King Solemn & the Nymphet
Ram Gopal Varma is clearly a clever man. Problematic, provocative, but clever. He’s given us good cinema, and some real bad stuff as well. Yet, why would he take his own best work, cannibalise it and aim this projectile vomit at us, fans of his 1998 Satya? Because, I believe, he’s a genius in decay. His best work is done and now he gets by on stuff that ranges from mediocre to godawful. Mostly, these days, he picks up controversial subjects, occasionally delving into his two favourite fables — horror and gangster.
I like that Varma deliberately mocks his own genius sometimes. I hate that these are often contained in abysmal films.
For people who have watched Satya, a classic that changed Indian cinema and redefined Bollywood noir, and gave us an assortment of very fine directorial, acting and writing talent, this alleged sequel is coma inducing. For those who haven’t seen Satya, I insist that they go watch it and send me large, red bouquets.
Set in Mumbai, Satya 2 opens with the camera circling some unfinished high-rise buildings — it’s aerial, swooping and needlessly dizzy. Stock RGV stuff that is used to capture and convey most of his second and third-rate stuff.
A voiceover in heavy Hindi tells us that Mumbai police has succeeded in wiping out the underworld and that the cops have taken over the business themselves, that “the system” itself is the new underworld. This idea is not new. It was explored in zero-depth in last year’s RGV calamity, Department.
A long-haired boy gets down from a train in Mumbai and surveys the world around him with a look that wants to suggest something, but doesn’t. All it conveys is that this boy may be a bit unhinged. His eyes have a glint of madness, not the interesting kind, but the “oye pagal, act pagal” sort.
This is Satya (Punit Singh Ratn), and he meets up with his friend Naara (Amitriyaan) whose house he’s going to share. Naara is a producer in waiting, and while he’s waiting he’s doing Special. Literally. Special (Aradhna Gupta) is Naara's girlfriend whom we meet after we are hustled into a flashback to meet Satya’s village belle girlfriend, Chitra (Anaika Soti).
After we are introduced to every possible pouting and chest action and treated to Chitra’s I’m-so-dumb-and-innocent-that-I-must-be-cute expression, we meet Special while she’s doing her stretching-and-caressing-myself-for-your-pleasure routine.
When, someday, RGV’s oeuvre is studied, a special mention will be made of his women. Actually, Varma doesn’t waste time on women. He concentrates on a sub-species of women called the nymphet. Nymphets, as they are concocted at the RGV factory, pant. Not because they are continually running up and down a staircase. They pant because they are forever in heat.
They come to us not as a whole person, but in bits and body pieces. This is imperative to gratify the male gaze, first being of Varma himself.
So the RGV nymphet will arrive stretching, filling up the screen with her long waist, belly button and tiny goose bumps with bleached hair. Then the camera will cut to glistening, fresh lips which are always pouting. Next we’ll get thrusting breasts from this angle and that, and then some legs, ankles, bare shoulders and lots of flinging about of hair to convey carnal wildness and, always, cinematic wilderness. But all of this must be accompanied with the I-am-a-duffer expression. Only then will we get the nymphet Varma repeatedly tries to construe — one whose unrequited sexual energy plays havoc with her brain cells.
Back to Satya. An engineer, he gets a job with a realtor, Lahoti (Mahesh Thakur). Lahoti is fighting with one Sangi over some property, but RK, a has-been don, can’t help him because one ACP Bharti is protecting Sangi. So Satya comes up with a plan which involves not just killing Sangi, but two more people.
Lahoti’s job gets done and he gifts Satya a bungalow. Chitra arrives. So now Satya sings songs with Chitra, chats with his friends and, Godfather-like, fixes problems of the rich and famous. His clout grows and a cabal of rich men forms around him. More killings follow, high profile and bizarre ones.
Satya now wants these moneyed people to bank-roll his dream, Company. Company, he explains, is not a company. It’s a soch, a silsila — a thought-process that needs no identity, no face. So no logos and no liveried killers. Company will operate in secrecy. They agree and he starts recruiting people — a cop, a lawyer, a financial wizard — and plans some special mayhem for Company’s inauguration.
This babble about Company being a soch is thrown at us often, without any explanation. We are supposed to knit our brows, say hmmm and think it all very deep and profound. But, really, it’s bollocks.
This obtuse, absurd talk is a mystery not just to us but also, I assure you, to the film’s writer and director. It’s gibberish to camouflage a vacuous mind, to trick us into thinking that somewhere in the film dwells a thought.
Satya’s mysterious past is dragged in to try and drill some sense into this nonsense, and to paint Satya as a messiah, a Robinhood. But all this Company business remains as demented as it was when Anurag Kashyap attempted it in Gulal.
“The system”, having suffered at the hands of Company, creates its own nameless team that sets out to destroy Company.
Satya 2 ends on a horrific note — it threatens yet another sequel.
Satya 2 is an atrocity erected on a stale and sparse screenplay where dull people have dud interactions. It’s crammed with must-have scenes from the RGV School of Filmmaking and Bollywood formula.
The main characters here are single-note entities: Special is sceptical; Naara is fuzzy brained; Chitra is in love; Lahoti likes Satya; Satya is smart. Also, all these characters, and others, are played by actors who have interesting faces, but are graduates from the AB School of Hamming. And they are handed dialogue that are plain banal.
Punit Singh Ratn is given long-winding soliloquies that he delivers with the sort of disinterest usually associated with a terrible hangover. He speaks in a staccato style, and is always solemn, trying to pretend that he has a psychological and intellectual interior. He has none. This fact is conveyed again and again to us via his strange body movements: He moves his head slowly, from one side to the other, like a deranged puppet, the eyeballs following a few seconds later.
RGV is stuck in a time warp. Yet sometimes, in one or two scenes here, when Varma tries to tell us something about Mumbai, how it is being strangulated, ravaged — like this scene on a scooter through a road pock-marked with pot-holes — it is stunning. It’s a commentary that niggles at you. And that’s where you pause and wonder: What happened to this guy? Why does he do this to himself and to us? What’s this self-destruction and public mutilation in aid of? But before you can finish asking the questions, Ram Gopal Varma throws another trite scene, another cliché, another pouting nymphet.