Department: The sad demise of Ram Gopal Varma

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you about the demise of ‘The’ Ram Gopal Varma. The maverick, visionary, straight-talking and gutsy film maker who gave the world such absolute brilliances as Satya, Rangeela, Company and Sarkar has passed away. A lot of people say this was long expected and Ram Gopal Varma had been slipping into darkness slowly but surely. Nonetheless, he will be missed by fans across the world.

Unfortunately it seems that currently his place has been taken by an alternate version of RGV who seems to consider himself above all mortal and immortal beings, lacks any sense of humility and interpersonal skills and believes some rogue technological experimentation and cheap parlor tricks are sufficient to make a movie – even if there’s absolutely no story that this technology can tell to the audience. This RGV said before the release of his recent venture, Department, that a story might fail, but technology never fails. And that, ladies and gentlemen, could very well be the one-line review of the movie – only, for Department, the technology fails as well.

When I went to watch the movie, the guy at the box office somberly warned me that the ticket is non-refundable. And then he added, “under any circumstances”. That should have been enough hint for me to reconsider my decision to watch Department. But of course, that didn’t happen. What followed was a 2 and a half hour of C grade horrendous-ness that I can only describe as a Rakhi Sawant item number. Let me try and break it down for you –

Technology: The “Rogue Methodology” RGV so incessantly promoted is basically him doing away with a standard ‘Director of photography’ and handing over all the camera work to photography students using high end digital cameras. These cameras have been fixed to absolute random items on the set and is supposed to give the audience a voyeuristic view to the proceedings. What it effectively ends up doing is make the viewer nauseous within the first few minutes of the start of the movie. Sometime it is obvious that he’s overdoing it all. What visual satisfaction any viewer will get out of watching the close up of a woman’s crotch while she scratches it nonchalantly is beyond me.

Actors & Characters: It makes sense for Rana Daggubati to be in the movie. Its his first mainstream Hindi movie under a supposedly impressive banner. And he plays his part rather earnestly. Only, the character betrays the actor. RGV seems to suggest that Shiv Narayan, Rana’s character, has some genetic condition that does not let his stubble ever be less than 2 days old. Amitabh Bachchan probably couldn’t or didn’t want to say no to RGV. He is his usual best. Vijay Raaz is another misfit in the movie. He tries to put a brave face and play his part from the heart, but mid-way it looks like he’s given up too. All other roles in the movie could very well have been played by C grade Bhojpuri actors and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Sanjay Dutt included. His character speaks in the same monotone with the criminals, his colleagues and even his wife and kid. Deepak Tijori looks dehydrated behind his handlebar moustache.

Story, Dialogue & the rest: The dialogues and songs are so badly written, you seem to wonder if there is certain level of imbecility a person needs to attain in order to get RGV’s approval. The story – well honestly, you are trying so hard to make sense of all the camera movement and close-ups that you tend to lose track of what the story is and where it is headed, not that there is much to it. Basically it is the usual cop-hunt-criminals story and nothing more. A ‘Department’ is set up outside the purview of what is termed strictly legal and is supposed to work secretly to take down the criminals. But that is on day 1 of its formation. On day 2, they are on the front page of every newspaper. Police officers chase criminals, guns blazing, through residential areas and give no second thought to the children who are obviously in the line of fire. In one scene, Mahadev Bhosle (Sanjay Dutt) tells Shiv that they have to go to a club “bhes badalke” (in disguise). Their definition of disguise – Sanjay Dutt in a leather jacket, Rana Daggubati wearing a bandanna.

I could go on and on, but much like the writer of the movie, it’ll be useless.

This RGV, with movies like Not a Love Story, Aag and now Department has made a strong place for himself in a group that consists the likes of Sajid Khan, Anubhav Sinha and Anees Bazmee.

Rating: 1.5/10 – We will miss Ram Gopal Varma

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An alternate ending – Ishaqzaade

For those of you who didn’t like the way the story ended, here’s an alternate version. Let us know what you think.

Ishaqzaade – Old wine. Old bottle. New ad campaign.

Howard Hawks, the legendary director of classic Hollywood era, famously said that a good film is just ‘three great scenes, no bad ones‘. Ishaqzaade, directed by Habib Faisal, manages to satisfy the first condition quite well but falters badly on the second one.

Ishaqzaade is set in a quaint little fictional town of Almore (pronounced as Al-More and not Al-Morey) in Uttar Pradesh. In most of the scenes, one gets a feeling that Almore is more like a ghost town specifically designed for two warring political factions, the Chauhans and the Qureshis, who are perennially indulging in gun fights over matters as small as diesel supply and as inconsequential as the local prostitute Chand Baby (Gauhar Khan, impressive). Parma (Arjun Kapoor, a cross between Abhishek Bachchan and Sushant Singh, only in looks) is the grandson of the Surya Chauhan (the ruling patriarch of Chauhan dynasty) whereas Zoya (Parineeti Chopra, brilliant) is the daughter of Aftab Qureshi. Both are oddballs who have fought each other tooth, nail and bullets since childhood. Then? Well, then love happens in the times of elections. That is if you are willing to take the risk of calling it love. The first half is breezy and establishes the lead characters pretty well (which is quite easy considering the fact that they are uni-dimensional). The second half…. hmm… the second half is so bad that one wonders if the first half needed to be so good in the first place. Ishaqzaade might go down in history as one of the very few movies where the brilliance of the first half contributed more towards the films overall failure than the dullness of the second half.

Habib Faisal came into this project with a lot of expectations riding on his shoulders. And the strain is evident. He is the one who gave a beautiful little take on middle class Delhi with his Do Dooni Char and wrote the as-real-as-it-gets dialogues for Yash Raj films’ Band, Baaja, Barat. In Ishaqzaade, he tries hard to give a new take on an old tale. He tries too hard. There is nothing new in the story except the inclusion of inter-religious love angle. Mind you, any resemblance to honour killing is inadvertent and purely coincidental. The dialogues, script and direction of the first half is really good, and all the three departments are equally bad in the second half. It seems as if the movie was directed by two different people altogether.

Arjun Kapoor, son of Boney Kapoor, puts in an earnest effort in his first outing. But the character of Parma has absolutely no redeeming traits and is least bit likeable even till the end. One just hopes that he is not another Ranveer Singh in the making. Parineeti Chopra, Priyanka Chopra’s cousin, puts in a brave and commendable performance in her second outing after Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. But here she is completely let down by a character that just cant make up her mind. Is she is a no-nonsense, gun totting tomboy or a weeping and hapless damsel in distress? No one, I repeat, not a single actor in the supporting cast leaves any lasting impressions. Gauhar Khan is an exception but her performance is more enjoyable than memorable.

Like all Yash Raj ventures, Ishaqzaade boasts of great production quality and equally great marketing muscle. Hemant Chaturvedi‘s cinematography is just perfect for such a movie. Amit Trivedi‘s music is par-excellence. Specially the songs ‘Ishaqzaade’ and ‘Pareshan’. Rekha & Chinni Prakash do a good job in the choreography department. A comparison of the Ishaqzaade’s promos and actual film makes me want to give an advice to the honchos at Yash Raj. Why don’t you let the guy who cuts your promos, make the next film itself?

Ishaqzaade treads in the valley of the giants like ‘Ek Duuje Ke liye‘ and ‘Qayamat se Qayamat Tak‘. A journey that becomes fatal because Ishaqzaade lacks three things that these giants had. A story that holds itself together till the very end, a wonderful supporting cast and a lead pair who you genuinely feel for.

Rating: 3/10, one for Parineeti, one for Hemant Chaturvedi and one for Amit Trivedi

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