Ram Gopal Varma

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Ram Gopal Varma
Ram Gopal Varma at the promotion of Bhoot Returns in September 2012
Born 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 Film director, producer and writer
Years active 1989–present
Spouse(s) Ratna Varma
Children Revathi Varma (Daughter)[1][2]

Ram Gopal Varma (Telugu రాం గోపాల్ వర్మ) also known as RGV or Ramu is an Indian film director, screenwriter and producer, known for his works in Telugu cinema and Bollywood. Varma has directed, written and produced films across multiple genres – psychological thrillers, crime films, road movies, slasher films, horror films, fictional films, experimental films, musical films, romance films, parallel cinema, and docudrama.[3][4][5]

He directed path breaking Telugu film's like Siva (1989) premiered 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.[6] Subsequently, the cult classic blockbuster was included in CNN-IBN's list of 100 greatest Indian films of all time.[7] Varma then experimented with the road movie Kshana Kshanam (1991) for which he has garnered another Nandi Award for Best Direction. In 2004, He was featured in the BBC World series Bollywood Bosses.[8] Varma is widely recognized as the intellectual fountain head of new age Indian cinema.[9][10]

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.[11] In the same year He directed Prema Katha for which he received his third Nandi Award for Best Director. He garnered three Bollywood Filmfare Awards, six state government Nandi Awards, and five Bollywood Movie Awards.

Widely known for presenting Indian Gangster Trilogy with a cumulative box office earnings 1.19 billion (US$19 million), film critic Rajeev Masand has labeled the series as one of the "most influential movies of Hindi cinema.[12] [13][14] The first instalment of the trilogy Satya was also listed among CNN-IBN's 100 greatest Indian films of all time. In 2005, Indiatimes Movies included Satya in its list of 25 Must See Bollywood Movies.[15] Satya marked the introduction of a new genre of film making, a variation of film noir[16] that has been called Mumbai Noir, of which Varma is the acknowledged master.[17]

In 2010, Varma received critical acclaim at the Fribourg International Film Festival, where in, a retrospective of his filmography, highlighting Mumbai Noir was staged by film critic, Edward Waintrop.[18] Varma is also known as the master of Indian horror genre.[19] Indian film makers like Krishna Vamsi, Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Puri Jagannadh, E. Nivas, Prawaal Raman, and Hansal Mehta were associated with Varma, before venturing into direction.[10] In 2014, he introduced online auction based film distribution model for his directorial venture Anukshanam.[20] In 2015 he made his directorial debut in Kannada cinema with the thriller Killing Veerappan.[21]

Film Craft[edit]

He gained recognition in bollywood with the 1990 debut Hindi film, Shiva, a remake of his original Telugu version. The Hindi version, has also became an instant hit at the Box office. Subsequently Varma, experimented with the 1991 supernatural thriller, Raat, and the 1992 thriller film, Drohi, and succeeded.[6] In 1995 he directed another blockbuster, Rangeela which won seven Filmfare Awards. He then directed Satya (1998), which won six Filmfare Awards, including the Critics Award for Best Film, and was showcased among the Indian panorama section, at the 1998 International Film Festival of India.[22] Varma received the Bimal Roy memorial award for best direction for this film.[23] In the same year, he co-produced Dil Se.., directed by Mani Ratnam, premiered to Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival.[24] In 1993, he scripted Tamil, thriller Thiruda Thiruda, premiered at Toronto International Film Festival.[25][26][27]

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), form an "Indian gangster trilogy". The first instalment of the trilogy Satya (1998) was featured in the Fribourg International Film Festival, Switzerland, and the New York Asian Film Festival.[18][28] In 2006, he re-made a new version of Shiva, which was screened at the New York Asian Film Festival, where a retrospective featuring several of his previous movies was staged. Alongside Shiva, the festival screened his earlier successful films Company, Ek Hasina Thi, Ab Tak Chhappan, Shabri, and Sarkar.[28] Shabri was also premiered at the The Rome International Film Festival.[28] [29][30]

In 2008, he directed another blockbuster, Sarkar Raj, premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in the Marché du Film section, and was archived at the Academy of Motion Pictures library.[31][32][33] 2010 film on media, Rann was premiered at Toronto International Film Festival.[34][35] 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,[36][37] and was premièred at Films Division of India.[38][39] 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.[40][41][42][43]

