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Power Players

Ram Gopal Varma is all set with the third instalment of his Sarkar franchise, Sarkar 3. Here's the director along with the young actors from his film, Amit Sadh and Yami Gautam, in conversation with Box Office India.

What inspired you to make the third instalment of the film?
Ram Gopal Varma (RGV): When we made the second part, no one was really thinking of one more instalment. But, over time, people have watched the film on television and discussed the impact the characters had created. They would mention this to Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) and me. So, two to three years ago, whenever Amitji and I would meet, we would discuss the possibility (of a third part). I came up with a definite idea about 18 months to two years ago, and it grabbed all of us. Interestingly, while there is an eight-year gap between Sarkar Raj and Sarkar 3, there is a 20-year gap between The Godfather 2 and Part 3.

Each instalment has different writers…
RGV: (Cuts in) To be honest, all the scripts I write in English and get it translated. So the question of writers changing doesn't make any difference.

The character Sarkar… how has he evolved from the first film to the second, and from the second film to the third?
RGV: I have always looked at Sarkar as a realistic Superman, who never changes. The situations around him might change, characters around him might change but he remains constant.

Talking about new characters… what was it about these two actors, Amit Sadh and Yami Gautam, that made you cast them in Sarkar 3?
RGV: As you know, Sarkar is a character-driven film; it is not a technical-oriented film. The focal point is the relationship Sarkar shares with each of the other characters. So I wanted to create some kind of intrigue around each character. So, Amit Sadh's character has a relationship with Sarkar as he is the son of Kay Kay's (Menon) character. But there is a cocky arrogance that makes him very unsettling and you don't know how to perceive him. There is a very unlikable quality about him and you really don't know where he is going.

It was Amitji who suggested that we cast Amit Sadh; I had never seen any of his films before. And when we did a look test, I thought he was perfect for the part. Yami (Gautam) is known to be a very cute and beautiful girl. Most of the women in all the earlier Sarkar parts, including Katrina (Kaif) and Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan), looked functional. Their parts didn't have a real connection with the plot or they were like background characters. Here, Yami's character is not someone's girlfriend or love interest but she has very strong motivation for whoever she is with, what she is doing and what she is saying. I thought that would add an interesting element to this film compared to the earlier two female characters.

Amit, to have THE Amitabh Bachchan suggest your name, you must have been thrilled.
Amit Sadh (AS): There were actually too many things in my mind when I got a call for this film. Initially, I didn't know that Mr Bachchan had suggested my name. For me, getting a text message from Ramu sir itself was a feeling that is hard to explain. It was a very visceral feeling. When I came to Mumbai, I was one of a thousand boys who just wanted to make it big. And 10 years ago, the buzz about Ramu sir was that he scouted for his actors literally on the streets.

RGV: (Cuts in) No, I never roamed the streets. And thank you for adding to my reputation, sir! Earlier, people at least knew that I worked; now you have proved otherwise! (Laughs)

AS: (Laughs) That was the buzz around you about 10 years ago, when I was struggling. Sab kehete the ke Ramuji sadak se uthakar hero bana dete hai. So when Ramuji messaged me, I was intrigued when he told me that Mr Bachchan had suggested my name. I was very excited to know why he thought I could do this part. It is a privilege to do a Ram Gopal Varma film and to have been suggested by Mr Bachchan.

Yami, did you also hear things about him like Amit had?
Yami Gautam (YG): No, I hadn't but I have seen the diverse films he has given us. And I think Sarkar has carved a place for itself. It is not just a film but an experience for people who watch it. Like it or not, you cannot forget it. So when Ramu sir called me for Sarkar 3, I was very excited but I was also curious to know what I would be doing in the film.

When he explained my role to me, I was even more curious to know why he had chosen me. I asked him about this since people see me in a certain kind of way, he said, 'I think it is interesting and challenging for someone like you to play a role, where things are unpredictable and not what they seem to be. The role is absolutely in contrast to you.' I loved the idea.

