A few years ago, when we were still recovering from movies like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja and other similar assault to our senses, a young man, taking inspiration from Sridevi and the existent kitsch in our culture, gave us Rangeela. And the face of Hindi movies changed forever.
This young man went on to deliver commercially intellectual movies, such as Satya and Company
, and the audience loved him. Then, almost as suddenly as he appeared on the scene of the Indian film industry, he lost it. This now older man, Ram Gopal Varma, became defiant about his talent, and threw us duds like Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag
, expecting us to swoon. When that did not work, he turned to bizarre camera movements, and began to do exactly what he rebelled against - assaulting the sensibilities and senses of the audience.
Most of his recent movies are made for those who are masochistic enough to self-induce motion sickness. The camera does not stop moving, and travels all over the scene, never settling, even for a second, on the subject. This is the RGV technique, and it includes upside-down frames, and long sequences in which the dialogue cannot be heard.
Department is just another example of Ram Gopal Varma's eccentric movie-making modus operandi, and the least you can expect out of it is a headache.
Let us then concentrate on the story, because RGV is known also for his realistic portrayals, or so it is said. A young police officer, Shiv Narayan (Rana Daggubati) is suspended because he is diligent. Gang wars and criminal activities are at a peak in the city of Mumbai, and the police force is at a loss. The powers that be decide to create a new unit which they term "Department", and put senior police officer Mahadev Bhosale (Sanjay Dutt) in charge.
Bhosale recruits the patriotic Shiv and a few other dedicated officers, including Dhanajee (Dipak Tijori), and together, all of them almost wipe out Sawatya's (Vijay Raaz) gang. Two members of Sawatya's gang - a couple actually - DK (Abhimanyu Singh) and Nasir (Madhu Shalini), upset with their leader's inability to put an end to the mess, revolt.
In the meantime, Shiv becomes like a prodigal son to the right wing politician, Sarjerao Gaikwad (Amitabh Bachchan), and Bhosale has problems with that. The two officers promise not to let these outside factors disrupt their personal equation, but with increasing complications, they may not be able to keep their word after all.
Rana Daggubati, with his Hyderabadi-accented Hindi, is a star. The action sequences demand a lot from him, and he delivers. He plays an ordinary man, who has a conscience, and who believes in honesty.
Sanjay Dutt, despite his bulk, shines in some of the action sequences. Abhimanyu Singh, trying his best to speak in a Mumbaiya dialect, and Madhu Shalini are plain ridiculous. The director seems to be inspired by Natural Born Killers, but these are definitely not Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.
And, as usual, it is Amitabh Bachchan who stands out with his performance (reminiscent of his role in Sarkar
). He does not ham, and spouts outlandish dialogues with such ease that you forget, for a moment, that he is not making sense.
In fact, it is the dialogue in the movie that kills the spirit. That, and Madhu Shalini calling Abhimanyu Singh "Baby" (pronounced "Bebe"). The story meanders for a while before coming to the point, and some sequences are abrupt and unnecessary, like the one in which Shiv's girlfriend thanks him for introducing her to the Bhosales.
With one and a half hours of endless camera movement and meaningless sub-plots before intermission, Department can irritate and agitate you. The script is interesting, but its execution can drive you crazy.
Be warned - Department is not for the restless, or the depressed and suicidal, and definitely not for the weak-hearted. If the item number that features RGV's latest muse, Nathalia Kaur, is your reason for buying a ticket, be prepared to be disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you are masochistic, by all means watch the movie. We recommend a DVD of either Rangeela or Satya as an alternative, or, for the action buff, Siva (the one that stars Nagarjuna, not Mohit Chauhan).