Ram Gopal Varma

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Ram Gopal Varma
Ram Gopal Varma in September 2012
Born Penmetsa Ram Gopal Varma
(1962-04-07) 7 April 1962 (age 53)
Hyderabad, India
Residence Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Alma mater V.R. Siddhartha Engineering College, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
Occupation Director and Producer
Years active 1989–present
Spouse(s) Ratna Varma
Children Revathi Varma (Daughter)[1][2]

Ram Gopal Varma (Telugu: రాం గోపాల్ వర్మ) is an Indian film director, screenwriter and producer, known for his works in Telugu cinema and Bollywood.[3][4] He directed film's across multiple genres, including parallel cinema and docudrama.[5][6][7] In 2004, He was featured in the BBC World series Bollywood Bosses.[8] In 2006, Grady Hendrix of Film Comment, published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York City cited Varma as "Bombay’s Most Successful Maverick" for his works on Avant-garde cinema.[9][10] Varma is regarded as the fountain head of new age Indian cinema.[11][12][13]

Starting his career as a civil engineer, he made an entry into Telugu cinema, with the path-breaking crime thriller, Siva (1989) screened at the 13th International Film Festival of India, and has garnered Varma, the state Nandi Awards for Best direction, Best first film of a director, and the Filmfare Award for Best Film – Telugu.[14] Subsequently, the cult classic blockbuster was included in CNN-IBN's list of 100 greatest Indian films of all time.[15] He then experimented with the Neo-noir, Kshana Kshanam (1991), the sleeper hit won him another Nandi Award for Best Direction, and the Nandi Award for Best Screenplay Writer.[16] The 1993 political drama, Gaayam received six state Nandi Awards.[17]

In 1999, He has garnered the National Film Award for scripting, political drama, Shool - "For unveiling the complete collapse of the socio-political system. A very effective portrayal of the determined fight of a single citizen in the centre of a facade of democracy", as cited by the Jury.[18] In the same year He directed Prema Katha for which he received his third Nandi Award for Best Director. He garnered seven state Nandi Awards, two Bollywood Filmfare Awards, and five Bollywood Movie Awards. Widely known for presenting Indian Gangster Trilogy with a cumulative box office earnings 1.19 billion (US$18 million), film critic Rajeev Masand has labeled the series as one of the "most influential movies of Hindi cinema.[19] [20][21] The first installment of the trilogy Satya was also listed in CNN-IBN's 100 greatest Indian films of all time,[22]

International acclaim[edit]

Rachel Dwyer a reader in world cinema at the University of London-Department of South Asia, marked Varma's Satya as an experiment with a new genre, a variation of film noir that has been called Mumbai Noir, of which Varma is the acknowledged master.[21][23] In 2010, Varma received critical acclaim at the Fribourg International Film Festival, Switzerland; a retrospective of his filmography, highlighting Mumbai Noir was staged by Film Critic, Edouard Waintrop - a delegate in the Directors' Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival.[24][25] Satya and Company, in particular, were cited by British director Danny Boyle as influences on his Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire (2008), for their "slick, often mesmerizing portrayals of the Mumbai underworld", their display of "brutality and urban violence", and their gritty realism.[26][27][28]

In 2005, Varma directed the Godfatheresque-Sarkar, another super-hit thriller inspired by the life of Bal Thackeray and North Indian politics, which was screened to special mention at the New York Asian Film Festival, along with its sequel Sarkar Raj, premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the 9th IIFA World Premiere-Bangkok, and was archived at the Academy of Motion Pictures library.[25][29][30][31][32] In 2013, he directed a docudrama, The Attacks of 26/11 showcased to critical acclaim at the Berlin International Film Festival, in the Panorama as well as the Competition section,[33][34] and was premièred at Films Division of India.[35][36][37] The film received highly positive reviews, with critics praising Varma's narrative of assistant commissioner N. R. Mahale, and the discrepancies associated with Mahale's interaction with Ajmal Kasab on anti terrorism.[38][39][40]

Film craft and style[edit]

