Every time Ram Gopal Varma announces a new film, a light goes off in my head. It says, “This is going to bring down the aura around the cult of his debut feature, Siva.” That’s what I fear the most. And his latest release, Officer, just proved that right.
His collaborations with Akkineni Nagarjuna in the 90s were mind-blowing. Now, though, RGV is running like a horse on drugs. At a pre-release event, Nagarjuna said, “Siva gave you a break; it gave me Amala.” I thought it was sweet of him to say that. They exchanged praises, and their bonhomie was out there for everyone to see.
From the speech, it was evident that Nagarjuna was satisfied with the movie. And I am not. I’m not saying Nagarjuna and I should have the same opinions, but somewhere he should have asked RGV to tone down his manic experimental-style. If RGV’s camera were a real-life character, I’d have either bashed him up, or cut off all ties with him.
Officer is a story told in a straightforward manner. There are absolutely no twists and turns. The opening scene where Narayan Pasari (Anwar Khan) and his teammates torture three people in a semi-constructed high-rise is the only minor red herring you’ll be able to see in this crime film. And even that vanishes the moment they introduce themselves as cops.
Shivaji Rao (Nagarjuna) plays the head of the Special Investigation Team that’s been specifically formed to look into Pasari’s case. Pasari, however, is the cop who’s said to have single-handedly erased the underworld culture in India’s darling city, Mumbai. This nugget of information should have been used to create tension within the Mumbai Police Force. Only Sayaji Shinde, who plays a cop at the top-level, shows his displeasure, and, that, too, in a light-hearted manner. Everybody else just pays lip service – Pasari is a great man; he wouldn’t have killed those three men…
When filmmakers cast the right actors for their movies, they say that 50 per cent of their job is done. But RGV isn’t the director who agrees with that, for he ropes in a bunch of actors who can’t utter a phrase in Telugu. In fact, the opening credits run a scroll that mentions the reason why Telugu is being spoken by all and sundry in the film. Even that didn’t stop him from picking well-known faces in Telugu cinema. Half the time, it appears as if the viewer bought the ticket for a dubbed movie. And with an actor like Nagarjuna in the lead, it’s a colossal disappointment.
Nagarjuna looks sincere in every frame, and, when Prasad (Ajay) welcomes him in Mumbai with a compliment about his physique, it comes off as a comment on the actor. The thin line between Nagarjuna’s on-screen and off-screen avatars was slyly crossed and it was an enjoyable repartee. But since there’s no other redeeming factor for Officer, that scene gets lost in the sea of mediocre cesspool.
Amid the banal chaos, nevertheless, I found one place where RGV used his camera well. It’s an important segment involving Rao and Pasari. As soon as Rao learns the truth about Pasari, Rao plans to arrest him. But Pasari is a dangerous man, and Rao knows that well. So, he decides all the moves beforehand and asks Pasari if he could pay a visit to his office. Here, the invertebrate-nature of RGV’s filming technique captures Rao reaching for the gun and making a quick SOS call to his team members. Rao is ready to take down Pasari if push comes to shove. His gang is also keeping an eye on Pasari’s movements as the latter has two guns in his shoulder holster. It’s a tightly packed-scene wherein the slightest sigh in the movie hall would evoke irritation.
Elsewhere, the same camera-methods turn out to be useless. RGV should mainly concentrate on giving his stories some more shine, and not meddle with other departments of filmmaking.