Other Box office hits of varma in Telugu and Hindi include Gaayam (1993), Money (1993), Gulabi (1995), Anaganaga Oka Roju (1997), Kaun (1999), Mast (1999), Jungle (2000), Bhoot (2003), Darna Mana Hai (2003), Madhyanam Hathya (2004), Darna Zaroori Hai (2006), Darling (2007), Phoonk (2008), Rakta Charitra (2010), Dongala Mutha (2011), Rowdy (2014), Ice Cream (2014) and Anukshanam (2014)[44][45]

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.[46]

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."[47] 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.[48]

Career in Telugu cinema[edit]

Ram Gopal Varma in the sets of a Telugu film

Before Varma started his career in the Telugu film industry, he lingered on the sets of films such as Collector Gari Abbai and Rao Gaari Illu. His father Krishnam Raju Varma, was a sound recordist at Annapurna Studios, which was then owned by thespian Akkineni Nageswara Rao. Varma managed to meet Nagarjuna Akkineni and narrated a scene to the actor which impressed him.[49] The result of their collaboration was a film on the criminalisation of student politics – Shiva. It was a blockbuster with Varma demonstrating his technical expertise and storytelling skills. The success of the film in Telugu led to a Hindi remake with similar success.[50]

Varma's next film was Kshana Kshanam with Venkatesh and Sridevi which got him noticed by Bollywood critics. It was dubbed into Hindi as Hairaan. Then he made films such as Raatri and Antham. While Gaayam with Jagapathi Babu and Anaganaga Oka Roju with J.D. Chakravarthy were successful, Govinda Govinda with Nagarjuna and Sridevi proved to be a moderate success at the box office.[51] During this period, Varma produced films such as Money and Money Money and was the screenwriter for Mani Ratnam's Tamil movie Thiruda Thiruda.

Career in Hindi cinema[edit]

While Varma's first successful Hindi film was the remake of Shiva. His next film was Drohi. What really put the spotlight on him was the blockbuster Rangeela.[52] The film won Filmfare Awards for Rahman and Shroff. According to Varma, it was dedicated to actress Sridevi.[53] His next film Daud (1997), was a road movie.[50]

In 1998, Varma was an executive producer for Dil Se.., directed by Mani Ratnam and starring Shahrukh Khan, Manisha Koirala and Preity Zinta. The film won the NETPAC Award for Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as two National Film Awards and six Filmfare Awards.[24]

Indian gangster trilogy[edit]

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

In 1998 came his masterpiece, the critically acclaimed Satya, based on the Mumbai underworld. A script co-written by Varma, Anurag Kashyap and Saurabh Shukla, music by Vishal Bhardwaj and Sandeep Chowta, acclaimed performances by J. D. Chakravarthy, Manoj Bajpai and Urmila Matondkar, and Anurag Kashyap's screenwriting brilliance, contributed to a landmark. The film won six Filmfare Awards, including the Critics Award for Best Film.[citation needed]

In 2002 came his commercial as well as critical success, Company, set against the backdrop of the Mumbai underworld, in which he cut off the song-and-dance sequences, common in Bollywood films at the time. It was based on the real-life underworld organisation, the D-Company. It won seven Filmfare Awards and earned him a Filmfare Best Director Award nomination. Malayalam actor Mohanlal debuted in Bollywood doing an extended cameo in this film.[citation needed]

A prequel to Company was made in 2005: D, produced by Varma and directed by Vishram Sawant. Satya, Company and D are together considered an "Indian gangster trilogy".[54] 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.[55][56][57]

Experimental films[edit]

During the years between his trilogy, from Satya in 1998 to D in 2005,[54] Varma experimented with different film genres. 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.[58] In 2000, he directed Jungle, set entirely in a jungle, for which he was nominated for the Star Screen Award for Best Director.

Following the success of Company in 2002, Varma's next film as director was Bhoot (2003), a psychological horror film, which was a major success. It starred Ajay Devgan and Urmila Matondkar, who earned a number of awards for her performance. Varma himself was nominated for the Filmfare Best Director Award for the film.

