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    Shah Rukh is nothing without packaging: Ram Gopal Varma

    [Interview by Hindol Sengupta]
    Tuesday, November 09, 2004
    What is Shah Rukh Khan? Nothing without the right packaging, said director Ram Gopal Varma.

    "Shah Rukh Khan comes with a package, the best musicians, the best clothes, the perfect look - he is really smart to get all that just right.

    "My belief is that if the idea is right, then people come to see that. That''''''''s all that works.

    "If all these things are not correct, I don''''''''t think people will like Shah Rukh as much. So I avoid stars, who cost a huge amount of money, and pool all my resources in the idea.

    That''''''''s why, according to Varma, no film in India is ever really a flop.

    "I don''''''''t believe in the star system. What you need is to get the math right," Varma told IANS in an hour-long interview here. "What you need are just enough people to see your film. Just enough. And you don''''''''t need to tons of people, just so many.
    "What is a hit or a flop? I don''t think of hits and flops in terms of popularity. I think of it in terms of money. As long as my money is coming back, it''s a hit for me.
    "The rest is just the opinion of critics."
    That''s why, contrary to popular belief, Varma said his films like "Gayab" and "Darna Mana Hai" actually did quite well.
    "They were just perceived as flops because the critics didn''t like them. ''Gayab'', for instance, did better business than ''Ab Tak Chappan'' but critics liked ''Ab Tak Chappan'', so it is perceived as a hit."
    Sitting in a brown, loose sweater and blue jeans at the Le Meridien Hotel, Varma looks less avant filmmaker par excellence, more executive on a holiday.
    "I have no pretenses of intellectuality. I treat the film as a product, its like if I was selling shirts - you give lots of choice to the buyer, in my case the audience, and let them pick and choose.
    "I make a really slick product. Some will like it, some will hate it, my bet is that if the product is well made and attractive, there''ll always be enough people liking it to make a profit."
    That''s why he is unafraid that his new film "Naach", which many say is inspired from Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai''s "In The Mood For Love", is releasing at the same time as Shah Rukh Khan biggies "Veer-Zaara" and "Swades".
    "There is no competition. I must excite the audience enough with my marketing that enough people will come to see my film. Then, my job is done," said the man who calls his production house The Factory because, he said, it operates like that.
    "See I don''t know anything about the techniques of filmmaking. I don''t you details of camera, lenses, all that. All I know is the idea. For me, the idea is everything."
    "That''s why I''m also able to give a chance to so many new directors. People tell me - how can you let them make a film, they don''t know anything. I tell them, so what, nor did I. In fact, I still don''t."


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