiva' was made....
And that's still kinda weird!