Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Naina Ganguly, Makarand Deshpande, Divya Jagdale
Knowing Ram Gopal Varma, he might be busy misconstruing the criticism of his short film as a raging validation of his fearless philosophy. The more people troll him, the more he will think it has something to do with what he is trying to say. This deluded self-importance is perhaps the biggest ongoing tragedy of Indian cinema.
I have no issues with his thoughts on sexuality, hypocrisy and society. In fact, I don’t care what he does when he isn’t directing movies. He is who he is, and this will invariably spill into the art he creates.
But what art, really? When was the last time he actually put the craft over the blatant advertisement of his seemingly controversial personality? I don’t mind if he even made a film on bestiality, but at least make it look like a darned film. With every new outing, it’s like he deliberately unlearns how to tell a story only because he wants to rebel and ruffle feathers – and prove an entire generation wrong about how important his voice was in the 1990s.
In that sense, Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chaahti Hai takes forward the legacy of his conscious uncoupling with artistic sensibilities; it is nothing more than a glorified Twitter rant. If there were ever a top contender for what kind of material doesn’t merit translation into an audiovisual medium, this would be it.
Makarand Deshpande sounds as if he is being electrocuted in a room playing reruns of the Sarkar 3 soundtrack, while Divya Jagdale looks as if she can’t make up her mind between whether she has seen a lizard or smelled a rotten egg
Though it is supposed to be only a simple conversation between a girl (Naina Ganguly) and her distressed middle-class parents (Makarand Deshpande, Divya Jagdale) – she wants to be a porn star and decides to lecture them about sexist double standards and the virtues of individual choice – Varma “designs” it with the hues of a supernatural exorcism ritual. After all, he has to justify the concept of its existence on your computer screen. It’s the only way he seems to know how to shoot videos these days.
One of the first clauses in the contracts for actors – especially senior ones – working with Varma seems to be complete and unquestioning surrender of dignity. Deshpande sounds as if he is being electrocuted in a room playing reruns of the Sarkar 3 soundtrack, while Jagdale looks as if she can’t make up her mind between whether she has seen a lizard or smelled a rotten egg. She sounds as if she were being told to emotionally interpret a heart attack. Unfortunately, it isn’t even her original voice.
In stark contrast, young Ganguly lectures them with all the charm of a human teleprompter. For eleven endless minutes, she blurts out Varma’s unique teachings in the tone of a vamp double-crossing a villain’s sidekicks.
If you manage to reach the final frame of this horror film like I did, there is no undoing it. There is no unseeing – or unfeeling – a Ram Gopal Varma production. The damage to our minds is irreparable. More so because we know that he thinks this damage is a result of not bad filmmaking, but a result of our narrow-minded, hypocritical perception of life and gender dynamics. We’re the fools.
Watch the short film here: