For the first time in his career, in Ram Gopal Varma’s Department, Amitabh Bachchan worked on a film without a director of photography. Department was shot in 80 days by six 20-year-old students of still photography and visual effects, who had never stepped onto a set.
The film has no heads of departments either. The camera, editing and art departments functioned without experienced leaders. “People approach filmmaking as a point of view. I embraced randomness,” says RGV.
He calls this the ‘rogue’ style of filmmaking and says he had to “prepare Amitabh mentally” to shoot without a proper camera. He says, “Amitabh has been used to reacting to a camera. When I said there would be no cameras, he was a little perturbed and disoriented, but he caught on to it.” According to the director the Canon 5D cameras the students used have that effect on actors. He adds, “It freed Amitabh of constraints. It changed his performance tone also.”
The cop drama revolves around the formation of a special unit to tackle an extreme crime situation. The film focuses on the relationships between the people in that department. And RGV insists it’s different from his earlier gangster-cop films. “Unlike Satya (1998) and Company (2002), which had a single dark tone, this is a formulaic film. It’s Quentin Tarantino meets Prabhudeva. It is full of dialogue and larger-than-life characters. That’s why this method of shooting works for the film.”
RGV and Big B
I have great respect for him. But I’m very professional. When I have a story, I narrate it to him. If he reacts to it, he normally ends up doing it. There is nothing more to it.
Aag flopped and there was a backlash. Why does he still work with you?
He knows the passion with which I made that film. He knows I wasn’t careless, which is what people thought. He knows why the film finally looked like it did. So he is tolerant.