Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Actors: Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Rana Daggubati, Vijay Raaz, Abhimanyu Singh, Laxmi Manchu, Madhu Shalini, Anjana Sukhani, Nathalia Kaur, Deepak Tijori
Even though Department is derived from his directorial successes Shiva, Satya, Company, Sarkar, and one of his productions, Ab Tak Chhappan, Ram Gopal Varma can’t come anywhere close to delivering as the promising filmmaker he was once touted as. Skin show is one thing you’ll never hear me complain about, but the way he goes overboard with the camera is too much to handle. The guy has no respect for subtlety and destroys a potent story (even if it’s a rehash) because he’s too busy having fun.
“Department” is another blank RGV has fired from his factory. Wasting the star power of Sanjay Dutt, the freshness of Rana Daggubatti, and the chance to pack a punch, Ram Gopal Varma chooses on showing you every little detail through his eyes. His camera travels all over the city of Mumbai, through the gutters, over the sand on a beach, even showing a crow picking up corn with its beak; the camera moves all over Sanjay Dutt as he drinks tea, it runs over his pants, shows a shot from behind his head as he lifts the cup to his mouth; Amitabh Bachchan can be seen from the bottom of his tea cup, stirring and talking, and you’re also treated to a close top view of his head while scratches his scalp. This is not even ten percent of the bizarre camerawork.
The characters are many and they’re heaped with such lines that everybody sounds wise and overconfident. There isn’t one character you warm up to, even though you’ve seen similar people in RGV’s hits. But RGV has forgotten what made those movies click; that he had stories to tell back then, and that he knew how to tell them. In Department, Ram Gopal Varma is fulfilling all his desires, mainly those of watching men fight and shoot each other, fleshy women flicking their tongues and sucking kulfi bars suggestively and exaggerating the ass-shake while walking or even standing.
Sanjay Dutt, the non actor that he’s always been, uses his bulk as usual. Pointing his gun at people, delivering unimpressively over-smart lines in his same old way and dancing to drinking songs like a buffoon come naturally to him. Can’t really blame him, because the director is wondering whose cleavage the camera should dive into next. I’m shocked that he didn’t send it up Sanjay Dutt’s anus to observe his bowel movement and take a tour of his rectum.
Rana Daggubati is one who’ll get the most mileage here. He plays the pawn the big players use for their benefit. As one of the three actors who put in an effort (Vijay Raaz and Abhimanyu Singh try hard but become jokes), Rana Daggubati is the guy who walks out of Department unscathed.
Amitabh Bachchan is having even more fun than Ram Gopal Varma in Department. The biggest movie superstar of all time gets paid to play a gangster-turned-politician who wears a tiny bell around his right wrist, laugh in his inimitable style, distribute knowledge to anyone who’s unfortunate enough to be around, and show his dance moves. The man could have had yet another brilliant drunk scene to add to his list, but RGV was focusing on some god-fucked angle to switch the camera on and off from. Amitabh Bachchan has nothing to lose here; he would’ve been applauded if the movie had clicked, but RGV will take the beating now that it’s turned out like this.
Despite all that’s going against it, Department shows a few sparks of brilliance in a couple of places. It makes me cringe to realize what Ram Gopal Varma can still do in terms of filmmaking, and it makes me cringe even more when I understand that he’s the only one in the world who can do it. No Anurag Kashyap, not Christopher Nolan, not your favorite director; there is genius in RGV that nobody else has, but it’s buried under the pile of shit which makes the guy feel he needs loud background music and ghaati songs and item numbers and unbearably annoying characters to make his movies punchy.
Ram Gopal Varma obviously doesn’t know what to do with just a good script, so somebody give him a tight screenplay along with it, please. But only after he comes back from a long holiday on which he gets to play to his content with his two favorite toys: his dick and his camera.