Gangster (film series)
Company dvd.jpg
D (film) poster.jpg

Varma's first runaway hit in Hindi cinema was Shiva (1990), the remake of his 1989 film Siva.[41] Later, He gained spotlight in bollywood with the blockbuster romantic comedy, Rangeela (1995) starring Aamir Khan.[42] The film won seven Filmfare Awards.[41][43][44]

He then directed Satya (1998), which won six Filmfare Awards, including the Critics Award for Best Film, In 2005, Indiatimes Movies included Satya in its list of 25 Must See Bollywood Movies.[45] Satya was show cased among the Indian panorama section, at the 1998 International Film Festival of India,[3][46] Varma received the Bimal Roy memorial award for best direction for this film.[47][48] In the same year, he co-produced Dil Se.., directed by Mani Ratnam, screened at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival, and won the Netpac Award, as well as two National Film Awards and six Filmfare Awards.[44] Satya, together with his 2002 film Company (which he directed, won three IIFA Awards, seven Filmfare Awards, and a Bollywood Movie Award for best direction, and was premiered at the 2004 Austin Film Festival) and the 2005 film D (which he produced), were also featured in the Fribourg International Film Festival, and the New York Asian Film Festival.[24][25]

Experimental films[edit]

In 1991, Varma experimented with the supernatural thriller, Raat, and the 1992 Neo-noir, crime film Drohi, and gained positive reviews from critics.[14][41] During the years between his trilogy, from Satya in 1998 to D in 2005,[49] Varma implemented different film genres in his craft. In 1999, he directed Kaun, a suspense thriller set entirely in one house and featuring only three actors, and Mast, a subversion of Hindi cinema's masala genre.[9] In 2000, he directed Jungle, set entirely in a jungle, for which he was nominated for the Star Screen Award for Best Director. In 2003 he directed another supernatural thriller Bhoot on the lines of his earlier hit Raat. Bhoot became a major hit at the box office,[50] and Varma was nominated for the Filmfare Best Director Award for the film.[51]

Following the success of Bhoot, Varma followed it up with the horror genre and made hits such as Darna Mana Hai (2003), Darna Zaroori Hai (2006), and Phoonk (2008), this catapulted Varma to be known as the master of Indian horror genre.[52] Other experimental productions of Varma include Ek Hasina Thi (2003), a psychological thriller, and Ab Tak Chhappan (2004), a film about an inspector in the Mumbai Encounter Squad noted for having killed 56 people in encounters.[25] In 2006, he re-made a new installment of Shiva, which was screened at the New York Asian Film Festival, where in a retrospective featuring Varma's experimental hits such as Company, Ek Hasina Thi, Ab Tak Chhappan, Sarkar and Shabri was staged.[25] Shabri was also screened at The Rome International Film Festival.[25] [53][54] 2010 film on media, Rann was screened at Toronto International Film Festival.[55][56] A two-part bilingual Parallel cinema Rakta Charitra (2010), on the lines of South Indian politics and factionism, based on the life of Paritala Ravindra, and Maddela Cheruvu Suri, received praise from critics.[57]


Ram Gopal Varma in the sets of a Telugu film

Varma started his career in the Telugu film industry, he assisted direction on the sets of films such as Collector Gari Abbai and Rao Gari Illu. His father Krishnam Raju Varma, was a sound recordist at the Annapurna Studios. Varma met Nagarjuna Akkineni at the studios, and narrated a scene to the actor which impressed him.[58] The result of their collaboration was a film on the criminalisation of student politics – Siva. It was a blockbuster with Varma demonstrating his technical expertise and story telling skills.[41]

Kshana Kshanam with Venkatesh, Gaayam with Jagapathi Babu and Anaganaga Oka Roju with J.D. Chakravarthy were successful, Govinda Govinda with Nagarjuna proved to be a moderate success at the box office.[59] During this period, Varma produced films such as Money and Money Money. Other Box office hits of varma in Telugu include Money (1993), Gulabi (1995), Madhyanam Hathya (2004), Rakta Charitra (2010), Dongala Mutha (2011), Rowdy (2014), Ice Cream (2014) and Anukshanam (2014) a slasher film.[60][61] Varma introduced online auction based film distribution model for this venture, and tasted success.[62]

