Dongala Muta: The Curious Case of Ram Gopal Varma
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Cast: Ravi Teja, Charmi, Lakshmi Manchu, Prakash Raj
Storyline: A couple check-in at a suspicious resort that seems to have been taken over by thieves and now, they can’t leave.
Bottomline: Shot in just five days, this is RGV’s silliest and most amateur film till date.
Like Benjamin Button, Ram Gopal Varma seems to be aging in reverse as a filmmaker. The proof lies in the fact that his most polished and refined films are the ones he made at the beginning of his career and the most amateur, the ones he has made over the last few years.
From the reinvention of the angry young man (the nice guy in college who graduated in inhumanities, as the posters of Shiva told us back then) to staging action-set-pieces (Kshana Kshanam and similar films) to effortlessly shifting gear to musicals and romance (with Rangeela and Naach) and then to gangsters (Satya, Company and Sarkar) and ghosts (Bhooth) to low-brow exploitation films (Phoonk, Agyaat and now, Dongala Muta), RGV sure has straddled many worlds but what’s alarming is the depletion of his filmmaking aesthetic over the years. You know how young filmmakers would go to any extent to just make that debut film?
Even if it means keeping the entire story to a single location, asking friends to help out, being unable to afford quality technicians, resorting to digital hand-held cameras and hurrying up the shoot because every single day of shoot means extra money.
Dongala Muta, shot in five days, with five Canon 5D cameras and no director of photography, begins looking unbelievably homemade with goons in bright costumes looking absolutely silly, thanks to the handycam feel that instantly disconnects you from the larger than life proceedings. That kidnapping sequence looks like it’s from a low budget ‘sweded’ film someone shot as an April Fool prank to make fun of his friends for their acting ambitions, after watching Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind.
Thanks to the silly dialogue, the exaggerated close-ups, the lack of a plot, the space constraints and the video-feel, the entire film looks like a spoof shot today for tomorrow’s cultural fest, especially if you really don’t know who the actors are. The lack of a cinematographer hurts the film further as unflattering voyeuristic close-ups of the leading ladies from the ground level assault your senses every few minutes and make you wonder if those jeans have something to do with the mystery or the resolution.
Reminiscent of RGV’s Daud in its inanely silly sensibility and of Kaun with its space limitations (if Kaun was entirely indoors and just three characters, this one works with the entire resort), this experiment does not prove anything apart from convincing producers that they cannot possibly make a movie with no money and in five days. If they do, it would look like this. Bad. Even if it has Ravi Teja in it and a Brahmanandam comedy track.
It does not inspire and convince film students either that they can make a movie with just a camera because they know that the reason people went to watch the film is because it’s an RGV film with a star-studded cast. Which student will ever be able to convince Ravi Teja to do a film?
But yes, it does prove one thing. If a filmmaker as talented as RGV comes up with a film like this, they surely can do better. If the idea of a film is to entertain, irrespective of merit, then the film works as one big inside joke. It’s so bad that it’s good.
Rumour has it that RGV is shooting his next film using a mobile phone. It may just be a short. Maybe it is good news that RGV is reverse-aging like Benjamin Button. For he may soon enroll in a film school. At least, he’ll learn the basics.