Ram Gopal Varma is a constant presence in Sanjay Gupta's life. Gupta who is about to make his first Mumbai underworld thriller has discovered that Ramu has been there, done it all.
Says Gupta, "Can you believe it? Although I was born and brought up in Mumbai, Shootout At Wadala is my first Mumbai film. All my films have been located outside Mumbai. Now when I'm doing a film on Mumbai's underworld, I find I've been beaten at it by Ramu, who is ironically not from Mumbai but Hyderabad. He has been able to induce a striking outsider's view in his cinema on Mumbai. I guess I was too much of an insider."
Gupta finds himself stumped by a sense of deja vu wherever he goes looking for location for his film. "Ramu has already been everywhere. Where do I go?"
To conceive and execute the visual palate that suits his cinema, Gupta has hired the location managers of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire who will not only find him the right spots but also manage the crowds who descend to watch the shooting.
Says Gupta, "Slumdog had a foreign crew. They could shoot unrecognized in Mumbai's chawls .When we shoot with John Abraham and Anil Kapoor in Mumbai's underbelly, we need enormous crowd-management expertise."
Sanjay Gupta's comeback as a director in Shootout At Wadala is proving to be a bigger challenge for the director than he had bargained for. The problem is how to recreate the Mumbai of the 1970s in all its topographical details?
"And we are not talking about just the obvious detailing, like the Fiat and Ambassador cars that roamed on the streets of Mumbai in that decade, or the outdated extinct guns that gangsters used in those days...We are talking about the whole ethos, flavour and rhythm of Mumbai in the 70s."
Says Ramu, "I'm often asked why Mumbai in my films looks so real and alive. It's because I am from outside and completely besotted by the city. I remember when my plane was to touch down on Mumbai for the first time; the aerial view took my breath away. Mumbai still takes my breath away. I don't think a Mumbai-born filmmaker can see the city with the same awe reverence and love that I can."