It pains me to see what has become of Ram Gopal Varma. The maverick filmmaker who has given us cinematic – as well as critically acclaimed – hits in his hey days has somewhere down the line lost his gentility at an alarming rate. The last few movies that have come out from his stable have been sorrowful attempts at reclaiming the cinema that he was once acclaimed for. His last couple of films have been particularly lambasted by everyone with a mouth, and rightfully so. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel that is RGV, in the form of Rann.
Rann has been in the news ever since it was first talked about, even before its filming began. Rann was expected to elevate RGV back to his throne; it was expected to once again hail RGV as the king of off-beat cinema. But anyone who has seen Rann knows that it won’t do any of that. The only thing that Rann will do is push RGV back into a tunnel of depression. Another failed movie won’t go well with the master, the heavy media-bashing won’t help either and I just hope he doesn’t give up filming altogether. RGV is a genius, right now he’s in transition, but a genius remains a genius and he will be back to his best some day.
But this time, RGV is himself at fault. He can flay everyone from the critics to the media to the audience for being too harsh, but the truth is that Rann has numerous flaws – many of them highly obvious – that he could’ve avoided. And mind you, these flaws are things that are commonplace in Bollywood, but not something that you expect from RGV. He has faltered at things that have been his hallmarks.
The first flaw is the story. Rann’s story is not concrete, not at all living up to the stories of his earlier movies. The story is loose; it has a number of obvious holes that raise questions, a large amount of whys and hows, questions that kill the story. Questions like: Why didn’t anyone else other than Purab Shastri (Ritesh Deshmukh) recognize Khanna? Why didn’t Khanna’s friends and family inquire about his sudden disappearance? How come no one knew who Khanna was despite his face being shown on TV? When did the Indian political system start having only two ministerial candidates? These are just a few questions that are at the top of my mind. I’m sure a dozen others can be unearthed by any willing mind. Any story with so many unanswered questions is bound to be doomed. What is sad is that RGV could have covered these loopholes.
The second problem with Rann is that with it, RGV decided to become a preacher. Now, RGV is many things, a preacher is not one of them. His films have addressed socially relevant issues, but without being preachy. Rann is preachy and that is where it fails. It’s almost as if RGV has adopted Madhur Bhandarkar’s brand of cinema. The 15-minute long speech by Vijay Malik (Amitabh Bachchan) towards the end of the movie is not something you expect from a RGV film. What he is good at is telling the same things through incidents and sequences, not by having his main lead give a speech.
The other thing was the hoards of clichés. An RGV story doesn’t have a single expected twist and turn. Rann has only expected twist and turns, not a single one of them was unanticipated.
One of RGV’s strengths has been his characterizations. The same can’t be said about the characters in Rann, every one of them has serious flaws. The continuous flipping open of a Zippo doesn’t make a character ambiguous, nor does wearing a sweater vest make a character serious. (Wearing a sweater vest in Mumbai, irrespective of the time of the year, only makes a character look foolish.) A politician can be mean even without something red spread across his forehead. I don’t know why Paresh Rawal was made to wear sunglasses in every scene; the actor’s eyes could have made him look meaner than the red paste. The other character with obvious flaws is Yasmin (Neetu Chandra) – she dresses like a modern woman, but cowers like a villager every time her boyfriend gets angry. The other characters are mere stereotypes – the Hindu housewife who doesn’t want a Muslim bahu, the industrialist out to make more and more money, the employee who shares company secrets, the son who tries to come out of his father’s shadows, the highly ethical media baron, the highly unethical media baron, the aficionado who wants to be like his guru… and so on and so forth. Sure, stereotypical characters, who behave like real people are important to a story. But the problem in Rann is that the movie has two sets of characters – one set is too banal and the other is too unbelievable.
I know that telling a story on celluloid ain’t easy; a director has to be given a few allowances. But RGV was one director who didn’t need any allowance. His stories have been tight; finding flaws in his good films would be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Sadly, not anymore. Rann is not even ambitious, as most of RGV’s films have been. It’s just sad to see one of our very few brilliant filmmakers going down the drain. By the sheer length of this piece you can imagine how disappointed I’ve been about RGV’s decline.
Well, his next is Rakta Charitra. I hope I don’t have to drown my sorrows in whisky after that one too.