Mad man – this is perhaps how the present Indian generation perceives Ram Gopal Varma.
But ask us 90s kids and we will tell you what a man he was. While people applaud him for his path-breaking cinema like Satya or Rangeela, the man has created a legacy when it came to the horror genre.
Indian cinema in the early and late 80s was mostly dominated by crime dramas; mass fights, erotic rain dances, and heroism were the winning factors to successful cinema. Heroes larger than life, flying cars and goons, and heroines that were just used as props for dance numbers were all that Bollywood offered its audience. When it came to the horror genre, Bollywood has only delivered stomach-churning cinema, in the form of Dak Bangla, Takhana or Hotel. While several actors and directors tried to deliver a good horror cinema like Purani Haveli or Veerana, they just didn’t leave a lasting impression. Moreover, all these movies look more like soft porn and less like horror cinema. Yes, they had their thrills, but what good is a horror movie if just doesn’t scare you?
It is the early 90s that changed the scene of Indian horror cinema. An outsider named Ram Gopal Varma created a sensation in 1992 with his mind-blowing horror movie Raatri/Raat. He did break through the monotonous scary monsters, bad VFX and extreme mud make-up that the Ramsays instilled in the Indian audience in the 80s. Raat had no scary monsters in the name of horror. It did not indulge in bad prosthetics to scare people. It had actors pulling off stellar performances and a serene yet dramatic background score, making this 1992 movie a blockbuster hit. Varma really proved to the Indian audience that a woman dressed in a red saree sitting in a cellar of a house, with coloured eyes can give sleepless nights to us, the audience.
In the early 2000s, Indian cinema was dominated by love stories and patriotism-based cinema. This was when RGV came back with another classic, Bhoot. Remember when Urmila literally sent chills down our spines? Bhoot was so strong that it is still considered as one of the best that came out in the Indian horror. His no-nonsense approach to horror cinema creates an atmosphere that transports you to the protagonist’s house.
His stint with horror cinema didn’t stop here. He wrote, directed and produced movies like Deyyam, Darna Mana Hai and Vaastu Shastra. These movies were sensations when they came out. His horror movies were like a breath of fresh air in the plethora of rubbish movies which came out in the name of horror. He was perhaps the only filmmaker who used houses, dolls and trees as props to scare his audience. To the common audience, his cinema looked almost structured and his horror rhythmic.
His downfall as a filmmaker led to the ruination of Indian horror too. Yes, of late, several directors did deliver the right cinema in this genre. Be it Chandramukhi or Tumbbad, these movies did hit the pulse of the audience. But it was Ram Gopal Varma who acquired a legendary status in this genre. It is this man whom we credit for our insomniac nights. Nail-biting moments, anthology story-telling at its finest, story parallels which made sense and flashbacks that made us pour our hearts out to the fictional characters were all the trademarks of Varma’s distinguished cinema.
If you turn to English horror flicks like The Conjuring or The Exorcist for some thrills and spooks, remember that Indian cinema in the 90s and 2000s was blessed by RGV, who created phenomenal horror movies.
Can we have our vintage Ramu back, please?
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.