A magnificent Jackie Shroff in brown clothes and boots, stands on a vast desert land, looking like a hunter king. Gold dust from the sprawling sands, blend with warm sunlight , forming a fantastical picture with A R Rahman’s gentle music creating an intriguing mood.
Cut to Urmila Matondkar looking like a seductive apsara in deep red ghaghra choli, swaying her luscious figure, sending the temperature soaring higher than the desert degrees. Rahman’s soft music suddenly changes to a faster beating rhythm. Jackie, seen in a long shot, is now galloping on a horse, as if chasing a vision. He stops. The camera stays for a brief second on his face, capturing his look of excited anticipation.
Cut to a closeup of Urmila swaying her neck, her beautiful kohl eyed eyes wild and more seductive than the hint of cleavage seen in the frame. Rahman’s changing tempo is matched by shadowy lit frames of Urmila dancing. Cut to Urmila and Jackie’s faces close to each others and the magical lyrics by Mehboob take on a fiery quality with Rehman’s haunting tune along with Hariharan’s and Swarnlatha’s voices, “hai rama yeh kua hua, kyon aise yeh humein satane lagey…”
On re watching the song, one can see how Ram Gopal Varma’s directorial skills further enhance the theme through the locale, cinematography, choreography, costumes and the capturing of super hot Urmila’s neat curves and mesmerizing dance moves. The rest of the unbeatably, glorious song of lust and passion is history along with Varma’s only romantic comedy, Rangeela in 1995.
Twenty years later, Ram Gopal Varma describes how his vision of raw, animal passion was translated by Rahman into a masterful, sensuous piece, in his book, “Guns and Thighs: The Story of My Life”. (Varma was deeply influenced by Bachchan’s gun in Deewar and Sridevi’s thighs in Himmatwala, hence the title).
Both Urmila and the film are responsible for making me a fan of Ram Gopal Varma once upon a time, to the extent of forgiving the unforgettable Aag. I have distinct memories of sitting torturously through the latter with a friend, out of sheer loyalty to Varma, not Bachchan.
While Varma has made his mark with crime and gangster films like Satya and Company, Rangeela was the film that woke me up to the sensation called RGV who had stormed into the film industry with Nagarjuna and Urmila starrrer, Shiva in 1990.
By his own admission in the book, Shiva was a copy of Bruce Lee’s Return of The Dragon. What makes the narrative of how his first film got made, more fascinating, is his candid and brutal honesty of his own manipulation of the producer and the stars involved in giving their first nod to a new entrant who had zero experience but plenty of passion. Here we meet RGV- the con master, the liar and king manipulator.
The book does what Varma does to the women in his films. He strips off layers of his psyche, sometimes with his own fascination for himself and sometimes, like a cold, detached observer.
At first he covers up with his typical, headline making statements, starting with his dedication to Mad magazine, Ayn Rand, Urmila Matondkar, Bruce Lee, Amitabh Bachchan, porn star Tori Black and ahem… “ a few gangsters”. It is another matter that there is only one page devoted to Matondkar , none to Ms Black but a certain Ms Rifle and plenty of space for Ms Rand and Bachchan.
“My world consists of powerful music, intense music, sexy women, vodka, gangsters, ghosts and philosophies which I can twist and turn to my convenience….social responsibilities and family values are lofty ideals”. While this may be true, Varma doesn’t really did dig deeper here except for the music and gangsters. Instead, he wastes a good number of pages to clear controversies, which frankly his movie audience doesn’t care about.
Throughout, you get acquainted with his numerous sides. There is Varma, the analyst who sees “flops by intent and success by accident”, Varma the brutally honest filmmaker who cuts egos to size, right from Anurag Kashyap to Ismail Durbar. A particular anecdote reveals how a certain visiting card retrived from his dustbin, changed a career path. As he puts it, “the whole point is that I am so fascinated with how the cycle of fortune keeps on throwing people in and out of dustbins.”
Surprisingly, you see flashes of Varma the human being who shows respect to Basu Chatterjee, remorse and guilt over certain actresses’ failures and his own deeper emotions connected to his family. His first story on M M Kreem, gave me goosebumps, despite a deliberate nonchalant tone of writing. Varma can be not just dismissive of everyone around but also his own inherent sharpness and insight for real talent and regard for the same.
Then, there is Varma the fan. The title of the book refers to Sridevi’s thunder thighs which drove the whole nation queuing up to watch the infamous Himmatwala. Varma describes Sridevi’s star status very vividly by narrating an incident of how thousands of people followed Sridevi’s car in the remote area of Nandyal, in her early days. Calling her one of his “Gods” in the index of his chapters, amongst Rahman and Bachchan, Varma puts up Sridevi on a pedestal and insults her husband, Boney Kapoor at the same time in the inimitable way, only he can.
From within brief snippets of his journey, the real gems are about how certain characters like Bhiku Mhatre and Kallu Mama from Satya, were born and fine and funny moments like Munna’s (Aamir Khan) bright yellow outfit scene in Rangeela, evolved. A trip down memory lane to a theatre in Vijaywada and his tryst with a certain manager, is like a starry eyed scene straight from the movies .
A hilarious narrative on a train accident and a death reveals Varma’s sense of humour, something he could well explore by making a dark comedy. He is quite capable of evoking inappropriate laughs in the particular chapter appropriately titled, “A Tragicomedy”.
By the time the racy 200 pages end in an entirely unnecessary long ramble against the media, one is left with some entertaining read on his risk taking and lying abilities, his idea machine mind, his adventurous jail lock up episodes and a random dissection of his films that leave you wanting for more.
Just like Ram Gopal Varma's silence on Urmila Matondkar, who he calls a “simple sweetheart”.