Book review—Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Guns & Thighs’

Iss. VII

Book: Guns & Thighsthe story of my life
Author: Ram Gopal Varma
Publisher: Rupa Publication
Price: Rs. 500/- 


‘Owing to their tremendous contribution to my life in one way or the other, I dedicate this book to Mad magazine, Ayn Rand, Urmila Matondkar, Bruce Lee, Amitabh Bachchan, porn star Tori Black and few gangsters,’ reads the dedication.
And a paragraph in the book reads thus: ‘A film is at the end of the day an emotional experience. It can make you cry, it can make you laugh or it can give you a thrill. A good story gives the director a means of heightening that emotion, and a great director will enhance and beautify that emotion with his artistry. For example, if the script says, She is very beautiful, using cinematic application the director can make the audience feel that she is verrrrryyyy beautifullll.’

This is how the notorious Ram Gopal Varma illustrates his concept of film in his autobiographical book, Guns & Thighsthe story of my life. It’s not tough to comprehend why the words Guns and Thighs find a place in the title of the book written by a director who created such gems as Satya and Company, films that were based on Mumbai’s underworld and went on to become cult films in that genre; and Rangeela, a film that portrays the beauty of the sculptured stature of a female body. Amusingly, the book contains a photo captioned, “I always had a gangster in me” and features RGV holding a revolver. He writes, “I was obsessed with films and everything in them. Be it the gun in Amitabh Bachchan’s hand in Zanjeer or Sridevi’s thighs in Himmatwala.” This clearly explains it. One can easily feel that he possesses the mentality of a gangster to work with his own whims, to contravene the traditional or prevailing rules and norms, and above all, to lead a team of selected laudable assistants.

“I make films for myself”, RGV boasts. He has every right to, for, not bothering too much on whether his films are headed to be a hit or a flop, he continues making films that go with his conviction, obsession and creative madness. RGV’s films are a protest against the traditional and prevailing norms and methodology of Bollywood’s filmmaking process.

Regarded as one of the most important film makers of India for making quite a few commercially and aesthetically successful films, he has a genius knack for identifying talents and creating spaces for their growth. Directors and screenplay writers such as Anurag Kashyap, Simit Amin, Chandan Aurora, Madhur Bhandarker, Rajat Mukherjee, and E Nivas all started their careers with RGV. He re-discovered Urmila Matondker and turned her into an important actor with Rangeela and Satya, where she plays two opposite types of character. He writes, “The biggest blunder I made with regards to Antara, cinematically speaking, was trying to make an Urmila out of her in Naach”. On some other context, he also says that he made the film Rangeela only for Urmila. RGV made Naach for Antara Mali, but though the intention was the same, Naach failed to do for Antara what Rangeela did for Urmila. Without a tone of apology, he boldly says that he tried to transform Antara into Urmila, but it turned into an unsuccessful attempt. Naach would have been a different film altogether with her natural acting capability and talent. Later, Antara proved herself in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, produced by RGV and directed by Chandan Aurora (RGV’s editor in Company and a few other films). RGV was obsessed with Sridevi and he filmed that obsession in Mast, in which Urmila plays the role of an actress. Sridevi was the heroine for his Telegu film Kshna-Kshnam, a film that he says “was my love letter to her.”

Film history reveals that actors love to be a part of RGV’s film; because he provides ample scope to an actor to explore new horizons in their art. He proved his ‘out of the box’ attitude when he cast sweaty, bearded Chakravarty as the hero in Satya. RGV invited Malayalam superstar Mohanlal for his Company and RGV Ka Aag. Amitabh Bachchan has acted in several RGV films along with his son and daughter-in-law despite RGV’s numerous box office disasters, because the superstar was convinced that the skill and art of RGV cannot be judged by hits of flops, and that he can be measured only by the extent of his creativity. RGV’s views on acting echoes the famous saying, ‘In a film, the director acts, and the actor merely performs that act,’ when he writes, pointblankedly, “Are they giving awards to actors or to characters? If it’s characters, then they are written by writers and how that characters translates on screen is dependent on a number of factors such as the screenplay, the co-actor’s performance, the editing and the direction, and there is no justification for the actor alone being given the credit.”

Guns and Thighsthe story of my life is written in a simple language. The dominating tone of the narrative is light yet heavy. The book is interesting for its thought provoking and straight forward comments. It is a convincing mirror of RGV’s unsteady, restlessly creative and rebellious mind.


IMDB link of Ram Gopal Varma

Utpal Datta is a National-Award-winning Film Critic, Published Author-Editor-Translator and Assam State-Award-winning Filmmaker. He has also been honored with the ‘RAPA for Radio Production’, the ‘Moonlight Media Award for Cultural Journalism’, the ‘Jyotirupa Media Award for Film Criticism’ and the ‘Laadli Media Award for Radio Production’. Additionally, he has served as a Jury Member for the ‘ERA Excellence in Radio Award’ and the ‘Assam State Film Award’. Utpal is presently the Assistant Director of AIR-Guwahati, and the President of Chalachitram, a society that promotes Indian cinema.

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