Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Department: Mr Varma, please spare us the trauma
In my head, I always imagine Ram Gopal Varma, sitting in his office, legs up on the table, going through a checklist on the last day of a film shoot. Hyperactive camera angle – check. Lots of fake blood – check. Added some element of “Satya”, “Company” or “Sarkar” to the film – check. Leading ladies showing off cleavage – check.
How else do you explain a film like “Department”? That someone (Varma) thought they could make a film with such tacky production values, a convoluted and weak script, and some scenes that could be straight out of a soft-porn flick, and still convince a major studio to fund it and market it as a A-grade movie, is baffling.
The film is about two police officers (Sanjay Dutt and Rana Daggubati), who are asked to to set up a hit squad in order to “finish” the Mumbai underworld. Their target is the eccentric Savatiya (Vijay Raaz) and his gang.
Savatiya is also under attack from two of his own gang members — DK (Abhimanyu Singh) and his girlfriend (played by Madhu Shalini) — both of whom want Savatiya to retaliate against the police.
When powerful local politician Sarjerao Gaekwad (Amitabh Bachchan) enters the equation, both Shivnarayan (Daggubati) and Mahadev (Dutt) realise that things aren’t what they seem.
Varma uses liberal doses of plot lines from earlier films like “Sarkar” and “Satya”, but re-hashes them to such an extent that you might be forgiven for thinking “Department” is a spoof. He uses his trademark camera angles and ear-splitting background noise to create drama, but ends up making it caricaturish. There are times when you can see the film from the point of view of a tea pot, a newspaper and even the striker on the carrom board.
Given the look and feel of the film, you’d think the director had sleepwalked through the schedule. Characters, especially those of DK and his girlfriend are so over-the-top that they are more funny than scary, and except for Amitabh Bachchan, who seems to know what he’s doing, the rest of the cast resemble a deer caught in the headlights. At some point during the second half, you lose all sense of the plot, the characters’s motives and where the film is headed.
Varma also resorts to some really cheap imagery, especially in scenes with Madhu Shalini and Singh. One particular scene where Shalini sucks on an ice-cream while Singh rants about his ambitions, is enough to make most people cringe.
In one of the better scenes, Bachchan’s character talks about the time he has an epiphany at a crowded traffic intersection, causing him to give up the world of crime. Mr Varma, let this film be your epiphany. Please retire and spare us the trauma.