Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, best known for his films Rangeela and Satya, was the pioneer of neo-noir and psychological horrors in Bollywood. He has previously directed films such as Raat, Bhoot, Phoonk, and Vastu Shastra. Cinema Journal caught up with the director post his return to his favourite genre with 12 ‘o' Clock that released in the theatres earlier this month. Excerpts from the interview:
Looking back, how do you think your style of filmmaking has changed over the years?
We all are a sum total of our experiences at any given time. Those films are 25 years old and my exposure since then was in so many other dimensions and as a result, I am not the same person as when I made them. My present style reflects my present state of mind.
The horror/thriller genre is making a comeback in Hindi movies. How do you see the journey from Ramsay Brothers to films like Pari and Bulbbul?
Fear is a very primal instinct and I think it’s beyond styles. Even till today, Exorcist remains as effective as back then. Ramsay’s kind of horror is more visceral whereas I believe in psychological horror.
Kaun and Raat have become cult movies. What attracts you to such scripts?
I can’t speak for others but for me fear works best when we provoke the imagination of the audience rather than showing the source. Right from my teens, I used to love scaring people. Also, the horror genre is a true testing ground for the latest innovations in film technology like sound, music, camerawork etc.
What do you think about Bollywood’s remakes?
I think remakes mostly are done with the intention of catering to a new and younger generation and not so much for the ones who have seen the original.
You are certainly controversy’s favourite child. Is it because you speak your mind?
Yes, I say what I feel!
Your filmography is a mix bag. Do you think it has happened due to the audiences’ changed taste over time?
I made flops 30 years back too. So, I don’t think it’s anything to do with a change in audience’s taste, films fail at any time if they are bad.
Tell us five important elements of a good psychological thriller
Performances, camera work, sound, music and final mix - all in that order.