Reviewing the Reviews: Department

21 May,2012


Directed by-Ram Gopal Varma

Produced by-Siddhant Oberoi, Amit Sharma

Written by-Nilesh Girkar

Starring-Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Rana Daggubati, Madhu Shalini, Lakshmi Manchu


Ram Gopal Varma doesn’t care about critics (he doesn’t care about audiences either!) or he would have spent a very depressing weekend, as his latest film Department is shredded into small pieces.  The lowest rating ½ , the highest 2.


One opinion is that this film is even worse than Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag.  It certainly is a toss up between the two to decide which one is more crass.


Janhavi Samant of Mid-day gave it ½ star and wrote: “It doesn’t matter what the plot is, Sawatya has an endless supply of gang members who take till the end of the film to perish. And there is some random gyaan about Bhagvad Gita. At some point Mr Bachchan enters the fray to do some spectacular hamming of his own, showing his penchant for doing ‘legal things illegally’ rather than ‘illegal things legally.’ Really Ramu, did you have to say that thrice in the film?”


One star from‘s Raja Sen, who calls it a failed experiment: “Varma, predictably, has fun with a couple of quirky lines – especially one that blatantly introduces Nathalia Kaur’s item number, a cameltoe-y milestone for Bollywood – and a scene with the camera mounted on the striker on a carrom-board is genuinely imaginative, but Department is an utter waste. The director who showed us how to film violence is now sucking basic action scenes of their dynamism, leaving them dry and dead, but filming his movie’s carcass from multiple angles. Tragically enough, Satya and Shiva are just names of characters for the new Ramu.”


DNA’s Aakanksha Naval-Shetye and Chhaya Unnikrishnan moved up to 1.5: “Dizzying shots, bizarre camera angles and a confusing storyline mark Ram Gopal Varma’s cop and underworld drama, Department. With Varma returning to his forte, (read underworld), one expected a gritty drama but what unfolds is a saga of gory violence and crass scenes.”


Rajeev Masand gave it 1.5 too and wrote: “Small cameras positioned at odd places, indulges his quirk for gravity-defying angles. It works occasionally in the action scenes that appear more visceral now, but for the most part the bizarre camera movements give you a headache. Just shy of two hours and thirty minutes, ‘Department’ is tedious and boring and doesn’t have any of the originality of ‘Satya’ and ‘Company’, or even the occasional tension of ‘Sarkar’. Dutt delivers his lines like he’s reading out the phone book, and Bachchan hams it up no end as the gangster-turned-minister. It’s only Rana Dagubatti who approaches the film with any earnestness whatsoever… It’s a lazy, indulgent film that tests your threshold for pain.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror went with 1.5 too: “No matter what format a film is shot on, no matter what technique – whether it’s of conventional genre or found footage or experimental Dogme 95 – the gimmick is only a means to an end (a broad view of the end being audience engagement at a story level). With RGV, now the end is simply a different visual experience that does nothing to draw you in. So many times you’re missing dialogue and performances because the camera is overwhelmingly, utterly distracting. This would be acceptable if the visuals were any good, but they are not.”


Anupama Chopra was kinder with 2 stars: “Varma has mined this material before, from Satya to Ab Tak Chhappan, which he produced, so he decided to embellish this film with a new technique that he calls “rogue filmmaking.” Which means he chose student camera operators and high-end digital cameras over a cinematographer and film camera. Which further means that strange camera angles, a regular feature of Varma’s films, are now the main event.”


From the Times of India, 2 stars is a massive put down. Sriranjana Mitra Das wrote: “The violence might even have clicked, considering the tale’s twists – but crazy camerawork makes you forget all that. Varma’s experimented, placing multiple cameras at different angles, treating you to close-ups of bottles pressed to mouths, lips sucking cigarettes, zooms up Dutt’s hairline. The camera even flips upside down, puncturing the tension that should’ve vibrated between Bachchan and Dutt. One line – “Chamatkaar ko namaskar” – nails it. You stagger out sensing something wasted – Nathalia Kaur’s item number’s more hideous than hot, the prettiest thing around is a translucent tea-cup, the action is mind-numbing. Losing the plot and three strong stars, Department shoots itself in the foot.”


The Zee News critics commented: “Watch ‘Department’ if you have been missing your headaches for a long time. Watch ‘Department’ to see the way in which brilliant actors can be wrung dry and left skill-less. And above all, watch ‘Department’ if you are an ardent Ram Gopal Varma fan. And then leave the theatre cursing yourself for watching this brilliantly crafted piece of – well, by now – you know what.”


The Business of Cinema reviewers are brutal too: “The film opens with the line ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, but Ram Gopal Varma’s action film frustrates absolutely. Not only is the story old wine in cracked bottles but also it’s shot with camera angles that make you nauseous and dizzy while leaving you wondering what Varma and his cameraman were thinking.”


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