The postmortem of Ram Gopal Varma’s dirty dancing video – #BigStory – Times of India

Ram Gopal Varma, if Google is anything to go by, will turn 60 in April 2022. The to-be sexagenarian neither looks his age nor has slowed down. But the recent video of him with a certain Inaya Sultana wherein he’s dancing like a naughty quadragenarian hurts you, yes, you read it right, hurts you. Varma’s denial, swearing on the US President Joe Biden that it’s neither him in the video nor Inaya, was largely dashed to the ground by Inaya herself, when she posted a picture of the proceedings from her social media handle. For those who’ve come in late, see the video below:

Varma or no Varma in the video, several questions start racing in your mind if you’ve followed his filmography. We dissect the filmmaker by asking the right questions: Why does the satya (truth) of RGV (as he is fondly called) scream that this man today is a pale shadow of the craftsman he was? Is he going to take a U-turn? Is that going to be easy when he’s burnt bridges along the route he’s chosen? Has he gotten repetitive with films on the underworld and certain segments of sex? Let’s not name those projects, but what went wrong? When and why did his thread of connectivity with the public break? A lot more questions. Let’s debate.

This writer has always believed that people who invite controversies (like RGV does), enjoy them to no end. Unko khatron se khelne ka shauk ho jata hai (flirting with danger becomes their hobby). Don’t tell me RGV didn’t know that his video with Inaya would cause outrage on social media. Maybe he even knew the exact path it covered before it landed on the Internet. Yes, that’s another of saying RGV wanted this video to be seen by us. A filmmaker who worked with him in the past says, “I don’t know if he likes flirting with danger but I know for a fact that he cares a f**k about what people think about him. He knows he has done a good quantity and quality of work till date and he’s like this audacious guy who has kya kar loge (what will you do) written on his forehead and chest.”

RGV may not care but it hurts not only those who’ve followed his filmography but also worked with him closely. Balasubramaniam (fondly called Ashok in the film industry) who was his most trusted lieutenant for 10 years at his office, The Factory, says candidly, “Dukh toh hota hai dekh kar boss ko aise (It does hurt to see the boss like this) but he is a talented maker. I left Ramu sir sometime around ‘Sarkar Raj’. Things were going pretty good for him as far the success of his work was concerned. After quitting my job under him, I neither met him nor kept in touch with him.” Rajesh Vasani, who says he has handled the publicity of several films of Ramu, says, “I think he’s in high spirits in the video. But frankly, I am not in touch with him, either. Actually, I was always working closely with his distribution and marketing team.”

Actually, it’s quite a mystery these days where Ramu is on a given day. Tons and tons of people have lost touch with him as he has become slippery, err, elusive. Did this cat-and-mouse game begin when certain accusations were made against him a few years ago in the industry for non-payment of dues? A filmmaker who’d met him some years back for a movie says that though he’s believed to be in Hyderabad, there have been times that he has had long stays in Goa and Mumbai without many people knowing about it. We are told Varma was living in a hotel in Mumbai’s western suburbs for about a year around the same time when Majid Majidi was in the city for the making of Ishan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan starrer ‘Beyond The Clouds’. Wonder how come the paparazzi haven’t clicked Varma at the airport, perhaps because most paparazzi are standing at the entry and exit points of Mumbai by invite. The same filmmaker tells ETimes that Ramu was not very affable in his meeting with him and he came away a bit baffled. An independent small-time director who once worked for him says that Ramu was earlier pretty reserved when he had his glorious run in Bollywood from 1995-2010.

Sushant Singh, who has been a frequent member of Ramu’s films, says he cannot reason it out why Ramu’s recent films haven’t hit the bull’s eye as their relationship is purely professional on a film-to-film basis but points out, “I would rather prefer to count his great contribution to cinema. I wish he gives us good cinema again,” and then added, “But think of it, Ramu has always been outspoken; he’s never been the quiet insider. It was just that he didn’t have access to social media as its platforms hardly existed in the olden days. Now, he reaches out to the public and this brings about a reaction. Moreover, these days, people have become more reactive.” But what about the video? Did it surprise Sushant? Or, did it shock Sushant? “Whatever is happening in the video looks like consensual behaviour to me, but it shouldn’t have reached the vast landscape of social media,” Sushant replied.

Joining the debate is Suchitra Krishnamoorthi who reportedly wanted to marry Ramu around the time she was penning her book ‘Scandalous Queen’ which hit the stands in 2013. ‘Oh come on, that’s how the media saw it, rather misconstrued it. I had just joked with Ramu once when he asked me how life was. I told him: Marry me, I am getting bored. Laud him for his sportsman spirit of allowing me to include that in my book.” But broaching the video with Suchitra draws strong support for RGV. “Ramu and I are not in touch at all. Every artist goes through ups and downs. I wish him the very best.” Like Sushant, Suchitra questions the Twitterati who are condemning Ramu’s dance on social media but in a more direct manner, “Why is everyone on Twitter indulging in moral policing? Somebody is having a good time at a party, let him be. When the woman (Inaya) has no objection, why are the Twitteratis complaining?”

