Ram Gopal Varma Blog #65. Bad “Company”

Somewhere in 2000 I happened to be in the company of a man called Haneef at some producer’s house. Haneef was the owner of Magnum Video, was in jail in the serial blast case for 5 years and also reportedly very close to Dawood.

Out of my curiosity and my obsessive tendency to know and understand the psychological aspects of criminals, I got talking to him. In about an hour I spent in Haneef’s company he told me various things on how the underworld operates. Also those were the days where the media was full of stories on the war between Dawood and Chota Rajan and in that context he said the following to me “So many people on both sides died in their war with each other. They so desperately want to kill each other but Ramuji I am telling you this that even today if Dawood calls Rajan on the phone and if Rajan is smoking a cigarette he will drop it and say “Haan! Dawood Bhai!” That is the inbuilt respect he has.  They hate each other because they love each other”. Those lines of Haneef gave me the story idea for “COMPANY”.

Also in my research for “Satya’ there were so many things I learnt about the underworld which I could not incorporate in that film especially the police procedures.

So if Haneef’s quote on Dawood and Chota Rajan gave me the story, my research gave me the atmosphere and the supporting characters and the incidents I have more or less taken from my own company meaning my production office experiences with my staff over the years. The reason for this is that whenever I heard the causes for rivalry and the internal politics in the context of the underworld I always found a very strong resemblance to things which happen in any normal Company including my own office.

In a Company, the various people who work have their own individualities and relative intelligence levels and the only thing which will be common among them is an ambition and the greed to reach the top. So even though the Company as whole is working towards a goal, the people in the company will be conflicting with each other which creates politics, frustration, jealousy etc.

This is a truth for any Company whether it is a normal or an underworld company with the difference that in a normal company if you do a mistake you will be fired and in an underworld company you will be fired upon.

Everyone could easily understand and relate to Yadav’s jealousy that Mallik is favouring Chandu because everyone would have been one of those three and would have known the other two. So this is my proof that it’s not so much about knowing the underworld as much as knowing people.

I want to share an interesting aspect of Company’s prologue where we see the eagles flying over the city. Much after the principal shoot got over, I asked my cameraman to take some shots of the city to use them in the edit and when he was doing that on a certain location the eagles just happened to be there which he shot. When I saw the rushes on the Avid those shots reminded me of the opening scene of ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ one of my all-time favourite films and I was seized by a desire to somehow incorporate those shots in the film. My editor suggested that he can use them for exterior cuts of the city in between the film at various places to which I said that it will just make them informative whereas I want to make a big deal out of it like in ‘Mackenna’s Gold’.

So I thought if I do a very sub-textual and profound and meaningful sounding voiceover then I can get away with using those shots. I wrote the lines “Eagles have lot of patience and they for wait months to get to their prey”. When he read that line my assistant said it won’t work as we are seeing the birds literally and eagles don’t do that. So to counter my assistant I changed the line to “Very few people know that eagles have lot of patience and they wait for months to get to their prey”.

I told my assistant that most of the guys sitting in the theatre anyway won’t know anything about eagles and the fact that we are making a strong statement saying that “very few people know that” will make each and every one of them feel that he doesn’t know that. Even if a few don’t buy it by the end of the film they would take it for granted that it’s not to be taken literally.

Today since the last 6 years so many people talk to me about the effect of that prologue and only I know in my heart it came from nothing but a childish desire of mine to somehow have that “‘Mackenna’s Gold” shot in the film.

To move on to how “Khallas” song happened I did a unique experimentation in it. I told the choreographer let’s not give any objective space to the camera and treat it as one of the guests in the club. What I mean is typically in a song shoot we have the frame designed for the camera and everything is placed and moved to its convenience but the moment we take that away and we create a subjective space a kind of unpredictability is created. I told the cameraman to keep zooming and panning to whatever attracts him as an individual irrespective of what the choreographer has asked the actors to do and lastly I told the editor to edit it in a way that when you stay late at a club, come back, pass out and in the morning you only have recollections of some moments half dreamy and half real. After this brief to the three I pretty much refrained myself from both the shoot and the edit. The effort of 3 superb technicians with regard to their individual briefing and my effort to see that they don’t coordinate with each other is what resulted in ‘Khallas’.

When people ask me which is my favourite among ‘SATYA’ and ‘COMPANY’ I find it very difficult to answer as the difference between them is that ‘SATYA’ is Emotional and ‘COMPANY’ is Intelligent. So I think these two states of minds would make one feel whatever of those two films.

Incidentally Haneef, the originator of ‘COMPANY’ was shot dead a few months after I met him and the last thing he told me or rather advised me when he got to know that I was making ‘COMPANY’ was not to waste my time doing dark films and instead make a romantic musical with Nadeem Sharavan’s music. Maybe he was Bad Company but he surely gave me good “Company”.