Ram Gopal Varma. Why do a lot of people admire him so much even after continuous duds? What is that pulling factor in him? Because, clearly, none of his recent works have any substance. But, whenever his interview comes out or a film gets announced, why do these people go crazy? I guess, there are two clear reasons. One, his style of film making. Two, his perception towards the world. Be it underworld or normal one. Be it good or bad. He has clear perceptions and a strong mark in film making. When, both the perception and film making style combined perfectly, classics like Satya, Shiva etc happened.
**I have no intention of appreciating ‘NOW’ Ram Gopal Varma. In this article I’m going to talk about only ‘THEN’ Ram Gopa Varma. So, at places I’d be referring him as T. Ram Gopal Varma.**
So, Satya. For a film to create an impact, establishing the mood and tone of the genre and story is like a basement. Satya, in my opinion is a building with a strong basement. Take a look at the very first shot we witness in the film. It cuts between fire and a man reading a newspaper. That man gets angry and fire’s intensity is increased. That man finally shoots the newspaper, fire reaches its maximum intensity. And immediate cut to peaceful shore. Weird visuals and first of its kind back then. With sound added to those visuals, it becomes more disturbing. He, basically created that disturbing feel by showing a peaceful place (Ocean). Such is the tone of the film. Such is the brilliance of Anurag Kashyap, Saurabh Shukla and T. Ram Gopal Varma.
Now, Satya is introduced as a nobody. Basically, there are two ways of starting a gangster character. One, starting off by showing him as already established in the field. Which is done in many Crime classics like Sarkar, Don etc. Two, evolving a character from literally nothing. He starts off at zero. Both these ways have the potential to portray conflict brilliantly. But, the second way of starting a character has additional responsibility. I consider it as a risk. Because, if the character’s growth is not established properly, then the believable-ity factor is lost. Once that is lost, no one cares about the movie. As simple as that. And Satya has excelled in dealing with that style of narration.
One of the main reasons for Satya being called as a cult of all time is its observational kind of cinematography. Ramu revolutionizing Sound Design in Shiva, this time he revolutionized cinematography with Satya. Every frame in the movie looks serious and very informal. Yet, it never lost its cinematic appeal. I personally believe, T. Ram Gopal Varma’s biggest strength was to play with foreground and framing. Because, just look at the way foreground is filled in these images. Sometimes it tells so much about the characters and sometimes it signifies the setup. Not many filmmakers use this space of foreground as a medium of story telling. That’s one feature that separates RGV from other Indian directors. And in Satya, that skill of using it is at its best. Not just that, surprisingly, there were a fair few metaphors here and there in the movie. For example, look at this visual. Bhiku and Satya sit in the background and the foreground tells us their association. It’s basically two line intersect. It can mean that Bhiku and Satya’s ideologies have just intersected.
To mark another one, look into this. This scene comes when, Bhiku arranges everything to take care of Satya. He says “Mule will take you to Kallu Mama and he will arrange some place to stay and some work to do”. So, the next day, Mule and Satya go to Kallu Mama’s office. Before they enter, they had to climb stairs. There’s a dialogue which goes, ‘Watch your step’. That one dialogue conveys everything about the movie. He needs to watch every move carefully from now on as he is going to enter into this underworld mafia. Even the foreground is filled interestingly in that scene. Now, you may say, that dialogue was unintentional. But, if it is unplanned or unintentional, why are those 3 seconds so important to be in the final cut? I strongly believe that, no unplanned moment can be in the final copy.
**When Chander shows Satya his flat, he says, ‘You have a TV, a fridge (a small pause) and you also have a GOD. Quite interesting take on God.**
Though this movie is entirely about gangsterism, there is an intense love story in it. Usually, in thrillers, filmmakers give audience some breathing time to realize what’s happening in the story. To tell you some examples, in Anukokunda Oka Roju, when Sahasra realizes that there is no one in the college, the very next scene is they go to a movie. In Nayakudu, when Naidu agrees to get the shipment done, the very next thing we see is Chalaki Chinnadi Undi song. That breathing time allows audience to process the information they’ve witnessed. Here, in Satya, the breathing space RGV has provided is the love story between Satya and Vidya. To Satya, Vidya is like sunshine. He believes that she can light up his darkly lit life. To justify that, look at the very first interaction they have. There is total darkness. All we can see is a window that is open and Satya behind the bars. Camera moves in towards him and when the camera reaches a stil position, Satya’s face is revealed totally. All this is captured from outside. It can mean that, all this world to Satya is dark.
Then current goes off. Now, visuals are from inside. That means, insides of Satya is about to be revealed. Then comes Vidya. Interestingly the very first visual of her is, her face shown with the help of a lighter. My point is justified.
There is another interesting aspect in the love story. Do you remember what is Satya’s biggest worry towards the end with respect to Vidya? To Bhiku, he says, he cannot lie anymore to Vidya because he’s totally involved with her. Not only in that scene, that not-being-able-to-lie-anymore kind of feel is maintained through out the film through Satya’s character. Now, let me ask you the meaning of the name Satya? Striking any sense? Satya means truth and his problem with his love is a Lie. I’m not telling you that, RGV consciously wanted to tell this through its name, but, looking at this as a classic, I found that aspect very interesting.
**To prove the importance of love story in Satya, after Satya dies, this is what is printed in the newspaper the next day.**
With the name and the conflict being opposite to each other, I realized few more opposites in the film and after realizing them, I understood that, Satya is almost about opposites. The way he pictured the murder sequences, the way he pictured the drama sequences, and the way songs are picturized indicates two extremely opposite shades of an act. Take the action sequences for example. Whenever an action episode or a murder scene happens, there is always a child in the frame. (Child is all about innocence and Murder is all about brutality.)
When a discussion or a planning about killing someone or hurting someone is done, there is always God in the background. (Talking about hurting someone is human nature and God is not human.) Look at these images to understand better.
Now, what does that signify? Simple. T. Ram Gopal Varma, while writing the movies, he studied human behavior in great depth. He knows the impact that can be created when he shows an innocent child witnessing a murder. All such scenes develop a dramatic outlook on the characters.They seem to be poetic at places. In fact, very few gangster films in India have concentrated on the dramatic feeling audience can witness by watching a crime thriller. To give it a greater impact, RGV has explored the families or the people associated with the dying characters (Satya and Bhiku). That is the only reason he wrote so many interactive scene with Bhiku Matre’s wife, Vidya’s family, Saurabh Shukla and his associates etc. I know, through them story is also being explored but they serve this purpose also. That is the intelligence in the screenplay.
Talking about the intelligence, Satya is mind-blowingly brilliant. To underline one such brilliant acts, watch this escape scene. According to me, a screen writer should be intelligent not to throw his intelligence on audience but, on the characters. That one quality can make a writer a genius.
People now may not realize the impact of this film to full extent because of the over exploration of the techniques used by RGV at that point in time. In fact, over exploration of this subject (Mumbai Gangsterism/Mafia etc) have increased the knowledge and perception of audience towards that content. That basically decreases the impact of Satya if you watch it now. But, for that time, this movie stood out. Frankly, the Murder episode of Guru Bhai was a reference to a lot of movies that came after Satya. Satya basically became a text book. In my opinion, Satya still is a text book.
I want to talk about so many scenes from this Cult Classic, but, if I mention the way RGV has presented those shots, you would miss a lot of fun when you watch it. So, finally, I just want to tell this one thing. T. Ram Gopal Varma could achieve this master-piece not just because of the advanced cinematic techniques but because of his command over general mass Human Behavior. I definitely want to appreciate that as a movie buff and that is something every filmmaker should learn. Understand people and your audience.
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