Ram Gopal Varma and Company: Indian Goodfellas 

Wednesday, Aug 16 2006

For the American Cinematheque, which has found a large audience for “Asian extreme” action and horror films, the work of the energetic Indian action specialist Ram Gopal Varma seems a good fit. Varma has had major commercial hits at home, including the terrific Aamir Khan vehicle Rangeela (Colorful) in 1995. But these days, Varma is positioning himself as Mumbai’s answer to Hong Kong’s adventurous entrepreneur Johnny To, dividing his energies between the big-budget projects he directs and less expensive, shot-on-the-street genre films made by his former assistants. This two-day, four-film series kicks off with Varma’s brand-new remake of his 1990 debut movie, Shiva (which was not available for preview), but as a showcase for his older genre output, it is gapingly incomplete: The best of Varma’s gangster movies, the densely textured and genuinely innovative Satya (Truth) (1998), is most conspicuously MIA. Remaining as the series centerpiece is the fact-based Company (2002), a painstakingly crafted, but oddly chilly and uninvolving, near docudrama about a simmering conflict between a recessive Mumbai crime lord (Ajay Devgan) and his hand-picked top lieutenant (Vivek Oberoi). Meanwhile, the two films by Varma protégés are a mismatched set: Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi (There Was a Beautiful Girl) (2004) is a close remake of the Hollywood nonhit Double Jeopardy, notable only for an effective dark-side performance by heartthrob Saif Ali Khan (Kal Ho Naa Ho). The best of all the films by far, Shimit Amin’s exhilaratingly abrasive Ab Tak Chhappan (56 So Far) (2004), is a volatile urban-crime film rooted in the uniquely Indian phenomenon of the “encounter specialist,” a feral breed of cop whose tendency to shoot first and ask questions later is exploited by the brass in order to purge the overtaxed legal system of some especially obnoxious offenders. The jackrabbit pace of the picture seems to be a response to the high-strung performance of the great, snarly character actor Nana Patekar (Bluffmaster), who gets a Lee Marvin–style makeover as the hair-trigger vigilante. (American Cinematheque at the Egyptian; Fri.-Sat., Aug. 18-19, 7:30 p.m. each evening. www.americancinematheque.com)

­—David Chute

Related Stories

  • Ride or Die 87

    At first, riding a bicycle through Mumbai seemed like a death wish. I saw lines of cars, scooters, rickshaws, horses, oxen, and even human-pulled carts lurch into intersections before the light turned green. I hesitated at the crosswalk, holding up traffic and setting off honking from behind. I was petrified...
  • Chef Tin Vuong's 10 Favorite Places to Eat

    Chef Tin Vuong has a slowly growing empire of restaurants in the beach cities, and it's a group of eateries with highly eclectic food. Abigail  in Hermosa Beach is a new American spot with gastropub leanings - think escargot poppers and poutine made with braised lamb belly. Little Sister in Manhattan Beach explores...
  • Indonesian Food Court 7

    If you were to find yourself walking at night through the streets of Bali or Kota Kinabalu, you would almost certainly smell food. Sometimes the smell will come from an individual stall specializing in murtabak or roti or some distinct noodle dish, but it's likely the smell will be emanating...
  • Discostan Features Music From "Beirut to Bangkok via Bombay"

    The strong smell of sandalwood-infused Indian Chandan Dhoop incense fills Arshia Haq's Echo Park apartment as she gets ready for the night. She has recently arrived back in the city after working on a music documentary in India and Pakistan, and the jet lag hasn't subsided - nor has that...
  • Premiere: The Debut Video From Enigmatic New Group The Mercy Beat

    Los Angeles based group The Mercy Beat maintains an air of secrecy about themselves. The haven't gone on record with their full names, and not much about them is known, other than they're transplanted from New York, Hong Kong, and Hawaii, and that they're named for the British Invasion-era Liverpool...

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Fri 1
  2. Sat 2
  3. Sun 3
  4. Mon 4
  5. Tue 5
  6. Wed 6
  7. Thu 7

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!


  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.
  • Are Westerns For The Weak? Not According to "Sensei" Martin Kove
    Decades ago, the western film was king, with nearly 100 produced every year at their peak in the 1940s, and their popularity extending years beyond. But today, other than rare successes like Django Unchained or True Grit, the genre is not in great shape. Films such as Cowboys and Aliens and The Lone Ranger failed to spark new interests in the western. It's a tough nut to crack, but veteran movie bad guy Martin Kove -- most well known for his role as Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid -- is passionate about the classic American film genre and is trying to revive it. We spent an afternoon at his home talking about westerns and how to make the genre interesting again. All photos by Jared Cowan.

Now Trending