Professionally, 2007 was a particularly bad year for Ram Gopal Varma. Nishabd, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, and Darling - nothing seemed to be working at the box office for the filmmaker who otherwise has been a trailblazer when it comes to pushing the envelope. However, respite came this year when his Sarkar Raj proved to be a success at the box office. Though Contract came and went without any hype or hoopla, his latest release Phoonk has taken a thunderous opening across the country. Just when not many were willing to give this star-less, song-less horror film much chance at the box office, Phoonk has surprised (and shocked) quite a few with the terrific response it has gained from the paying public. Over to Ramu who is clearly in an exhilarated mood with his small film becoming a big success.
Ramu, did you do black magic in theaters which helped fetch audience for Phoonk?
[Laughs] Well, let that be a mystery! What I can see though is that industry seems to be in a state of shock with the success of the film. They were not really hoping that a film like Phoonk would actually fetch a 100% opening across the country.
What do you feel is so shocking about the way Phoonk has performed at the box office?
First and foremost it has broken the fallacy that films with no stars and songs can't work at the box office. So many in the industry are shocked because we have constantly lived under this impression that a film can be a success only if there are big stars, item songs and comedy ingredients. Now tomorrow if someone says this, Phoonk can be clearly looked as an exhibit because isme naa comedy thi, naa gaane, naa hi stars!
But stars can't be discounted, isn't it?
No way can they be discounted. But then how many saleable stars do we have? 10-12 maybe! In how many films can they act in a year? Perhaps 20 or 25! Now Bollywood needs at least 120 movies to be churned out every year to keep the distributors and exhibitors running. So who acts in these remaining 100 odd movies? You need to have an alternate mechanism in place. This is where the subject matter comes in. You may not have stars but then you should have a subject which is good enough for an audience to be enticed enough to walk into theaters, just like Phoonk did.
You would still continue to make films with stars as well as newcomers, isn't it?
That's exactly the point. It is the subject which warrants whether you need stars for them or not. I would have films with star power and also actors like Sudeep (lead actor in Phoonk) who fit into the character definition. See, if you go to a DVD library, so many times you pick a DVD if the three line synopsis on the cover excites you enough. The film may not boast of known names but the subject could be interesting enough. Hollywood has realized that and is quickly moving in that direction where it is not being dependent on stars any more. Bollywood too can be seen going in the same direction.
Talking about Sudeep, he seems to be having a terrific screen presence.
Oh, he is a superb actor and that's exactly the reason he is seen in Phoonk. He is quite a name down South in Kannada movies.
Coming back to the success of Phoonk, your favorite critics still seem to be continuing their hate-affair with your films.
[Laughs] They seem to be in love with thrashing my films. In fact at so many places, the reviews for Phoonk have been worse than even Contract. They certainly seem to be oblivious about the audience reception for Phoonk. On one hand our film had posters that only screamed of crew members since there were no stars in it while on the other hand there were posters of this other film which boasted of the likes of a Mallika Sherawat. Now it is hardly a secret that which film eventually managed to bring in the audience!
You really seem to have surprised quite a lot of people here?
While the all-India success of Phoonk is indeed heartening, what takes the cake is to see it turning out to be the biggest success of my career in a place like UP. I guess more than me, it is the audience which has managed to surprise many out here in the industry!