Hiren Kotwani (BOMBAY TIMES; May 7, 2017)

An array of films -the raw Shiva, the cool Rangeela, the hard-hitting Satya, the spinechilling Kaun, the edgy Company, the scary Bhoot, the gritty Ek Haseena Thi and the Godfather-like Sarkar series - defines his approach to filmmaking. Agreeably, there was a time when his next was keenly awaited. And then came the downfall with a slew of unimpressive ventures.With Sarkar 3 and Amitabh Bachchan by his side, Ram Gopal Varma hopes to redeem himself as a filmmaker. Excerpts from our conversation with him:

Perception is that a sequel works well if it's released within a few years of the first film. The gap between Sarkar Raj and Sarkar 3 is nine years. Why is that so?
I never really had an idea to make another part after Sarkar Raj. Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) started discussing the possibility of the third part with me two-three years ago. An idea struck and we're here. It wasn't a conscious decision to wait for so long. But sometimes, to be removed for a while has its advantages. You can look back on the strengths and weaknesses of the previous parts and make the new one better. Something like Godfather 3 came nearly 20 years after the second part. You need to give the subject a break before coming back to it.

It was speculated that the third instalment hit a roadblock as your collaboration with Ekta Kapoor post Sarkar Raj failed to take off.
That was a proposal for another film. There was no plan to make the third part with them (Ekta's company).

Sarkar evidently drew inspiration from Bal Thackeray and Godfather. Sarkar Raj made strong references to the Enron power project. Buzz is that Sarkar 3 is a spin on the rivalry between Udhav and Raj Thackeray. What's the truth?
There's a difference between being inspired by and being based on. Imagine a powerful man who, without being an authorised body, runs a parallel government purely on his charisma and the faith he instills in people. If Balasaheb Thackeray can exist, so can Sarkar. He was just a reference point. Godfather is not about the mafia. It's the story of a family. With Sarkar Raj, the idea was that a public figure will have issues to deal with, though I never thought of Enron as the basis of the story. While working on the subject, things just came up. As for Sarkar 3, I'd say that in any organisation, there are bound to be egos if it involves family members. How outsiders take advantage of a rift within the group is the gist of the narrative.

You have been critical of Amitabh Bachchan and have used some unkind words for him too. How do you get a nod from him for your projects, even when you've had a slew of flops?
When I'm critical, I'm being honest. It comes from the heart. I tell him what I would tell anyone else. I don't say anything behind his back. I believe he sees the sincerity and passion with which I approach my work.

You've teamed up with Manoj Bajpayee after very long. Was it easy to bury the hatchet and move on?
After a long journey and so many interactions, you lose perspective of what had happened. I made one phone call to Manoj for this film and he said yes. Even if we've put our differences aside, the media will make it a point to bring it up.

The first two films in the franchise had more seasoned artistes. Why did you decide on Amit Sadh and Yami Gautam for this instalment?
Amitji suggested Amit Sadh's name. I called him for a look test and he turned out to be impressive. He plays a cocky, arrogant guy in the film. He nailed the part. As for Yami, we've seen her as an innocent girl in her previous outings but here, she plays an intense role.

Did it bother you that the movie's release was pushed by over a month?
There's a misconception here. The release of a film has more to do with post-production and the number of screens you might get in a certain window. I'm the last person to be bothered. It doesn't make a difference whether the film releases one month earlier or later. There's an exaggerated perception of release dates. It has never happened that if two films release, I've seen only one.

At one time you were hailed as a maverick for your school of thought. Where do you think you went wrong in the last few years?
It is partly my arrogance in a sense of taking things for granted and partly because I was never questioned when I started making those films. Not that I didn't have this kind of mindset before. But I tried reinventing myself and left Mumbai for a while.

What did you learn in that phase?
It would be presumptuous to say I won't make mistakes. At most, I may not repeat them. Today, I want to make films different from what others are making or watching.

In hindsight, do you think turning your production house into a filmmaking factory backfired?
I'm often criticized that I do too much too soon and I don't concentrate, which isn't true. Very often, I've gone by my instinct. I made Satya on my instinct. Films don't work just by planning. If something shapes up well, it clicks. No matter what people say, I know I did my best at that point.

You've experimented with an outlandish technique in Department that also didn't work.
When a film works, the experiment is called new age cinema. If it doesn't, it is criticised. Sarkar was experimental with close-up treatment. It worked, so it was talked about; if it hadn't worked, it would have been criticised. Likes and dislikes are based on the final result.

A lot of your protégés have fallen out with you. Why?
I never fell in to fall out with them. I used people as resources to make films.

Your blunt candour on social media has only led to tiffs with the industry. People may stop taking you seriously. Don't you think so?
I don't think people care about what an actor or a director does apart from making a film. They don't have the time or energy to waste on things that are not related to their day-to-day existence. If I want a product, I don't care about the manufacturer's life.

What do you plan to make next?
I'm working on Arrest with Abhishek Bachchan, which will roll out soon. I'm also planning a horror film. And yes, there will be a Sarkar 4, but I don't know when.