Ram Gopal Varma Blog #181. Directing Visions

Quite a few times I keep meeting people unrelated to films at public places like airports or functions etc, who comment on the way I frame my films. They say something ranging between “I like your frames” to “Your frames look so different” to “Why do you frame like that?” It does surprise me that even people, who are not technical at all, can observe things like that. I think they just kind of somewhere feel a difference even if they are not really understanding what they are talking about. They all might not have exactly used the word frame but I gathered that that’s what they meant.

Film related people either say my frames look very unique or they say that they are too exhibitionistic or they say that they are unnecessarily bizarre and some even say that they are ridiculous.

Regarding the question of why I frame in a particular way, the first point is that no frame can ever work by itself. It completely depends on what is being framed and in what context, and that depends on the emotional tone of the subject both in terms of the actor’s expression and the emotional intensity of the scene. The cinematic image is a combination of the background, the context, the actor’s expression and the lighting and how we compose all those above elements in their entirety is what which finally creates the so-called frame.

If Urmila’s swaying hip in “Rangeela” is being framed in a certain specific composition, a one inch zoom out or a one inch zoom in and a little pan here or there can both spoil or enhance the effect. Urmila’s swaying hip is the content and the way I particularly want to see it will be my frame. Similarly in Amitji’s introduction in “Sarkar” the shadows moving on Amitji’s face highlight and dramatize the intense expression of him hearing the old man’s story. At what pace the camera is zooming out from his face has to sync with the mood and tone and the tempo of the background score which I would be hearing in my head at the time of shoot and when the gun crosses in out-focus in the foreground the cut to the wide frame of the atmosphere of the house with a child on the tricycle is what which completes the intriguing aspect of what the power of Sarkar is all about. If the long shot came before the close-up it will be just informative and it won’t have the same dramatic effect.

The best compliment I ever received with regard to my framing is when someone criticized me for the way I frame, someone else shot back saying that “You can atleast criticize RGV’s framing whereas with others you can’t even talk about their frames”.

Many times I observed that on anything which is different, people have extremely varied reactions. Like for instance there are people who love my camera work and then there are guys who hate it. Similarly, there are guys who think my background score is too loud and sometimes too dramatically or even melodramatically in the face and then there are others who say that they watch my films only for my background score.

So the point is that if you have a very specific personal point of view then it follows that there will be many points of views on your point of view.

Any man who is self-made with his own personal convictions will be a sum resultant being of his own self and thereby he will project his thoughts and feelings in a certain very specifically directed manner which obviously would be very unique to his own worldview.

Just as a man’s physical survival depends on his own effort, his psychological survival depends on his own mental efforts and any effort at the end of the day has to be directed. Whether you let the conventional methods direct those efforts or you let your vision direct the conventional efforts is a choice that you have to make and I for myself made that choice very early on in my life with regard to everything including my own life.

I realized that I am born without knowledge, so it followed that I have to discover both knowledge and truth the way it specifically concerns me and with the way I myself perceive and understand things and then when I go about the task of translating them into a reality as particularly perceived by me I invariably start giving a direction to both myself and also a direction to the people who believe in my set of beliefs.

With the knowledge I acquired and the intelligence I gathered from various sources and people, on one hand, if I studied the physical world and the phenomenon pertaining to a man’s physical existence, on the other hand, and more importantly, I also studied from my own perspectives and experiences a man’s thinking and all the phenomenon pertaining to both his consciousness and sub-consciousness which when expressed by me in my own way is what I would call, for want of a better word as “my art”.

Art does not teach. It just shows and what it shows to some could be beautiful and to others ugly.

There is a passage in Fountainhead when Howard Roark explains to Steven Mallory, the sculptor, on why he has chosen him. “Your figures are not what men are, but what men could be and what men should be. You have gone beyond the probable and made us see what is possible, possible only through you”.

I might not be an artiste like Steven Mallory and neither might anyone call my work a art, but yes, I have a very definitive point of view and a definitive personal understanding of things and that’s why I used the word “My art”. My art necessarily does not need to feel like art to anybody else as a work of art but it surely constantly and continuously guides my entire conscious process of both my life and my films.

There’s a dialogue in “Nishabd” when Bachchan explains to Jiah about why he photographs the way he photographs, “Duniya mein bahut se cheez saamanya hoti hain, lekin ek vyakti ka nazariya use alag bana deta hain. Yeh tasveer mera nazariya, mera ehsaas hain”. (Everything in the world is same as how it has been created but the way a particular person looks at it is what which makes it look different. This is the way I want to look at it and feel it)

That pretty much is the answer to the question on why I frame in a certain way. It’s because that’s the way I want to see it. And this is not only true for framing a cinematic subject but it’s also true for every other aspect of filmmaking and also the way I lead my own life. So whether its music or characterization or subject matters or editing patterns or how I live or how I behave, all of them stem from the same root of thinking and feeling. To quote a line from “Sarkar”, “Mujho jo sahi lagta hain main wahin karta hoon”.

Yes, I am not omnipotent but with whatever limited power I have, I keep striving to direct various individuals visions of a film team like of actors and technicians towards my own specific vision and in that process many times some people may think that I have gone blind. But what they don’t realize is that when one is constantly visualizing irrespective of the consequences there can never be a blindness. There will only be blinks, and yes, I do and will keep blinking with my films till I die as blinking is the only way to get a clearer vision.

P.S:. Just as an example I am putting here a scene from “Sarkar Raj”. The reason I framed it like this is because I wanted the audience to be in awe of the two men who are discussing an issue which could create a problem. My intention in doing this with both the angle and the framing is to subconsciously send a message to the audience that the problem that they are discussing could be massive and that they should listen to what is being said with utmost care and I also at the same time am subconsciously building up Rao Saab’s character.

Till date I keep meeting people who say that the way that this particular scene was framed is unnecessarily bizarre and then some others think it’s fantastically captured. Whatever might be their own truth for different people due to their own individual perspectives and sensibilities, I believe that if I shot this scene with just a normal and conventional framing there would be absolutely no impact at all and it would not have in any way served the purpose of what was intended.

And this is what I call as “my art” or my vision, but this will not be visible for people who are blind to my vision and it will appear as my blindness to them for the simple reason that they can’t see or don’t want to see my vision.

My vision is this that I want to direct visions and I don’t want my visions to be directed.