wogma rating: Watch if you have nothing better to do (?)

quick review:

The perennial "right vs. wrong" debate is put up against a new-sounding "Smartness vs 'an A-Rated word'". This complex debate soon becomes incomprehensible as characters become more and more ambiguous. Vague characters can be interesting but the experimentation with the camera is too distracting for anything else to be processed satisfactorily.

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Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Running time: 130 minutes
Genres: Politics
More Movie Info

You see a politician frustrated with the system so corrupt that it doesn't allow justice the way it should be. You see him find a solution. You see him set up a department to blatantly kill everyone they know to be guilty, without any heed to legality. You see the potential this story has to handle something so controversial. You hold off on a smirk when you see that this department will be called...."Department"! Except that you see all of this in the weirdest angles and camera positions imaginable. You want to call it imaginative and ambivalently end up wishing that no one had imagined it at all. Because the histrionics of the camera rob you of anything half-decent that the film potentially had.

It hurts to discredit someone for trying to be creative. But the fact remains that, that spurt of ingenuity didn't work one bit. And believe me, experience has taught me to brace myself, as I would in a roller coaster ride, when entering a RGV film - even the ones produced by him, let alone directed by the man himself. I'd have felt less annoyed if the non-standard camera work had a directorial purpose in terms of characters or situations that it's used for. But nothing of that sort happens. The coolness fact ends with, "I wonder where the camera is as this striker is moving about the carrom board or as this tea-pan is being taken to the cup for the tea to be strained." If there was something symbolic that I missed, it was not for want of trying.

Department is full of quirky characters and performances. And some of the characters are interesting too, mainly because they do carry a few shades of gray despite being in the business of killing people. But none of the grayness is taken further, you are just tempted into the den with it and left there in the darkness of a regular underworld story. The now boring nexus of business and crime called politics, crime and business of politics, and the politics and business in crime - now that's a RGV tweet in the making! That's what some of the dialogue in the film sounds like too - right out of the director's twitter timeline.

Yet, there are moments, especially with Amitabh Bachchan on screen where you feel like respite is coming your way. His character's (Sarjerao) enigma is charming right through the end. So much so that if that is what it is going to be about, I don't mind a Department 2,even if I'm bound to be disappointed. Sarjerao's quirkiness makes you laugh out loud. I actually waited with bated breath when it felt like he was going to advocate drinking alcohol, much in the 'daaru peene se liver kharaab...' vein. But alas, nothing of that epic sort happens, or even mini epics. Instead, you are left wondering what was the point of that scene.

And many, many more such scenes come and go that are disconnected with the film by itself. The rest is a criss-cross of crossers, double-crossers. Again the regular sort, nothing that you haven't seen earlier in a gangwar film.

There is one issue I've always had with use of child actors in violent films. Department has many violent chase sequences where children shown in passing. Not a child is bothered by the shooting going on, they continue to play on ball. Even if the intent is to show how we are desensitizing our children to violence, I can't help but shudder every time I see an actual child in a scene like that - made to act indifferent to the violence around him/her.

Irrespective of that, Department had the chance to make us see both sides of any solution that we choose for our degenerating systems. But, the makers chose to focus on camera gimmickry rather than build on the premise it chose. The stuff that you see in any underworld film are done to death, the new stuff makes you wish they hadn't tried and the things in between, they didn't explore to its fullest.

- meeta, a part of the audience

38 reviewers(?) - 0 yays 1 so-so 37 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

So-So, Buzz in Town : ...The world of "Department" is anarchic, destructive and apocalyptic. The narrative format imposed on the world of gangsterism is freewheeling almost chaotic.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anna M.M.Vetticad , annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...There’s nothing novel either in the content or the presentation of this latest underworld story from The House of Ramu.... full review

Thumbs down, by Pankit Narang, Apun Ka Choice : ...Department is the same old story about the connections between the underworld, politics and police!... full review

