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Department review: An assault from start to finish

Movie:
Department
Director:
Ram Gopal Varma
Cast:
Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Laxmi Manchu, Rana Daggubati, Naseeruddin Shah, Nathalia Kaur
Avg user rating:
The film starts with a dreary quote ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Unsurprisingly, this quote does not hold any resonance with the story.

As the film progressed, the one comment one heard unanimously was: “Ram Gopal Varma has lost it”. While it may seem rude and harsh, the fact remains that these are voices of fans that have loved and respected his earlier work.

When you can size up a film as a melange of extreme violence and crudity, you worry after the person behind such a sick product.

Let’s start with the violence. You have people being murdered in the most grotesque ways – a man chased and killed by gunmen on a beach in front of his kids, criminals holding blind kids hostage and killing them, a cop who puts a bullet through someone’s mouth so we see blood splattered on the wall, and so on.

Ram Gopal Varma’s unhealthy portrayal of women is worth analyzing. He honestly can’t have a woman on screen and not sexualize her in the most sordid manner (unless she’s the homemaker laying the table for her husband). So you have a close-up of a female gang-member’s lips as she sips water. Semi-nude women dance around in the bar, while the men talk business.

The item number crosses the usual vulgarity limits. Varma has been salivating over the dancer Nathalia Kaur in interviews and over twitter. The girl (a law-grad and model) is made to do lewd dance moves while several male hands hold up her semi-clad body. This kind of open abuse, where the girl is not allowed to keep a shred of dignity in the name of getting a break, is really hard to watch.

Honestly, there’s not a ray of sunshine in RGV’s nauseating vision. If you still want the story, it’s the regular good cop-bad cop drone. Sanjay Dutt (tired and out-of-shape) returns as cop who’s too cool to wear a uniform. He’s opening a department to initiate encounters against the underworld and recruits young blood Shiv Narayan (Rana Daggubati, intermittently charming).

Now, after a hundred gruesome murders, the film becomes somewhat interesting with the introduction of gangster-turned politico Sarjerao (Amitabh Bachchan, dependably awesome). Now, it turns out one of the cops in the department has, in fact, been working for the underworld. And then we are left to decipher who is doing the illegal work legally, and the legal work illegally. Bah, let it be, I am just making it sound more interesting than it is.  

The cast consists of solid talent—from Amitabh Bachchan to Vijay Raaz to Abhimanyu Singh – but their earnestness can’t save the film.

There are several scenes that are unintentionally humorous. The one where we see the cops enter a club “in disguise” with a leather jacket (Sanjay Dutt)  and a head scarf (Rana Duggabatti). Or the scene where Rana’s character is meeting the girlfriend’s parents, and on asked about his job as an encounter specialist, shoots back, “Main apna kaam dil se karta hoon” with a straight face.

The other source for humour is the camerawork. As if handed over to over-excited toddlers, the camera just never stops moving. You have insipid scenes where a couple is conversing, and the camera swooshes around them continuously. Or, a shot that’s essentially the POV (point of view) of a carom-board striker.

The film flits between being a bad video game and a sordid semi-porn film. Get a ticket for someone you hate. It’s an assault throughout.

Rating: Half a star

 

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