For a really long time, he has been attempting the kind of movies he aspires to make, with not much concern for the BO. The uneven response to his last few films at the ticket window hasn't shaken the confidence that viewers have in his abilities. His past few films were nowhere close to SHIVA, RANGEELA, SATYA, COMPANY, BHOOT, SARKAR, SARKAR RAJ and RAKTA CHARITRA-I, but regardless of the BO outcome, Ramgopal Varma is one film-maker who continues to make movies that he believes in.
Earlier, in NOT A LOVE STORY and now, in DEPARTMENT, RGV has dared to re-invent the cinematic language by changing the visual imagery. While the visual style is worth applauding and catches your eye instantly -- RGV has filmed in angles not witnessed before in Hindi films -- it's the erratic and inconsistent writing that bogs down DEPARTMENT.
No one illustrates the underbelly of crime on celluloid as persuasively as RGV. The issue with DEPARTMENT is *not* the beaten to death genre, but the screenplay that has nothing novel to offer. Encounter specialists, ruthless gangsters, inter-gang rivalry, corrupt politiciansâ€¦ haven't we had our fill already? One could never lay blame on RGV for taking the tried and tested route, opting for easy shortcuts while narrating a story. But, in DEPARTMENT, all you remember is style, while the substance goes for a toss.
Alarmed at the hitherto unseen escalation in underworld criminal activities, the government officials hold a secret meeting in which they take a decision to create a new unit which is unofficially referred to as 'Department'. This special task force is formed to clean up the muck caused by gangsters.
DEPARTMENT throws light on the power struggle that exists in the police department and one expects RGV to narrate a story we haven't heard or witnessed before. Sadly, the already exhausted genre curtails the maverick film-maker to spring surprises. To put it bluntly, DEPARTMENT is old wine packaged in a brand new bottle. Right from the characters, which we have witnessed in soooo many films of this genre, to the twists and turns in the story, RGV borrows from the past endeavors, instead of moving frontward. Besides, in an attempt to make it more mass-friendly, more 'commercial', RGV forcibly injects a couple of songs in the narrative [barring 'Cheeni', filmed on an alluring Nathalia Kaur] that are completely unwelcome in an enterprise that's out to depict realism.
DEPARTMENT is soaked in high-voltage drama and action, with a consistent undercurrent of tension. As a matter of fact, there's an overdose of action in the film, though, I must admit, a few action pieces, especially the final showdown between Sanju and Rana, is deftly executed. But the absence of a riveting and absorbing screenplay looms large in the post-interval portions. Sure, some sequences do hit you hard, but the writing tilts heavily towards been-there-seen-that kind of situations persistently, promising little or no surprise as the plot unravels. RGV's obsession with the camera is evident here as well. He does away with the usual visual language this time, which is sure to win him admirers. The background score [Dharam-Sandeep] enhances the impact, while the dialogue are power-packed at times, but plain mediocre at places.
The central characters get extensive scope and absolutely surrender to RGV's vision. Amitabh Bachchan is remarkably credible. Sanjay Dutt stands out with a prominent performance. But it is Rana Dagubatti who surfaces as an accomplished actor. Rana has remarkable screen charisma and is convincing in his superior portrayal of a cop.
Vijay Raaz's character lacks meat. Abhimanyu Singh enacts his part with gusto. Madhu Shalini [Abhimanyu's love interest] catches your eye. Laxmi Manchu [Sanju's wife] is proficient. Anjana Sukhani underplays her part wonderfully. Deepak Tijori doesn't get much scope.
On the whole, DEPARTMENT is neither novel, nor experimental, but a return to the tried and tested formula. Disappointing!