The Film Happened by Chance: Ram Gopal Varma on 20 Yrs of ‘Satya’
Satya is considered a milestone in contemporary Indian cinema and two decades after delivering the acclaimed film, director Ram Gopal Varma credits the success of the project to chance.
The process started with an aim to make an action film - Varma had already made Shiva - but not a movie on the underworld.
"Everything in Satya was by chance. It was a film which just started evolving by itself. I just went mostly by instinct and kept on improvising on location and the film just got made itself.
"The only thing I was sure of was the characters in the film because most of them were based on real people who I interacted with during my research," Varma told PTI.
The filmmaker had done extensive research on gangsters and the underworld, and passed on the baton to first-time writers - Saurabh Shukla and Anurag Kashyap for the screenplay.
Varma had even approached noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar to pen the dialogues, but things did not materialise.
Satya (J D Chakravarthy), Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpayee) and Kallu Mama (Shukla) the misunderstood bad guys, who were loved by the masses then and still reign in the minds of people.
When the film was in its early stage, the director reveals he wanted to cast Mahima Chaudhary as the leading lady but it was his Rangeela actor Urmila Matondkar who went on to play Vidya.
In a film, which explored the underbelly of the world of crime, Varma initially had thought about not having songs, but changed his mind later.
The soundtrack of Satya was composed by Vishal Bhardwaj, with lyrics by Gulzar - songs like Kallu Mama became a huge hit instantly, besides Sapne mein and Tu mere paas bhi hai.
"The original plan was not to have songs but later I felt situational songs might work. I wanted a fun song to make the gangsters look human and Vishal came up with this music," Varma adds.
Interestingly, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), then retained the strong language and violence, endemic to the film. Satya had received an 'A' certificate, with no objections from the board.
Varma says, "I think the CBFC certification depends a lot on that particular group who saw the film at that time. A different group could have had a different take."
The approval and admiration for the film came not only from the audience and critics but also in the form of awards, including the Best Supporting Actor National Award for Bajpayee.
Ask how life changed for him after Satya, Varma says, "Nothing really... Everything becomes a memory after some time."
Post the 1998 superhit film, Varma made several films but only a handful of them like Company, Bhoot and Sarkar managed to strike a chord with the audience.
Varma also took to Facebook to recall the cinematic journey of Satya.
In a lengthy post, the filmmaker revealed how he stumbled upon the subject idea of making a film on Mumbai's underworld.
"Then one day I was sitting in a producer's office and he got this call that a prominent person was shot dead by some gang... People have this habit of recounting each and every moment what happened before someone met with a violent unexpected death...
I was trying to intercut the moments of the man who died with the man who killed. Then it suddenly struck me that we always hear about these gangsters only when they either kill or when they die. But what do they do in between? That was the first thought of mine which eventually resulted in ‘Satya’.Ram Gopal Varma
Varma concluded "great films happen and no one can make them on intention".
"The proof of that is none of us, whether it's Anurag or Manoj or me, could reach beyond Satya in the last twenty years...