Ram Gopal Varma interview on Aag’s failure
Were do you think you went wrong with Aag?
I did go wrong. The one person I must have made supremely happy is Ramesh Sippy. I’m very happy to make him happy because he made my life. I saw Sippy’s Sholay again last night. It’s fantastic. I must’ve been nuts to attempt it.
All my impressions of Sholay over the years went into Aag. Now I ask myself, if someone else had made Aag and I as a fan of Sholay went to see Aag, how would I react? I’d probably hate Aag as much as pople have hated it. The original is too deeply embedded in the public’s psyche.
Were you at all preprared for the severe backlash?
Can’t say it was entirely unexpected. When you attempt to remake the most revered film in the history of Indian cinema you’re going into the realm of the sacrilegous. Everyone from friends to well-wishers to people who didn’t care a damn either way warned me I was heading for trouble.
Irrespective of whether the film was good or bad I was expecting extreme criticism. But I was not expecting such a low opening for the film.Whether it was because of the title or because of the film’s look, I don’t know.
People felt the film was looking very 1970s
But I wanted to make a 1970s film! So one way of looking at it as a homage to the decade. The other way is to see it as outdated. It’s a question of perception.
Aag is your career’s most vilified and ridiculed film.
I’d think so. The baggage of expectations was too high. The brickbats were a part of what people see as this upstart trying to tamper with a classic. The backlash isn’t personal. Sometimes the criticism against some film begins and rises in a wave, all in one voice. I don’t think people sat down and conspired to trash the film.
What according to you is the reason for the backlash?
They hate my guts for having the audacity to attempt to remake Sholay. But I’m used to be hated for what I do. Only this time the volume of protests is higher.
What do you mean?
They keep ridiculing me for everything I do. Everyone has a mind and tongue and the right to use them. I think it’s human pleasure to attack others. No one has the time to be personal.
What about the SMS that said you should learn filmmaking from your former assistants Madhur Bhandarkar and Shimit Amin?
We all have an opinion on everything under the sun. If somebody feels I should learn filmmaking they’re right in their own way. When Kissna failed they said Subhash Ghai should enroll in his own film institute. Ridiculing people is a form of entertainment.
At least I’m entertaining people more with their comments on Aag than I did with the film. They should at least thank me for that and give me a 5-star rating for providing post-release entertainment.
Maybe the volume of work goes against you.
I don’t agree with that. I don’t do anything but make films. And I can’t take a break from what I do just because people want me to make less films.
In any case I don’t think people care if I make 2 or 20 films a year as long as they like what they see, And who knows what will click? When I made Satya it was meant to be a no-show film with newcomers and a non-recognizable hero with a beard.
Then I made Daud with Sanjay Dutt and Urmila which was supposed to be a sure-shot. It bombed. I put in the same effort in every film. If I knew a film wouldn’t work am I a madman to make it?
But people feel Aag was a careless work?
That’s again a viewpoint. My intention was re-do the original without tampering with the spirit of Sholay. Now take Mohanlal. I had him with a beard all through because my logic was, how can a man without fingers shave? Then people say Mohanlal looks like a bear with the beard! Now what do I do?
As for Mr Bachchan as Babban, I wanted it to be low-profile. People found him inert and unenergetic. Let me clear this. Every actor has done exactly what he or she was told to.
If Mr Bachchan’s performance was found to be inconsistent it’s because through his character I tried to pay a homage to all the villains I know from Mad Max to Gabbar Singh to Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs to Jack Nicholson in Batman.
I was too busy enjoying Mr Bachchan’s performance on sets. I lost track of the character’s consistency in the film.
So you take full blame?
Yes. I take blame for every actor, camereman, dialogue writer,etc. They did what I asked them to. I kept on insisting Aag was a formula film. I never said I was making a classic. But I guess no one was listening. Right from the word go my Sholay was jinxed.
From the court cases to the title change…. Once I got caught in the process of separating the legal matters from the film I was jacked. See I’m a genre filmmaker. Sholay is not a genre. I was trying to artificially capture what didn’t come naturally to me. I got confused.So obviously it wouldn’t work.