Ram Gopal Varma is universally acknowledged as one of the finest and most talented directors of Hindi cinema. With a keen eye, an ability to get something special from his actors, and a unique vision, the director has brought some fabulous films to the silver screen. He has covered a range of genres, and some of the highlights from his career include Rangeela, Satya, Company, Sarkar, Sarkar Raj, and Phoonk. Up next for the director is Rann, his take on the ethical twists and turns of Indian media, particularly the news industry. The film explores a television channel’s manipulation of news stories and the widespread, shocking results. Mr. Varma gave Stacey an inside look about his concept, how he cast his characters, and why Amitabh Bachchan was perfect for the part of newscaster.
What is the story of Rann?
I would say it is basically set against the media, in particularly the television industry and particularly the news networks. My whole idea is that from the time you get up in the morning until you go to sleep at night these news channels are constantly telling you what happened: when and where and what you should feel about it, what you should think about it. Also many times they will have a pre-determined or pre-intended tone to it – what you should feel. So, psychologically as a viewer, I have no idea what this is about, and the influence of what this person is saying. What can be the impacts of this? I mean, in case people want to use this power and choose to use this power for their own agendas, depending on whatever their own motivations are, it can be a very dangerous tool, you know? So, that is what Rann is about.
What made you decide to make the film?
See, the idea of this has been somewhere in my head for the last five or six years. Initially it starts from an idea and then it slowly takes shape into a certain story, into a certain series of incidents, of characters, of the relations of the characters. I think that happened roughly a year and a half back.
How did you do research for this film?
It is not so much the technical aspect of how a channel is run, it is more the psychological aspects. When I made Satya, an underworld film, I didn’t need to join an underworld gang to understand what that is all about, you know? So, pretty much if I am a man sitting in front of the TV and watching, on a psychological level I can understand what the people that are running the channel might be thinking about me as a person, and what influence they can have on me. I just need to understand this to make the film.
How did you go about casting the film?
Pretty much with Mr. Bachchan, I needed one person that would represent the conscience of the nation. In terms of spirit, in terms of what the media nobility should be and stand for. And Bachchan’s face – I can’t get someone better than that for the role.
See, with Riteish, I have always found him a very intense and serious person in real life, but he has always been used only in comedies. I just wanted to put him in a serious role for a change.
Paresh Rawal was one of the most menacing villains I have seen when he started out his career in Arjun, but over the years he has done mostly slapstick comedies. I thought to bring back that menace – it would be interesting to see that in terms of Paresh Rawal.
Tell us about your directing style, especially with actors like Amitabh Bachchan.
I think pretty much we have developed a certain comfort since Sarkar, which was four or five years back, and so I think we are more confident on the role. He trusts me completely as a director, so on set it is more like working together to create the best possible moments in the scene.
Do you work differently with a new actor than you do with someone like Mr. Bachchan?
No, not really. Obviously over the years he has done many films, and you have seen him in many films, so your understanding of him would probably be much more compared to a new actor, and how to get something out of him. To that extent I think it is pretty much true for most actors.
How was the experience shooting the film?
It was fantastic, because it is not possible to get an actor more professional than him [Bachchan].
Tell us about the music for the film.
Predominately there are no songs in the film, they are all background tracks, just there to present the mood and the tone of the film. So, there is no music in the film per se.
Do you think the media response to this movie might be influenced by the fact that it depicts their industry?
I wouldn’t think so, because the media is not a single entity of a system. There are so many people working in the media in various capacities and all of them, ultimately, will have their own view points about the institution they are working for. So, it will connect to different people in different ways.
What do you think audiences will make of this film?
You know, a filmmaker would be stupid to make a film thinking the audience won’t like it. So, the point basically is that every film has its own audience. I am interested in what happens behind the television camera, and that could be different [for the] audience. How much they will like it is not for me to say. It is only when the film releases and the reaction of the audiences will say that.
Do you think the sensationalism shown in Rann is unique to Indian media?
Yes, pretty much I would think it is, based on this, but the degree of it would be in any media. People are people and they will influence, and will get influenced.
What would you say is the USP [unique selling point. - ed.] of Rann?
The USP of Rann is the TV; the television set, people who like TV. People who love the television set should see it and the people who hate TV should see it even more.
What do you think of Indian cinema today?
I am afraid I don’t have time to give you my thoughts on Indian cinema.
Finally, what are your expectations from Rann when it releases on the 29th of January?
Like I said earlier, it is not for me to expect. My job is to make it and just leave it to the audience.
How do you think the film has turned out now that you are getting closer to release?
It turned out the way I intended, so whether my intentions are correct is or not we will get to know.
The trailers for Rann have certainly been intriguing. They show a film that has all the elements of greatness, including an amazing cast, a unique concept, and a thrilling story. With Ram Gopal Varma at the helm it will indeed be an interesting and thought-provoking watch. Rann boasts an all star cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh, Sudeep, Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav, Neetu Chandr, Gul Panag, Rajat Kapoor, Suchitra Krishnamurthy and Mohnish Behl. Be sure and see for yourself when Rann opens January 29th!