Other mainstream notable works of Varma in Hindi include Daud (1997), and Darling (2007). Bollywood film makers such as Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Puri Jagannadh, E. Nivas, Prawaal Raman, Krishna Vamsi, Vishram Sawant, and Hansal Mehta assisted Varma, before venturing into direction.[12] In 1993, he scripted Tamil, thriller Thiruda Thiruda, screened at Toronto International Film Festival.[63][64][65] In 2015, Varma was fined for Rs 10 Lakhs, for an alleged copyright violation with the film Aag (2007).[66] He made his directorial debut in Kannada cinema with the thriller Killing Veerappan.[67]

Early years[edit]

In an interview to Tehelka, Varma talked about his relationship with his parents and the reasons behind his decision to become a filmmaker.

From my parents' perspective, I looked like a useless bum. It was the truth. I had no objective. I was just fascinated by people, so I used to study their behaviour. I was most fascinated by the bullies in my classroom. They were like gangsters for me. They had the guts to push around people, do things I couldn't— perhaps did not even want to do myself. But I'd want a friend like that (laughs). I used to adulate them like heroes. That was my first touch with anti-socialism. Over a period of time, I developed a low-angle fascination for larger than life people. I was always a loner – not because I was unhappy, but because I live away from myself, not just others. I like to study myself – the way I am walking, talking, behaving. My constant obsession with studying myself and other people is perhaps the primary motivation for me to be a filmmaker.[68]

Varma completed BE in Civil engineering from V.R. Siddhartha Engineering College, Vijayawada. Even during this period, Varma remained a film buff, through his uncle. Varma would skip classes often and watch films instead. He would watch the same film repeatedly "just to watch certain scenes which interested him."[69] According to him, that is how he learned film direction.

After a brief stint as a site engineer for Krishna Oberoi hotel in Hyderabad, he put his dreams on the back burner and decided to go to Nigeria to make some money. It was at this moment that he visited a video rental library in Hyderabad. He loved the idea and decided to start one of his own at Ameerpet in Hyderabad, through which he slowly developed connections with the film world.[8] Without being successful as a fourth assistant director in B. Gopal's film Collector Gari Abbai, Varma directly ventured into film direction, with the 1989 Telugu film, Siva.[70]

Awards and Nominations[edit]

National Film Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1999 Shool National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi Won [18]

Nandi Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1989 Siva Nandi Award for Best Director Won [71]
1989 Siva Nandi Award for Best First Film of a Director Won [71]
1991 Kshana Kshanam Nandi Award for Best Director Won [71]
1991 Kshana Kshanam Nandi Award for Best Screenplay Writer Won [71]
1993 Money Nandi Award for Best Feature Film - Silver Won [71]
1999 Prema Katha Nandi Award for Best Director Won [71]
1999 Prema Katha Nandi Award for Best Feature Film - Bronze Won [71]

Filmfare Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1995 Rangeela Filmfare Best Story Award Won [72]
1995 Rangeela Filmfare Award for Best Director Nominated [73]
1995 Rangeela Filmfare Award for Best Film Nominated [73]
1998 Satya Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie Won [74]
1998 Satya Filmfare Award for Best Film Nominated [73]
2003 Company Filmfare Award for Best Director Nominated [73]
2003 Company Filmfare Award for Best Film Nominated [73]
2004 Bhoot Filmfare Award for Best Director Nominated [73]
2006 Sarkar Filmfare Award for Best Director Nominated [73]

Filmfare Awards South[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1989 Siva Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu Nominated [71]
1991 Kshana Kshanam Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu Nominated [71]
1993 Gaayam Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu Nominated [71]

Bimal Roy Memorial Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1999 Satya Bimal Roy Memorial Award for Best Direction Won [47][48][75]

IIFA Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
2002 Company IIFA Award for Best Movie Nominated [73]
2002 Company IIFA Award for Best Director Nominated [73]

