The common trap for a man seeking to regain lost glory, is the prepossession to try and do it fast since he cannot bear the ignominy of his failure, of his present. So welcome to the world of Ram Gopal Varma.
The way to identify a Ram Gopal Varma movie these days is, it's the one worse than his previous release. Like a gambler on a losing streak, he plays more and more when he should stop for a while, breathe and convalesce. So 2007 has 3 movies, 2008 has 3 movies, and 2009 has one release and 3 under production, when he's had no hit since Sarkar in 2005 really (Sarkar Raj
being disputed as BO grossers).
Indeed, when every top director makes one movie every 2 years or more - think Mani Ratnam, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Rajamouli, Trivikram - Varma seems to be working against the clock in what is essentially a creative business. Forgetting that each of his own big hits was his only release in that year (Shiva
, Kshana Kshanam, Rangeela
, Satya, Company
). The approach then is that of someone who is playing Minesweeper endlessly just for a good score - each game is a gamble of rapid thoughtless clicking hoping for a big break. Only, in real life, the mines actually explode.
Agyaat's pointlessness is nearly seminal - it almost sets a benchmark for being a bad movie. Calling the storyline clichÃ©d is respecting it (actually, calling it a storyline is respecting it). 7 members of a movie's cast and crew go to a forest in Sri Lanka to shoot on location. This includes all motley group stereotypes - the rude one, the accented one, the religious one, the eccentric one, the bombshell etc. Some unknown evil in the forest slowly starts killing them one by one, and the running scared finally has only two survivors - and no prizes for guessing who the two are.
The fundamental problem with Agyaat is how soulless it is - there's no powerful characterization or emotional vein to the movie, you feel no fear anywhere, there's no victory of human spirit over a brawny and brainy predator, and there's no creature in a creature movie. Yes, not a single shot of what is chasing them, which snuffs the payoff completely.
Varma's been on the airwaves saying there is no depiction of the creature since he did not have Hollywood's budget. Well, Bhoot scared the crap out of you despite being made on a similar budget. The problem is not the budget, it is the creative effort, which takes t-i-m-e. Based just on his last 3 years, and discounting his technical skills, Varma is currently no more than a C-grade director, a point reinforced by how much skin-show Agyaat resorts to. If his name were not associated with Agyaat, this is a movie that would normally get screened at Glory, Shalimar or Lighthouse. Indeed, the audiences are laughing when the film ends with saying Agyaat 2 is coming soon.
Varma's technical skills are on ample display in Agyaat, though - the film looks stunning, thanks to an incredible rendition of the location on reel. You really want to be in the middle of all that exploding, pristine verdancy and distilled nature, and you can get philosophical, too, wondering what the point is of God creating all that beauty when few humans will ever see it.
However, people go to a movie for 2 hours of story-telling, and on that front, Varma is here as gripping as your pre-teen nephew. This one is pretty much (Schwarzeneggar's) Predator
, minus everything that made it work, and the rest. Nobody has anything much to do (except Priyanka Kothari, who has a lot
to do), with the first half standing out mostly for skin show, and the second half for getting closer and closer to the ending of the movie. There are a couple of raunchy songs, and if you get turned on by them, you probably don't need a movie between your songs at all.
Watch Agyaat if you need to - it's lesser trauma being known as its audience than being known as its director.