Anu Malik’s brother Abu Malik, who recently was planning to meet Ramu for assignments, stands up to join Suchitra’s viewpoint, “Big deal! Such dances of men with their girlfriends (Maybe, Ramu is dating Inaya) and wives are common among the flashy rich,” and then adds, “Trolls just got someone to attack and something fresh to condemn, no thanks to the video getting leaked.”

You may not forget the Ramu-Inaya video but you definitely cannot forget the lovely and engaging films Ramu made either – ‘Satya’, ‘Rangeela’, ‘Company’, ‘Bhoot’, ‘Sarkar’, ‘Sarkar Raj’. Taran Adarsh, when contacted, claims that he hasn’t seen the Ramu-Inaya video (actually, it’s ‘videos’ and not ‘video’- because later another video, which however wasn’t so up close and personal as the first one, went viral) rates Amitabh Bachchan’s performance in ‘Sarkar’ as one amongst Big B’s Top 10 performances. But Sanjay Kapoor had to be sort of reminded that he has worked with Varma- though technically he was right when he said he hasn’t- as Varma was merely a producer in ‘Darna Mana Hai’. And expectedly, Sanjay did not revert after we sent him the Ramu-Inaya video which he told us he hadn’t seen.

Talking about Sanjay Kapoor reminds us that Ramu has also burnt quite a few bridges. In 2014, Ramu spoke about making a film on Sridevi and made some objectionable remarks about the ‘Mr India’ actress. Seemingly, Boney Kapoor and Ramu don’t talk ever since; Boney was seething with anger for a long time. Note well, no Kapoor has collaborated with him after that. And didn’t Varma burn bridges with Jackie Shroff and family in 2017 when he passed obnoxious comments on Tiger’s gender. Talking to me, Tiger had finally opened up after a mysterious silence extending to months. He had said, “Inherently, I don’t do any naatak about it. My father has got a reputation and I don’t want to make a scene and screw that up for him. Of course, it does hurt inside.” When prodded further, Tiger had smiled and shrugged: “Kya boloon abhi? Senior aadmi hai, main bachcha hoon (What can I say? He is a senior, and I am a kid).” The fact that Ramu later apologised to Tiger and Jackie as well is another story that Varma himself revealed to me in one of his interviews later, but from what I believe, the wounds of Shroffs have healed but the scars remain.

As we near to wind up this piece, let’s take a look at some of his shocking tweets- be it not on just Tiger Shroff but even Rajinikanth!

The man who has been a very prominent feature of BTS in Ramu’s projects is the famous action-director Allan Amin- who too hasn’t met him for years- and when contacted, laughed and said, “What can I say? The video has surprised me.”

Adarsh returns to remind us about the rule of the book that ups and downs happen in everyone’s life. “Ramu needs just one script that will work on a certain Friday and the whole scenario for him will change. He is a fantastic director. Always remember what he did to Aamir Khan and Manoj Bajpayee’s careers in ‘Rangeela’ and ‘Satya’ respectively.” Rohit Jugraj who directed Ramu’s ‘James’ (not a hit) says that he has learned from him what he hasn’t learnt anywhere till date. Says Rohit, “Ramu is not a spent force as some believe. He has changed, yes, but let’s understand why he has changed. He has changed because he is on an evolution trip wherein he needs to accomplish something in his career. What exactly he’s chasing nobody knows and we should not speculate because first we should reach where he is, to be able to do any guess work about him. Let us not forget that he is a school of learning, a very courageous teacher who never looks back. I saw the video alright but I wanted to give a run-down to the person who had forwarded it to me. Top directors from Anurag Kashyap to Madhur Bhandarkar to Shimit Amin have learnt from him. Directors in Bollywood have had only two schools- Varma and Dharma (Karan Johar).”

Another protégé of Ramu who believes that he has changed is Chandan Arora. Talking about the graph of Ramu’s career, editor-director Arora who won the Filmfare Award for Best Editor for ‘Company’ and directed ‘Striker’ (not a hit) says, “Ramu’s reason for making films has changed. Earlier he made films for the audience, now he is making films for himself.”

Flora Saini who worked with Ramu in ’12 O’clock’ in 2015- and Ramu hasn’t made a Hindi film after that- seconds Adarsh, saying, “I had an amazing time in ’12 O’clock’. have always been a fan. I love the way he thinks about his shots. I am glad that I got to work with him. If ’12 O’clock’ didn’t work, it’s okay. Several big films also film, how do you account for that?” Mumbai’s most popular theatre Gaiety-Galaxy owner Manoj Desai who has earned a lot thanks to Ramu’s earlier films, tells ETimes, that RGV is a master who produced different films and has sadly started repeating himself. “My theatres went dry in his last few films but how can I forget that what he gave us for at least 10-12 years, that gave us goosebumps.”

Goes without saying that RGV did not respond to our request to talk about the video with Inaya. Ditto for many industry people when we knocked their phones with calls and text messages.

We at ETimes look forward to Ram Gopal Varma bouncing back to say that ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’.

P.S: Yours truly rests his case and he is not going to deny, by swearing on Biden, that he didn’t pen this story.


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