Bollywood Movie Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
1998 Satya Bollywood Movie Award – Best Director Won [76]
2000 Jungle Bollywood Movie Award – Best Director Won [76]
2002 Company Bollywood Movie Award – Best Director Won [76]
2003 Bhoot Bollywood Movie Award – Best Director Won [76]

Zee Cine Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
2004 Bhoot Best Director of The Year Nominated [76][77]
2005 Ab Tak Chhappan Best Producer of The Year Nominated [76][77]

Screen Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
2000 Jungle Screen Award for Best Director Nominated [76]
2002 Company Screen Award for Best Film Nominated [76][78]
2009 Sarkar Raj Screen Award for Best Director Nominated [76]

Stardust Awards[edit]

Year Film Category Outcome Ref
2009 Sarkar Raj Stardust Award for Best Director Nominated [76]
2010 Rakta Charitra Readers Choice Award for Best Director - Action/Thriller Nominated [76]

Other Awards[edit]

Year Film Awards Category Outcome Ref
1989 Siva Vamsee Berkley Awards Best Director Won [76]
1993 Gaayam Akruthi Film Award Best Director Won [76]

Non-film Work[edit]

Ram Gopal Varma with Suriya on the sets of Rakta Charitra


Ram Gopal Varma made his début in Television through a Talk Show titled Ramuism. The show is being aired on Tollywood channel since September 2014.[79] The show is noted for its fresh and witty appeal. The show focuses on Varma's Point of View on social issues such as Education, Religion, Mythology, Children, Crime, Death, Anger, Godmen, Woman, Philosophy, Cinema etc. The show also has its share of controversies and hence brings in decent TRP's. The show is hosted by Swapna The Managing Editor of Sakshi TV.[80]


Varma wrote an autobiography titled Na Ishtam, which discusses his life experiences and philosophy. 'Naa Ishtam' was released in December 2010 at Taj Banjara, Hyderabad.[81] Sirasri, poet, lyricist and writer wrote a biographical book on the interactions he had with Ram Gopal Varma with the title Vodka With Varma. Director Puri Jagannath launched the book in December 2012.[82]


RGV Exotica, a cocktail was launched at Celebrations Restaurant in Hyderabad by its owners in the year 2011, as a sign of honor for the ace filmmaker. RGV Elixir, another cocktail was launched at Cocktails Lounge (On The Rocks), Hyderabad by its promoters on 25 Nov 2015. Both the cocktails were officially endorsed and launched by Ram Gopal Varma and both carry the blend of Rum, Gin and Vodka- taking the letters R,G,V. This proves to be the first time that any cocktail being released on the name of a person.


