Thackeray did not force me to show him 'Sarkar' - Varma

Jul 4, 2005 Subhash K Jha, Jul 3

Mumbai, July 4 (IANS) Ram Gopal Varma has rubbished rumours that he was forced to show his "Sarkar" to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, on whose life the film is said to be based, and his family.

"There was absolutely no coercion, not even a request from the Thackerays for 'Sarkar' to be shown. I just invited him to see the film, and he agreed. Mr Thackeray is one of the prominent citizens of Mumbai. I didn't want him to believe the rumours and speculations about 'Sarkar'. I wanted him to judge for himself how much of 'Sarkar' was actually his life. So I got an appointment and met Mr Thackeray... for the first time in my life, I might add," Ramu said.

Apparently it was Raj Thackeray, the supremo's nephew, who arranged the meeting.

Ramu is amused by the reports that he was 'forced' to screen his Amitabh Bachchan-Abhishek Bachchan starrer for the Thackerays.

"No one forces me to do anything. I went over to meet him and explained that Mr Bachchan's character could seem to have similarities to his life because of the way the character is projected."

The Shiv Sena supremo along with son Uddhav and nephew Raj with family and friends not only came and watched "Sarkar" but loved the film! He was seen sitting next to Ramu looking intently at the screen. At the end of the film he was so moved that he hugged and embraced the director.

"You've captured my life so perfectly I can't believe this isn't my story! Every incident you've shown has happened at one time or the other in my life," Thackeray was heard saying at the end of the show.

He hugged the filmmaker and expressed a wish to meet him the next and discuss the film at length.

Ramu refuses to comment on Thackeray's reaction to the film. "So far I had only watched him on television, and was bowled over by his oratory, his one-liners and scathing comments on opponents. I don't know much about his politics. But when I met the man he lived up to my expectations."

Ramu insists "Sarkar" isn't Bal Thackeray's story. "The film captures the spirit of a man who has a tremendous hold over the minds and hearts of Mumbai. To that extent, 'Sarkar' is similar to Mr Thackeray's life. There're certain incidents that are bound to happen in lives belonging to the same profession and ideology.

"Shyam Benegal's 'Kalyug' came decades before the Ambanis. How come there are so many parallels between the film and the Ambanis' lives? I've portrayed 'Sarkar' the way I imagined the life of such a character would be. Beyond that, the incidents, events and characters are entirely fictional."

A month ago, the nation was agog about Ramu's "D" being based on the life of Dawood Ibrahim. Now it's this....

"You can't hold me responsible for these real-life parallels," protests Ramu. "I make realistic films. So they're bound to have characters who resemble real characters."

So if "Sarkar" isn't really Bal Thackeray's story why was the real character invited to view the reel? "Only to let him know the truth," insists Ramu.

"Sarkar is my biggest film to date, in every sense. I never knew it would live up to audiences' expectations. It has lived up to mine completely. It's the best thing I've done so far."

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