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How RGV became a director!

September 17, 2008 14:51 IST

We have seen Ram Gopal Varma's films, and know of his talent. But how many of us actually know how he became a director?

Did you know, for example, that RGV was an engineer before he became a director? And that had he accepted a well-paying job in Nigeria, he would have never become a director!

RGV writes about his early days in his blog. We quote:

My father was a sound engineer in Annapurna Studios and due to that, he had a pretty good access to the big guns there. I went to him and told him that I wanted to be film director and he thought I had cracked my mind. That was with good reason because there was not a single constructive thing that I have ever done in my life till then.

I was a bad student, I was involved with goonda activities in Siddhartha Engineering College in Vijayawada and I had a general track record of being quite a worthless bum. Also at that time it was unheard of that someone without assisting or getting trained in an institute can actually direct. So like I said with a very good reason he thought I got cracked up and advised me not to have pipe dreams.

Coming to terms with the fact that I can't expect my father to help, I joined as a site engineer in the construction of Hotel Krishna Oberoi in Hyderabad. I went about trying to meet a few film producers and failed. Mr.Ramoji Rao at that time, a few years earlier, started Usha Kiron Movies which gave quite a fresh bunch of non-run of the mill films for that time like "Pratighatana", "Srivariki Prema Lekha" etc. So in order to have an access to him I wrote an article for his then newspaper "Newstime" titled "The Ideas that killed 30 million people". The Sub Editor got startled when he saw the title of the article and he immediately published it.

The article was about the influence of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche on the mind of Hitler and it was widely read and discussed at that time. Soon on the fame of being the author of that article, I got an appointment with Ramoji Rao and pitched my idea of directing a film to him. He outright rejected the notion on the basis of me having no practical experience at all and my argument with him was that a director does not need experience. He just needs clarity of vision and to have the skill to communicate. He did not buy it.

I was completely disillusioned with the experience as he was the only resort which remained, and then I got an offer of going to Nigeria as an engineer. I was being paid Rs.800/- per month at Hotel Krishna Oberoi and the Nigeria offer stood at Rs.4,000/- per month which obviously was huge and very much needed by my family.

So I gave up my idea of being a director and went about preparing to go to Nigeria. In the course of that I happened to require an international driving license as one of the documents. A friend of mine called Naidu was taking me on his bike to an RTO office where he knew someone to do the needful and en-route he stopped at a video library called Priyadarshini Videos owned by his friend near Lalbahadur Stadium. Those were the days when video libraries were just coming up and that was the first time ever I saw a video library. As Naidu was chatting with his friend I was checking out the cassettes and an idea suddenly dropped into my mind on what if I start a video library. My confidence was that I know about films more than any video library owner. By evening I got so obsessed with the idea that I took my father's vespa scooter and went all over town to check out 6 to 7 video libraries and by night I firmly made up my mind to drop the idea of going to Nigeria. Everyone including my father, grandfather and uncles thought I completely lost it.

I didn't obviously have any money at all for my business enterprise. So I went about gathering loans varying from Rs.1,000/- to Rs.3,000/- and managed to raise about Rs.20,000/-. That was kind of ok for buying cassettes, but what about the shop? My father was nearing retirement and he was pretty worried on how to run the family. One of my uncles had a shop in Ameerpet area which he gave to my father without asking for a deposit in which my father was planning to start a juice parlour as a retirement plan. So I went to my father and asked him to give me that shop for the video library. He was just silent and I thought he wanted some time to think about it and I left.

The next day night my uncle took me to Madhu's bar in Ameerpet and while having a drink he told me how disheartened my father was with my asking for the shop. My father apparently told him that what he kept for his old age also is being demanded from him. I was emotionally so distressed with this that I decided there and then to drop the video library idea, return the loans I have taken and resume my trip to Nigeria. Now the bar where my uncle broke the news was about a kilometer away from my house. So I started walking with the intent to just barge in to my house and tell my father that he can have his shop back. But as I walked my emotions slowly started going down and my logic started coming up.

I told myself that just because my father is feeling disturbed, is it right that I give up what I believe that it will financially and in every which way will improve the quality of our life? So the choice was between, to make him unhappy now and take a chance of making him happy beyond his imagination later or to make him happy for the moment and we all remain unhappy for the rest of our lives. My logic finally took over as I finished the 1 kilometer walk and went into my house. I just ignored my father and went about my preparation for setting up the video library.

The video library became a huge success and was earning more than Rs.20,000/- a month which was a massive jump over my Rs.800/- per month and my dad's Rs.1500/- salary. My father never ever smiled so brightly and till today I can't forget the pride with which he looked at me. Also this sudden change in my financial status gave me the strength and foothold to try again to get a break into films.

The point I wanted to make through this article was that the primary reason for me becoming a director was that unscheduled stop Naidu made at that video library and the distance of that 1 kilometer between Madhu's bar and my house.


Rediff Entertainment Bureau