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Not the ghost of a gourmet...



Ramgopal Verma at Le Meridien... tasting only the fruits of labour. Photo: S. Subramanium.

IF YOU witness sturdy Ramgopal Verma and his macho demeanour, he might seem a great foodie. One who loves to eat to maintain his enviable physique. But hold on. His eating habits would surprise anyone with this idea.

"Food just does not interest me at all. I feel I can do something better instead of wasting time in eating food. I eat just to satiate the hunger and keep myself going. I wish I were born without a stomach," he reveals. He is sitting at Le Meriden in New Delhi. Placed before him is a basket of fruits, glasses of juice but he spares not a glance at the decorative and colourful display of eatables. Instead, he is in a hurry to recount the initial days of "Bhoot" - his latest release whose success has brought cheer to Bollywood's sagging fortunes.

"When I planned to make `Bhoot', everybody thought I was joking. The problem lies with its title. which suggests that it is some B or C grade film. But my star cast brings respect to the title."

That is why he chose Rekha, who he feels has a very strong screen presence. "I took an off-beat actor Victor Banerjee whose name is associated with serious films. You take his attitude seriously and respect him too. Though they are in fewer frames in the film, yet they bring weight to it."

"I have used larger frames to take the audience into confidence, unlike routine Bollywood horror films where the camera follows only the characters. But here I have taken the whole ambience in one frame to create a total effect."

Hence the furniture and decorative items like wall hanging and table lamps are of unusual shapes and sizes and so is the queer sound effect - for instance, the door bell or footsteps, and so on. He sums himself up: "I break rules as I don't know any."

Ramgopal takes a sip of pineapple juice after being reminded it may turn warm. He seems to be thinking all the time. He shifts his gaze quickly, seems to go in a trance for a few seconds and comes back with all substance to answer queries. He is arrogant at times, straightforward and quick with his answers. Tell him that his films have heroines economising on clothes liberally, so his films can't be seen with family, and he quips: "Don't see them. I am a selfish and emotionless person. If I feel that my heroines should reveal more, I make them do it. Filth is in the mind and eyes of the perceiver for which I don't care. I have my way."

Even Ramu's mother cannot win him over. "My mother finds me difficult. I always try to find logic in all things of life. When she tries to reform me, I cut her sentences and tell mine. She has given up now. She understands I will do what I deem fit." Ramu cannot help giving a triumphant grin. He defines himself as "a very shy person" and admits: "I can't go to a girl and say that I like her. In my school time I admired a girl but never told her. Even now I can't do it. I was a simple guy, meek and docile, never given to fights and would be easily bullied."

Hence, he hates simplicity. "I hate simple people and simple emotions. It turns you cowardly. In my class there were some rowdy elements. They were all musclemen, never afraid of anyone. Since I lacked their courage, I used to admire them secretly."

And he does not hide that he lives much of his macho men fancies in his films. And that's his heroes are the tough, rowdy, saviour types. "I compensate in my films what I lack in person." And he "works out a lot" to maintain his own physique too.

Finishing his juice he gets up. "I like to eat where I feel comfortable, it can be my room, a dhaba. I am not a five-star man, you know... "

RANA A. SIDDIQUI

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