Year Film Language Director Producer Writer Notes
1989 Siva Telugu Yes Yes Nandi Award for Best Director
Nandi Award for Best First Film of a Director
Filmfare Award for Best Film – Telugu
International Film Festival of India
1991 Shiva Hindi Yes Remake of Siva
crime film
1991 Kshana Kshanam Telugu Yes Yes Dubbed into Hindi as Hairaan
Nandi Award for Best Director
road movie
1992 Antham / Drohi Hindi / Telugu Yes Yes Bilingual film
crime film
1992 Raat Hindi Yes Yes Yes Dubbed into Telugu as Raatri
horror film
1993 Gaayam Telugu Yes Yes Political drama
1993 Money Telugu Yes Remade as Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega
Nandi Award for Best Feature Film (Silver Nandi)
comedy film
1994 Govinda Govinda Telugu Yes Yes thriller film
1994 Thiruda Thiruda Tamil Yes road movie
1995 Rangeela Hindi Yes Yes Yes Filmfare Award for Best Story
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Film
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Director
romantic comedy
1995 Money Money Telugu Yes comedy film
1996 Deyyam Telugu Yes Yes horror film
1996 Gulabi Telugu Yes thriller film
1997 Anaganaga Oka Roju Telugu Yes Yes Yes road movie
1997 Daud Hindi Yes Yes road movie
1998 Satya Hindi Yes Yes Dubbed into Telugu as Satya
Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Film
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Director
crime film
1998 Dil Se.. Hindi Yes Co-Produced with Mani Ratnam & Shekhar Kapur
romantic thriller
1998 Wife of V. Varaprasad Telugu Yes comedy film
1999 Prema Katha Telugu Yes Nandi Award for Best Feature Film (Bronze Nandi)
Nandi Award for Best Director
romance film
1999 Kaun Hindi Yes psychological thriller
1999 Mast Hindi Yes romantic comedy
1999 Shool Hindi Yes Yes National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi
political drama
2000 Jungle Hindi Yes thriller film
2001 Love Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega Hindi Yes Remake of Money
comedy film
2001 Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya Hindi Yes romance film
2002 Company Hindi Yes Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Film
Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Director
crime film
2002 Road Hindi Yes road movie
2003 Bhoot Hindi Yes Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Director
horror film
2003 Ek Hasina Thi Hindi Yes
2003 Darna Mana Hai Hindi Yes horror film
2004 Ab Tak Chhappan Hindi Yes crime film
2004 Vaastu Shastra Hindi Yes Dubbed into Telugu as Marri Chettu
horror film
2004 Gayab Hindi Yes drama film
2004 Naach Hindi Yes Yes drama film
2004 Madhyanam Hathya Telugu Yes thriller film
2005 Jithan Tamil Yes Remake of Gayab
2005 My Wife's Murder Hindi Yes Remake of Madhyanam Hathya
thriller film
2005 Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon Hindi Yes drama film
2005 D Hindi Yes crime film
2005 James Hindi Yes action film
2005 Sarkar Hindi Yes Yes Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Director
political drama
2005 Mr Ya Miss Hindi Yes comedy film
2006 Darwaza Bandh Rakho Hindi Yes comedy film
2006 Shock Telugu Yes Yes thriller film
2006 Shiva Hindi Yes Yes crime film
2006 Darna Zaroori Hai Hindi Yes Yes Directed only Story 1
horror film
anthology film
2007 Nishabd Hindi Yes Yes erotic film
2007 Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag Hindi Yes Yes Yes crime film
2007 Darling Hindi Yes horror film
2007 Go Hindi Yes comedy film
2008 Sarkar Raj Hindi Yes Yes Yes political drama
Cannes film festival
2008 Contract Hindi Yes parallel cinema
2008 Phoonk Hindi Yes horror film
2009 Agyaat Hindi Yes Yes horror film
2010 Rann Hindi Yes political drama
2010 Rakta Charitra Hindi, Telugu Yes faction film
2010 Phoonk 2 Hindi Yes Executive Producer
horror film
2011 Katha Screenplay Darshakatvam Appalaraju Telugu Yes Yes comedy film
2011 Shabri Hindi Yes crime film
2011 Dongala Mutha Telugu Yes thriller film
2011 Bejawada Telugu Yes Yes political drama
2011 Not a Love Story Hindi Yes thriller film
2012 Department Hindi Yes crime film
2012 Bhoot Returns Hindi Yes horror film
2013 The Attacks of 26/11 Hindi Yes Yes Docudrama
2013 Psycho Telugu Yes Yes thriller film
2013 Satya 2 Telugu/Hindi Yes crime film
2014 Rowdy Telugu Yes faction film
2014 Ice Cream Telugu Yes horror film
2014 Anukshanam Telugu Yes Slasher film
2014 Ice Cream 2 Telugu Yes Slasher film
2014 A day in the life of Lakshmi Manchu's feet Silent Yes Short film
2015 365 Days Telugu Yes romance film
2015 Sridevi Telugu Yes erotic film
2015 Killing Veerappan Kannada Yes Crime thriller
2015 Patta Pagalu Telugu Yes horror film
2015 Attack Telugu Yes action thriller
2015 Mogali Puvvu
Yes bilingual film
2015 XES Hindi Yes erotic thriller
2015 Bruce Lee Hindi Yes martial arts film


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External links[edit]