We usually say that actors come with the baggage of their earlier roles but when it comes to your films, each actor suits their respective parts like a hand in a glove. Would you give credit to the way you write a character or the way you direct an actor?
RGV: When an actor has a certain image and he or she plays a role that is the exact opposite of it, it could either have a surprisingly positive effect or it could backfire. Obviously, I cannot change Amitabh Bachchan's set character but with Yami, I think that is the truth.

Do you think the audience has similar expectations from directors?
RGV: Yes, when you interact with someone and take home something from that person, you obviously will have expectations of that person. Similarly, I think the audience too has certain expectations from directors.
You have made cult films like Satya and Rangeela, and now you have been very vocal about your liking of Baahubali: The Conclusion, which released recently. Do you think now is a good time for the industry…
RGV: (Cuts in) I haven't watched the film. On Twitter, I was promoting the impact, not the film. I believe it will have a huge impact on our industry's structure. That's what I have been talking about.

Amit, did you have any preconceived notions about Ram Gopal Varma before the first day of your shoot?
AS: No, the notions I had relate to 10 years ago. I didn't have any notions like that when I signed the film. It doesn't pay to have any thoughts on what it is like to work with Ramu sir.
I was exuberant that I was finally getting to do a Ram Gopal Varma film. And when he told me it was Sarkar 3, I was blown away. I couldn't believe it as I am a huge fan of his films, especially Rakta Charitra, Sarkar, Sarkar Raj, Company, Satya and Rangeela. Merely being able to work him and him giving me this part was a dream.

Yami, you are the only girl in the film. Was there any preparation that went into portraying such a strong character?
YG: I don't think you can generalise like that. I think if I am the only girl in the film, it is the most feminist thing. My preparation would be in about how Ramu sir wants it to be. I heard Amit mention how Ramu sir helped him prepare for his role but it was very different with me. He didn't tell me anything beyond a certain point. I knew the story and I knew my role but he didn't say very much, lest it lead to a barrage of questions, especially for someone like me because I love preparing for my roles.

I had just come out of Kaabil and there was a lot of preparation for that film. But I am also a director's actor. I know I need to be adaptive to do what he wants. He does not want you to rehearse too much or make your performance mechanical; he tells you exactly what he wants but does not burden you with expectations. Things are clear in the simplest kind of way.

I had seen his approach as we had done a very small screen test which was very spontaneous. I was just following his cues and did not think about anything else. That left such an impact because I was only following my director.
AS: (Cuts in) Now that we are praising Ramu sir so much, I must add to what Yami said, that he is a director who takes your hand and leads you into the deep sea. Then he leaves your hand and says, 'now act.'
RGV: I feel as if I am dead, sir, because only dead people receive so much praise. 'He was a very good director, the industry will miss him…'

AS: Sir, I am not praising you, I am saying you take us deep into the sea and you leave us to drown. Then you say', 'Action!'
RGV: Sorry, I take back my words. That is a compliment I actually like.
AS: (Laughs) See, I know what
you like.

Since both your actors have complimented you so much, what compliments do you have for them?
RGV: I know Yami is a very serious person and takes her work seriously. I met her when she was doing Kaabil, and to develop trust, I told her, 'I am not going to tell you the story and I am not going to tell you the script.' That's because it could have been very disorienting as she was in a space where she had done so much preparation. It could have seemed like this director was not serious or, as an actor, I won't know what to do on the sets.
I guess, at one point, she took a decision to trust me. But the fact that you don't know enough can be daunting. To get another actor to a point and then control him with only your eyes might look simple on screen but it requires more acting than preparing for the character because you don't have the support or an anchor of knowing something so deeply. You don't know what kind of impact this one such scene will have on the larger canvas.
The best thing about Amit is that he doesn't care about how he looks or what he is wearing. I don't remember when I last met an actor who was just there and didn't bother about superficial things like that.

Lastly, what kind of expectations do you have from the release of Sarkar 3?
RGV: I have always found that to be a dumb question and I have been asked this for the last 20 years. Everything in the industry changes but not this question.
YG: The moment you asked him that question, I knew what his answer would be. But I too want to hear your answer, sir (Laughs)
RGV: Why would anyone make a film if not to make people feel the effect what they want to create? Whether or not they will is obviously not in my hands. So this, all of us including me, will find out after the film releases.
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