Ram Gopal Varma knows how to manipulate the media well. If only his art were as good as his PR skills.
Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann, to the satisfaction of all and especially its maker, has run into trouble with the censor board. The title song, Jana gana mana Rann hai, has offended our national honour as embedded in the Cinematography Act. Guideline 219, Section 5B2, to be precise.
As an established filmmaker, Ram Gopal Varma is aware of the pristine existence of Section 5B2. So why has he wantonly ventured to deflower the virgin?
Varma says the movie is about what happens to media organisations in the process of investigating and peddling truth. He sees conflict as part of the news and as central to the nation, which is at war with itself. And so, Varma has taken freedoms with the national anthem to communicate to the masses the theme of the movie. ‘Rann’ means war.
If Varma were just critiquing the nation, it would be an explanation of sorts for the liberties he took with the Tagore song. But what his PR people did was an indication of where all of it was as usual heading. Apparently, one of them called in to the newsroom of a national daily and said, hey, we have twisted the national anthem around, and isn’t that news enough for you to write about? Such desperation, even if the answer turned out to be affirmative.
A serious danger that creative people—writers, painters, directors, actors and counterfeit artists—run in the process of consummating their calling is not just imitating others. It is miming themselves. This normally happens when the imagination has run dry. And when the idea of success has taken over the art itself. With Varma, both have happened.
Varma is a filmmaker whose art peaked out around the time he started and finished his grunge underworld 1998 classic, Satya. Following this, he has produced, directed or written screenplays for several movies, appraised the performance of many female stars, assessed their key result areas, settled on Amitabh Bachchan as the main medium of his mimetic message, famously taken the piss out of Shah Rukh Khan (“he is a star, not an actor”), started a reviewer-hostile blog and acquired proficiency in singing his own praises.
None of it amounts to talent, let alone genius. The trouble with Varma is that he has stopped making movies in any real sense of the term. He is more into the business of making movies, not the art of making them.
He sees in the remixed national anthem a metaphor for the fraught business of news in a strife-torn country. And how people profit from it. If the marketing methods are any indication, his own movie seems no different from what he attempts so eager to critique. Like his other movies, this one too will get a lot of publicity from a suckering media. But that is not the same as making a movie you want to watch, and make you come back to it on a good day.