The irrepressible Ram Gopal Varma on women, love and matters philosophical and anatomical. You can call his films sexy, but is he sexist? Make of me what you will, the director tells Harneet Singh
What prompted Nishabd?
The idea was sparked by a conversation between Mr. Bachchan and me. Mentioning one of his forthcoming films, Cheeni Kum, he told me itís a story of an older man and younger woman. Since he didnít mention the age of the woman, my immediate thought went to Lolita. I thought of making an opposite of the feel good romcom that Cheeni Kum is. I was excited to see an actor of his caliber and dignity in a setting where he has to justify his attraction for a teenager. I was excited to see what a young girl can generate in him.
How did you zero in on Jiah Khan as the teenager?
In order to make the story more believable I needed somebody new. The idea was that the audience discovers her with Mr. Bachchan in the film. As far as Jiah is concerned, I had met her a year back. When I was casting for Nishabd, her image just came in my mind. She is much like the part. She comes from abroad, has an accent and comes from a broken house also. So it all fell in place.
Is there a difference in the way you direct male characters and women characters?
I donít consciously see or feel a difference. As long as sexuality is not predominant in the
filmís theme, I handle men and women in the same manner.
Why is it that except an Urmila in Rangeela and Antara Mali in Naach, most of your other women characters are not so strong?
Maybe because women donít run underworld gangs.
But how do you feel about women?
I feel a woman is a beautiful creation and makes life worthwhile. I feel itís wrong to look at them as a different species. I like women. I like using words like girl and women.
In one of your interviews you said that you like women as long as they keep their mouth shut. Are you serious?
See, for me, sharing a conversation with woman is different from her sexual aspect. I live in a dream world. When I see a woman I like her for something and I donít want the effect to be spoilt. When they start talking, they bring some baggage and the image gets spoilt. My problem is that I like to edit my world. I can do that in films but not in the real world.
So what you are saying is that women should be seen and not heard?
(Laughs) Iím okay if women speak so long as what they speak sounds right to me.
You really mean that?
(Laughs) I'm telling you every man feels the same way. Itís just that they donít say it and I say it. Every man likes his woman to be tailor-made to what he wants.
The women in your films are quite aggressive, do you like aggro women?
Yes. I donít like the bahu types. I donít like women who look good on the dinning table or the kitchen.
Jiahís introduction in the film with the water sprinkler ó Mr Bachchan looking at her as she gets wet ó is quite stereotypical, isnít it?
Sexuality is a strong aspect of being a woman. To see a woman being sensual or erotic is every manís fantasy. I feel a woman is a woman and a womanís body is a womanís body. What matters is how you capture it and generate a feeling. I read somewhere that the only difference between pornography and erotica is that pornography is front light while erotica is back light. The difference lies in the aesthetics created by one manís vision. Since the scene triggers a feeling in Mr. Bachchan, itís an important scene.
But what is this fixation that male film-makers have with water and rain when they want to depict a womanís sexuality?
Thatís because the clothes become transparent and visually it works very well. Iím sure in reality the experience of looking good in wet clothes must be eeky for women but it looks good on screen.
Why do you focus on womenís butts?
I focus on whatever I love and I think butts are sexy. But that said what I find sexier is a man looking at the butt. As a film-maker Iím excited to capture in a manís eye, what heís feeling.
Do you need a muse to be inspired?
I donít know what exactly the word muse means. I get excited by a story and a thought. If Iím making a film on the underworld, that becomes my muse. So the character, the actor or the technical angles all become a muse. As I see it, a film is a medium and the muse is just one part of it.
Why is it that all your women discoveries like Urmila and Antara disappear when you stop working with them, itís as if you scar them?
I think thatís because the effect they had in my films became a benchmark of their careers. Most actors, male or female have only one or two films that really make an impact after which they become personalities. Itís just that women make for more interesting reading so that becomes a talking point. For example, what you said for the heroines can also be said for Manoj Bajpai but you didnít.
Do you fall in love with your heroines while making a film?
No and thatís because Iím too much in love with myself to fall in love with anyone else.