Ram Gopal Varma Blog #74. The “AGYAAT” Jungle.

I always believed that a location in a film should be treated like a character. In the right context and rightly composed you will almost feel as if the location is alive and will have a recall value long after you have seen the film. A few examples that I can give is the Sarkar house and the Bhoot apartment. The house in which I shot Sarkar is now referred to as the Sarkar house by people in the industry. Many films have been shot at that location before and since but it comes to life only in Sarkar and that’s because of the context it’s been put into. I wanted to capture an emotional aspect of the feeling when we look at the house of a man towards whom we have awe in our hearts. So it’s really the feeling which is being captured with a combination of the composition, background score and its placement in the edit.

Similarly in Bhoot the apartment and its building became synonymous with Manjit the ghost. Repeatedly using the same angles and compositions in that apartment created an effect of a character coming in to the film again and again. Also by making the geography of the apartment very clear to the audience I created an effect of the viewer feeling that he himself is living there. The effect of the Bhoot apartment was to the extent that till today 6 years after its release I am told that nobody lives there and the owner of the apartment just uses that space to store some old furniture. Very few films give this much importance to locations and hence we rarely remember locations in films. The first time I felt this impact was in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. The house in Psycho looks as sinister as the killer and this is not because of its architecture but because of the context in which it has been put into.

Coming to the jungle in which I shot “Agyaat”, I have seen personally quite a few jungles in India, like Ranthambore, Madumalai, Wynad and also in Malaysia and Bangkok not to mention countless other jungles on video ranging from Indonesia to Brazil.

But when I set my eyes on the Sigiriya jungle in Sri Lanka, it took my breath away with its sheer character. One might say a jungle is a jungle but then you have not seen the Sigiriya forest. It’s both enchanting and terrifying at the same time. Every tree of it looks like it’s got a story to it and hiding something beneath it just waiting to pounce on you. For the subject matter of “Agyaat” which is about a set of people trapped in a jungle and something out there killing them one by one I couldn’t even have dreamt of finding a location anywhere as incredible as Sigiriya, especially since I had no intention of showing the entity which is creating the terror. It is imperative that the jungle substitutes for the entity which is killing them. As a director I have never been more thrilled on a location shoot than in Agyaat and that is thanks to the Sigiriya jungle.

I am putting some stills from the film here and also some video footage just to give you an idea of how frighteningly sexy the Sigiriya Black Jungle looks.