Thumbs down, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...The film never picks up in its first half and post intermission too it fails to enthrall the viewer with the same ‘seen before’ twists in the old tale revolving around the underworld, police and politicians nexus.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anjum Shabbir, Bolly Spice : ...the screenplay, characterisations, twists and turns do absolutely no justice to the concept. Not only that, a number of unwarranted songs and a surprisingly short running time, actually ruin the proceedings further.... full review

Thumbs down, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...DEPARTMENT is neither novel, nor experimental, but a return to the tried and tested formula. Disappointing! ... full review

Thumbs down, Daily Bhaskar : ...a well-intentioned concept remains half-baked, thanks to Ram Gopal Varma’s style of filmmaking.... full review

Thumbs down, Desi Martini : ...With a frequently fluctuating screenplay, weird camera handling, unconvincing performances and several technical glitches, RGV’s Department easily outdoes his 2007 box-office dud Aag. A must skip!... full review

Thumbs down, by Rony Dcosta, Desi Martini : ...The camera technique which the director claims is his usp stays almost still only during Nathalia Kaurs item number.... full review

Thumbs down, by Kshitij, Desi Martini : ... This one makes RGV ki Aag look like the Dark Knight.... full review

Thumbs down, by Ankur Pathak, Desi Martini : ...You'll go on a murderous spree after watching this nightmarish piece of nonsense posing as film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Blessy Chettiar, DNA : ...Save yourself the bother of wallowing in self-pity and hate. Stay at home.... full review

Thumbs down, by Deepa Deosthalee, Film Impressions : ...Department doesn't even have a story to tell. It's just a mishmash of crazy camera angles, endless fights and bombastic, sometimes downright vulgar dialogues loosely strung together.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...One of Mr Bachchan’s best performances in one of the worst films of the year... full review

Thumbs down, by Nupur Barua, Fully Hyderabad : ...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. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Shivi, Glamsham Editorial, : ...The camera angles are definitely innovative but instead of being an experimentation towards the narrative, they turn out to be the very narrative that only ends up killing that impact that could have been created. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Divya Solgama, : ...It’s a good opportunity lost for Ram Gopal Varma as he fails to score once again in a genre where he use to excel unfailingly year after year. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Anupama Chopra, Hindustan Times : ...Varma has described Department as "Quentin Tarantino meets Prabhudeva". I honestly couldn't find flashes of either. To me, it felt more like pedestrian Ram Gopal Varma... full review

Thumbs down, by Rajeev Masand, IBN Live : ...It's a lazy, indulgent film that tests your threshold for pain.... full review

Thumbs down, by Vivek Kumar, India Entertainment : ...The music is good and some fine shots of Mumbai have been captured in the camera, but a soul is desperately needed.... full review

Thumbs down, by Vinayak Chakravorty, india today : ...For an action film, the violence is badly photographed and looks dated.... full review

Thumbs down, indian express : ...Interesting idea that, if only his actors had something to talk about, and he something to say.... full review

Thumbs down, by Mrigank Dhaniwala , koimoi : ...Department is a below-average fare that will appeal only to a few audiences who will like the action, in spite of the ordinary script and the irritating narrative style.... full review

Thumbs down, by Udita Jhunjhunwala, Live Mint : ...Besides wasting resources and 132 minutes of your time, the terrible cinematography, flat lighting, loud and overdone background music (an assault on the senses) are more reasons for being unable to forgive Varma.... full review

Thumbs down, Movie Talkies : ...His latest is a criminal waste of actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Rana Daggubati, Abhimanyu Singh and Vijay Raaz. Even in the sheer visuals, RGV has lost his way, cinematography gone rogue in the name of 'rogue filmmaking'.... full review

Thumbs down, by Karan Anshuman, Mumbai Mirror : ...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.... full review

Thumbs down, NDTV : ...In Department, the characters share a far more intimate bonding with their guns than with their friends. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Mansha Rastogi, Now : ...Department can leave you with a massive migraine attack, watch his earlier oeuvres instead... full review

Thumbs down, by Raja Sen, Rediff : ...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... full review

Thumbs down, by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Reuters : ...tacky production values, a convoluted and weak script, and some scenes that could be straight out of a soft-porn flick... full review