Following the success of Bhoot, Varma produced two other experimental films: Sriram Raghavan's Ek Hasina Thi (2003), a psychological thriller, and Shimit Amin's Ab Tak Chhappan (2004), a film about an inspector in the Mumbai Encounter Squad famous for having killed 56 people in police encounters.[28]

Later films[edit]

Ram Gopal Varma with Suriya on the sets of Rakta Charitra

Varma's next film as director was Sarkar, released in June 2005, starring Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek. Amitabh played the character of Sarkar who is a self-righteous and powerful businessman and social worker, while Abhishek played his son. Sarkar was a loose adaptation of Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather.[59] Sarkar went on to become a critically acclaimed venture.

In 2007, he directed Nishabd, followed by the ambitious Sholay remake, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, as well as Darling. He was written off by the media and public until June 2008, when he reclaimed, to some extent, his lost reputation with his much hyped venture, Sarkar Raj, a sequel to Sarkar; it was an average and met with good reviews. The primary cast featured Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan reprising their roles from the prequel alongside Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Supriya Pathak, Tanisha Mukherjee and Ravi Kale reappeared in their respective roles from Sarkar.

Phoonk (2008) was another horror film which was a success compared to its minuscule budget. Agyaat, which released on 7 August 2009, was again a commercial as well as critical failure. Next was Rann, a film about the media. It had Amitabh Bachchan, Kannada actor Sudeep, Ritesh Deshmukh and Paresh Rawal. Released on 29 January 2010, it was praised by some critics but was a commercial disaster. Then he began the promotion works for Phoonk 2, a sequel of Phoonk, which was released on 16 April 2010.

Next came the parallel cinema, a biographical film, Rakta Charitra, in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi languages. The movie was based upon the faction backdrop of the Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh. As it lasted about five hours, the film was released in two parts, with a gap of three months. It depicts the life of slain political leader Paritala Ravindra, played by Vivek Oberoi, with Tamil actor Surya Sivakumar, enacting the role of Maddelacheruvu Suri, Shatrughan Sinha, Radhika Apte and Priyamani star in other pivotal roles. The film released to a good opening following Varma's clever pre-release marketing using the controversy surrounding the main characters to his advantage.

Varma roped in Amitabh Bachchan for the lead role in his film Department, the plot of which revolved around the internal politics of the police department. He was quoted saying that this film may be considered as "the other side of Company." Sanjay Dutt and Rana Daggubati are reportedly going to play supporting roles, nevertheless the entire film revolves around them. It was a much anticipated collaboration of Sanjay Dutt with the director after their earlier venture Daud

Varma's recent flick The Attacks of 26/11 received huge critical acclaim for its brilliant portrayal of the real life terrorist attack on Mumbai which happened on 26 November 2008.


Varma's film Satya has been referred to as a modern masterpiece and "perhaps" one of the best films of the 1990s.[16] Film critic Rajeev Masand has labelled it (along with its sequels Company and D) one of the "most influential movies of the past ten years."[60]

British director Danny Boyle has cited Satya as an inspiration for his 2008 Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Satya's "slick, often mesmerizing" portrayal of the Mumbai underworld, which included gritty and realistic "brutality and urban violence," directly influenced the portrayal of the Mumbai underworld in Slumdog Millionaire.[61] Satya has spawned countless imitations in Bollywood.[60]

Non-film Work[edit]


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.[62] The show is noted for its fresh and witty appeal. The show focuses on Varma's Point of View on issues such as Education, Religion, Mythology, Children, Crime, Death, Anger, Godmen, Woman, Philosophy 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.[63]


Varma wrote an autobiography titled Na Ishtam, which discusses his thoughts, opinions and ramu style philosophy.'Naa Ishtam' was released on December 2010 at Taj Banjara, Hyderabad. Vijayawada MP and RGV's friend Lagadapati Rajagopal launched the book.


Sirasri – poet, lyricist and writer wrote a book in biographical tone on the interactions he had with Ram Gopal Varma with the title Vodka With Varma. Director Puri Jagannath launched the book in December 2012 at Aros Pub in Hyderabad.


National Film Awards
Nandi Awards
Filmfare Awards
Bollywood Movie Awards

Bollywood Movie Award – Best Director


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
crime film & which change the Telugu cinema style.
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 Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu
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 crime film
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
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


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External links[edit]