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There’s none of the visual genius, which we anyway see little of these days in Ram Gopal Varma’s films, in the director’s new autobiography Guns And Thighs: The Story Of My Life. The title sure is not intriguing. But like his best films, the book is unfettered and unapologetic. His earlier autobiography written in Telugu is called Naa Ishtam, and I have not read that, but in this, unlike the memoirs of famed film folk, Varma does not waste print defending himself.

What I know after reading it that I already knew: The man has an insatiable appetite for cheesiness; what I didn’t know: He is more a passionate film viewer than a film-maker. He has watched films madly all his life: “I have this affliction of constantly living in a state of film irrespective of the situation." And he is fully aware there will be three or four of his own in the thousands of brilliant, funny, cheesy, thrilling, wonderful films that will survive in the next world.

My love for Varma’s cinema has survived the dross he has created in the last decade. His Hindi masterpieces Satya and Company shattered my tastes as a Hindi film fiend. They signalled a new wave, much to the love of film geeks like me who love American indie, rigorous European directors and Hindi pulp from the 1980s and 1990s equally—the ideal film lover, according to American critic Pauline Kael. Then since the early 2000s, he became the director who “lost the plot". The lowest point was Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, a resetting of Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, which, Varma says, was a disaster from the start. “But one thing about Aag that makes me happy is that the film did manage to provide mass entertainment if only in ripping it apart. The one thing I regret most about Aag is that, being the butt of it, I was the only one who didn’t get to f**k it." A self-deprecating humour sparkles in some chapters.

His years fighting in gangs at college in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, and what he learned in jail, his decision to open a video cassette library in Hyderabad and how he made a success of it, how he engineered his first break Siva with Nagarjuna (by lying to the two key people behind it), his gonzo knowledge of the underworld, the beautifully chaotic process of making Satya, his love of Sridevi and Urmila Matondkar (both fantasy figures in his mind), the deadpan humorous retelling of a train accident he was in, his disdain for and meanness towards his wife, his love and hate for the media, his even more acute hatred for the “in-betweeners" who thrive on the failure of others—it’s all here.

It is a book about making films and loving films specifically in India—a cinema hall in Vijayawada and its nondescript manager get as much space as Amitabh Bachchan. Varma’s heroes are Mackenna’s Gold and The Godfather, not so much Lee Smith and Francis Ford Coppola. “Most of us, most of the time, ride on the talents of others and merely put the actors and technicians through randomly thought-out motions. This sometimes accidentally results in a great movie, but most times in a movie with clashing intentions of all concerned because there is no central thought to guide the film towards its emotional finale," he writes.

Most of Guns And Thighs provokes, but does not shock. It becomes somewhat drab towards the end. But no genuine Hindi film fan will regret reading the confessions of Ram Gopal Varma.

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