In his memoir, Guns & Thighs, film maker Ram Gopal Varma recounts an incident from his early years, when a friend lent him a copy of Mario Puzo’s bestselling The Godfather—with explicit instructions to read the racy sex scene on page 26. Varma read it, and then proceeded to read the rest of the book, because Puzo’s novel about the mafia was so engrossing. He read it several times, he recalls, finding new things to appreciate in each re-reading.
Years later, those repeated readings of one of modern literature’s most popular novels inspired Varma to create a cinematic classic: Sarkar (2005).
Besides providing an insight into the inspiration behind one of Varma’s most popular works, that episode also highlights (as does the very title of the book) the two—or so they appear—dominant elements of Varma’s cinema: crime and carnality. From writing about his days as a campus gang leader to his unabashed admiration for Sridevi’s beauty (especially her thighs in Himmatwala), Varma is candour itself throughout his memoir.
Divided across six sections, which cover everything from Varma’s ‘Gods’ (Sridevi, A R Rahman and Amitabh Bachchan) to his views on cinema, these reminiscences are an interesting, if sometimes unsettling, glimpse into the life of a man who came in a roundabout way to cinema. Having operated a video rental store (and been arrested for piracy in the process), Varma had worked briefly as an engineer, too, before ending up in cinema—the latter through a combination of persistence, luck, connections, and manipulation.
The book is, first and foremost, about Varma’s thinking. Not so much about his films and precious little about his personal life. What holds centre stage are the thoughts, the views and opinions of Varma. The
creator of cult classics like Satya, Sarkar, Company—and that massively embarrassing flop, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. In these pages, Varma talks about his views on cinema: why awards don’t matter; why cinema exaggerates; the difference between an actor and a star; Varma’s relationship with critics, and more.
This is a close look at how Varma’s mind works.