Thumbs down, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...The film flits between being a bad video game and a sordid semi-porn film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Swati Rohatgi, STARDUST : ...The film has many sub-plots which fail to connect and despite being a linear film, the storytelling is so badly badgered by the wonky camera work that it fails to entice the audience.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sudhish Kamath, The Hindu : ...Department looks like it was shot with mobile phones by Snow White's seven friends during different stages of their drunken revelry. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Priyanka Roy, The Telegraph : is not only the camera work that leaves one nauseous. The content in Department is enough to make Varma’s recent films seem watchable in comparison... full review

Thumbs down, by Srijana Mitra Das, Times of India : ...Department, which should've been a taut, tense encounter between three strong men, is instead ripped to shreds by too many weak actors given puzzlingly large roles... full review

Thumbs down, by Karan Bali, Upper Stall : ...The story, looking at the nexus between the cops, underworld and politicians, doesn't have one original thing to say, the acting performances with some truly bizarre characterisations - no, not in a good way - are so god-awful... full review

Thumbs down, by Kunal Guha, yahoo! India : just seems like a desperate wet dream to surprise and shock which manages only to annoy and disgust. ... full review

Thumbs down, Zee News : ...‘Department’ as a movie overflows with good actors – only to see them waste their acting skills on a B-grade script.... full review

8 tweeters(?) - 2 yays 0 so-so 6 nays

pshreyasv: amitabh bachan is roking in department

PRIYASONI2385: watched "DEPARTMENT" was a nice movie ..!!!

thisismepratz: She doesnt knw hw to dance and fr expressions msking her sex face # rgv #department cant stoop lower!

sunyy7: #Department iz huge flop:it would be officially announced very soon!!!

rshankar_eeka: hows is #department? movie is blurry at times cos of the cameras and movie plot is also not that gripping

iamsleepysid: Watchin department wth @ganarajkhandige.. Pathetic cinematography due to rgv's craze for camera angles..

BHUPENDRA01: sanju baba what a bad movie department ...god wasted 3 hours...... @ @duttsanjay

BHARAT_NCVT: Department: nothing special, not need to waste time

1 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 0 nays

So-So, by B.H.Harsh

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

Mahadeo (Sanjay Dutt) is asked to setup a department called 'Department' to cleanse Mumbai of its mafia - no restrictions - Just point and shoot!

What Worked

  • The absolutely vulgar item number. It worked in creating the disgust it intended to create.
  • One shot, where there is a tight closeup of Vijay Raaz, Abhimany Singh and Madhu Shalini
  • The way the character, Gauri is handled.
  • Amitabh's analogy with Buddha.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • The first shot in slo-mo. Sets the tone.
  • The DVD print look which looked like it was being screened in the wrong aspect ratio - most likely because of the way the cameras were used.
  • Given the climax of the film, why would Mahadeo enroll Shiv (Rana Daggubati) in the 'Department' at all?
  • In one scene where members of the Department are scouring for a killer on the road, trying to identify him before he makes the kill, they discard one man because he is blind! Couldn't the assassin take on the look of a blind person!?
  • In the same scene, why was the phone slid into the victim's pocket?!
  • In the Yerwada blind school scene, how did Sanjay Dutt come through a window into a room in the school? In the shot before that he was in the school!
  • In the same scene, how come a gangster who was thrown on his back not get up while Sanjay Dutt is doing all the histrionics?
  • The bath-tub scene.
  • The shots where the camera is supposedly in the interior of a teacup/glass of water were outright hilarious!
  • Dance choreographers making an appearance in songs without any reason for them to be there.
  • Songs being in the film without any reason for them to be there.
  • The film being in the theater without....

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads and loads. And brutal and gory too.
  • Language: Lots of profanity.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A couple of suggestive scenes between a couple and loads of skin shows in songs.
  • Concept: The manipulation of the blurry line between right and wrong.
  • General Look and Feel: DVD-print-ish with lots of weird camera angles.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Department - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Running time:
130 minutes

Comments (1)

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@B H Harsh - ha ha ha... amazing. don't mean to put ourselves down but we aren't really unique :) Thanks!

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