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For my films, as for my video library, I got a lot of unsolicited advice: Ram Gopal Verma

Extract from Ram Gopal Verma's book, 'Guns and Thighs : The Story of My Life '

Written by Ram Gopal Verma |
December 5, 2015 3:59:04 am

BOOK COVER ramgopal759I was obsessed with films and everything in them. Be it the gun in Amitabh Bachchan’s hands in Zanjeer or Sridevi’s thighs in Himmatwala…everything about films used to give me almost orgasmic pleasure.

Even after finishing my civil engineering, getting married and managing a job as a site engineer, my obsession didn’t die…My father was a sound engineer in Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad, and owing to that had reasonable access to the big guns there. One fine day, when my film mania reached its absolute peak, I went to him and declared that I wanted to be a film director. He looked at me as if I were stark raving mad and with good reason, because there was not a single constructive thing I had done in my life until then. I was a bad student and had the reputation of being a useless bum.

…My salary as a site engineer was just Rs 800 per month and it was damn difficult to make ends meet. My wife Ratna was worried about her future with a guy as impractical as me, and she requested her father to get me a job in Nigeria. He managed to get me a job paying Rs 4,000 per month, which was obviously a huge jump …

I gave up the idea of being a director, and began preparing to go to Nigeria. One of the documents necessary for the purpose was an international driving licence. A friend of mine called Naidu was taking me on his bike to an RTO office, where he knew someone who would do the needful.

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En route he stopped at a video library called Priyadarshini Videos owned by his friend. Those were the days when video libraries were just coming up, and that was the first time I had been inside one. As Naidu was chatting with his friend, I was checking out the cassettes and suddenly had the brainwave of starting a video library. With my extensive knowledge about films, I was confident of making a go at it. By evening I had become so obsessed with the idea that I took my father’s scooter and went all over town to check out six or seven video libraries, and by night I had firmly made up my mind to drop the idea of going to Nigeria. I decided that I would make a film with the profits I earned. Everyone including my father, grandfather and Ratna thought I had lost it, and Ratna understandably was in tears.

…By the time I started my shop, I barely had 100 workable tapes. My shop, which I called Movie House, was located in Ameerpet and everyone told me that it was a very bad idea to start a shop there as it had a predominantly lower-middle/middle class population that could not afford video cassette recorders (VCRs). I was also told that my shop couldn’t compete with a library called Fantasy on Punjagutta Road as the rich Banjara Hills crowd patronised it. Once it started, my library became successful within a month and Fantasy soon went out of business. Now the same people said that these days everybody owned a VCR, and that Movie House had better parking space than Fantasy…

If something doesn’t work, people will say “we told you so”, and if it works, they will come up with a new theory… For my films, as for my video library, I get a lot of unsolicited advice. I was told Daud would be a blockbuster because it had Sanjay Dutt after Khalnayak, and Urmila and AR Rahman after Rangeela, and I was advised to shelve Satya because nobody wanted to see sweaty-looking faces in dirty locations.

Guns and Thighs : The Story of My Life
Author: Ram Gopal Varma
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 219
Price: 500

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Excerpted with permission from Rupa

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