There are two ways of looking at the recent cinema of Ram Gopal Varma. When you see films like Rakta Charitra 1, the first part of his two-volume biopic of Andhra politician Paritala Ravi, you see him use B-grade cinematic techniques like an overlaid soundtrack and ketchup violence, and then conclude that RGV has lost it.
But how much did he ever have? A glance at his filmography will show that he has largely been a single dimensional, one-track filmmaker with the murderous alpha male as protagonist, in subjects ranging from the underworld to politics to horror.
His strength was technical competence and that is what he has lost. He now seems to keep a library of stock sound from his previous films, particularly the chanting of verses before murder and mayhem, and applies this indiscriminately in films like Rakta Charitra 1. From the excellent camera operation, art direction and editing in early films like Satya, he has descended dramatically to shoddy camerawork, cheap sets and poorly selected locations. Today, he is a fly-by-night movie maker.
The politics of Paritala Ravi, his support from the Naxalites of rural Andhra Pradesh, his later association with the TDP and his eventual entry into the legislative Assembly has not been convincingly portrayed in this film. There is no narrative, drama or poetry in the making, and what we end up with is a story of the creation of a nondescript fictional character in Pratap Ravi (Vivek Oberoi) and his serial murders to avenge the assassinations of his father and brother.
The finest performance in the movie comes from Shatrughan Sinha who plays the actor/politician Sivaji, clearly NT Rama Rao. In gesticulation, abbreviated sentences and sweeping judgements, the resemblance is uncanny.
Unfortunately, the movie is poor cinema and it is with dread that we await part 2, just a few weeks from now.