Shiva (2006)

Ram Gopal Varma
Ram Gopal Varma
Sajid Farhad
Ilayya Raja
Sep 15, 2006

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Mohit Ahlawat


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About Movie

The career of Ram Gopal Varma makes everything we thought we knew about Bollywood wrong. In an industry best known for its song and dance extravaganzas he's become Bollywood's biggest director with crime flicks and horror movies devoid of flashy production numbers. He's Bollywood's most successful name brand director, but he's not even from Bollywood. Most Westerners think of Bollywood as India's film industry, but it's really just the largest of seven. For ten years Bollywood has depended on its Southern sisters for fresh talent and Varma has been its most lucrative import.

Ram Gopal Varma claims that everything a film director needs to know can be learned in 24 hours, and he proved his point at 28 with his first movie, SHIVA (1990). A civil engineering student turned video store owner, Varma pitched his tale of a college student who's a street fighting prodigy to Telugu actor, Nagarjuna, who agreed to produce and star. Audiences bought tickets expecting a dud from this novice director but they were stunned by a savage beatdown in the movie's opening scene and a main character whose weapon of choice was a brutal head butt. SHIVA was a monster hit.

Varma entered Bollywood with the showbiz romance, RANGEELA, but his career was defined by his wildly successful crime trilogy: SATYA (1998), COMPANY (2002) and SARKAR (2005). In these flicks, cops and criminals are warring gangs and everyday life is just a thin cover for the seething corruption that makes the world go round. Varma's criminals aren't monsters, they're ordinary people trying to make a living: in SATYA they're blue collar workers, in COMPANY they're white collar clerks with guns and in SARKAR they're the upper crust. Their gangs are simply extended families that kill people and they even celebrate marriages together, the ultimate Bollywood bonding ritual.

The India Varma maps in his crime trilogy is a corrupt landscape where politicians, thugs, movie producers, and police officers consolidate their power by any means necessary and innocent bystanders are either pawns or collateral damage. Varma was saying what Indians were thinking and audiences were electrified – all three movies were hits.

These days, Varma runs The Factory, a production company that turns out several movies a year which he either directs or produces. Like Hong Kong's Tsui Hark, Varma exercises total control over his productions and some of his best recent movies bill him as only the producer. In 2004 he produced two taut, actor-centered movies: Urmila Matondkar was a woman scorned in EK HASINA THI and Nana Patekar was a hitman for the police department in AB TAK CHHAPPAN. Trimmed of fat, both movies sport diamond sharp scripts, rocket-propelled narratives and Varma's fingerprints are all over every frame. Currently he has a fistful of movies coming out of the Factory over the summer, he's directing a time traveling movie with Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan, and he's prepping his first Hollywood movie, a supernatural thriller to be shot in New York. He's a major discovery on the film festival circuit – a director of the caliber of Tsui Hark or Johnnie To – who hasn't received the international attention he deserves. So buy a ticket and prepare yourself for the shock of the new.
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