Legend has it that when the intrepid never-say-die Ram Gopal Varma showed the 9-minute trailer of his proposed new web series Guns & Thighs to Mr Bachchan, he was shocked. He advised Ramu to scrap the idea of this fiercely sanguine bloodbath taking us back to the time when Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan ruled Mumbai.
But does Ram Gopal Varma ever listen to rationale on restraint? The 6-minute trailer is a revelation. For one, Varma desists from casting any known faces, so that the impact of the gruesome graphic and grisly goings-on is explosive potent and immediate. A gun goes off and a little boy’s face is splattered with blood. Women use sex as a tool to be near power.
For the first time in a web series produced in India, Ramu has shown a fully naked woman in a bedroom with a cop.
The woman says, “When all is done all men want from women is their vagina”. She uses the crude Hindi word for the female gentile.
Elsewhere a cop tells a gangster in graphic detail what the gangster’s father must have done to his mother to give birth to him. The dialogues are written by Ramu in English and duly translated in Hindi. The aim here is to shock with graphic language and lurid visuals.
There is no censor board breathing down Ramu’s neck. But the CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani has taken note of the crudity. “Making a series on the web comes with inbuilt responsibilities. Just because you have unlimited freedom on the internet, it doesn’t follow that you can show and say what you like. The Indian moviegoer has his own inbuilt censorship.”
To some extent Pahlaj Nihalani is right.
Audiences are likely to get turned off by the aggressively lurid tone of the presentation. Guns go off into faces of victims with an impunity echoing the Wild West sagas of Sam Peckinpah… not that Varma’s vision has the heft and power of the great celluloid chroniclers of violence. Not anymore.
Varma quotes Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Al Capone, Aristotle, Ayn Rand. Pablo Escobar and Dawood Ebrahim to rationalize the violence. But you know you are watching the blood dimmed tide of a city where things have fallen apart and the centre cannot hold. W B Yeats said it long ago.
One thing is for sure. Ram Gopal Varma can’t go anywhere else with the underworld after this series. Guns & Thighs is a seminal celebration of sadism and semen, steeped in the ethos of a violence that ripped Mumbai apart some years ago. The lengthy trailer has no new insights into the cult of gangsters, nothing that Varma has not already told us. He never seems to tire of the underworld even if we have had enough.