Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, which recently completed 100 days in theatres, is already (in)famous as the most controversial movie of recent times. This is firstly due to the filmmaker’s decision to telecast its premiere on the DTH platform even before its theatrical release, the second reason being its plot (showing Muslims as terrorists).
It took a while for the legendary actor to sort these issues out and release the movie. When Kamal mentioned that he had pledged all his assets to make this visionary movie, he gained a sympathy wave and its piracy is reportedly low. All these factors facilitated a good box office opening. Trade reports confirm that the producer has made a profit on the film. By removing scenes and muting dialogues that hurt the sentiments of a section of the public, one could say that he cares for all members of society, but he had no choice if he wanted the film released in Tamil Nadu. Kudos to Kamal for this success! So, is Vishwaroopam worth the hype? Let’s review it.
Vishwaroopam is about Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri alias Vishwanath, a RAW agent disguised as a Jihadi trainer. Considered a traitor by the government, he joins the Al-Qaeda movement in Afghanistan headed by Omar (Rahul Bose) under the leadership of Nasser (Nasser). During a rescue operation, Wisam is instrumental in the deaths of Omar’s family members and many others, including Nasser. Omar seeks revenge.
Wisam now lives in New York as Vishwanath aka Viz, an effeminate kathak dancer married to Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) who is on the verge of committing adultery with her boss. The said boss is acquainted with Omar’s group of terrorists. Soon, realizing that Wisam now calls himself Vishwanath, Omar’s gang attempts to kill Wisam and Nirupama in a warehouse but the couple escape.
With the assistance of Colonel Jagannath (Shekhar Kapur), Ashmitha (Andrea Jeremiah) and Dawkins (Miles Anderson), Viz and Nirupama (now aware of Viz’s real identity) help the US government by aborting Omar and Salim’s (Jaideep Ahlawat) plan to cause terror in New York with Abbasi, a Nigerian suicide bomber detonating a Cesium bomb. The movie ends with Omar and Salim escaping in a private jet plane and Wizam revealing to his team (and the audience) that his mission will finally end only when any one of them falls. The end credits hint about a sequel in which Wizam will visit India.
The plot is fresh as far as Tamil Cinema is concerned. Yes, there have been movies by Vijayakanth and Arjun featuring patriots who fight terrorists and save the country from chaos. But in Vishwaroopam, Kamal Haasan takes the issue to a global scale by saving the world from the evil plans of Al-Qaeda. Giving the movie an international feel is noteworthy and a matter of pride. We remember Kamal’s Vikram, released in the late eighties in the James Bond genre, but there are very few Tamil films that followed its footsteps. Kamal’s movies have always been ahead of time. Though many of his efforts have not received the appreciation they deserved, Vishwaroopam proves that Kamal has mastered the art of delivering commercial cinema while fulfilling his desire to take the industry one step nearer to international standards.
Three cheers for director Kamal Haasan for thinking big and setting this espionage story outside India, thereby making it much more interesting. Though it is about Al-Qaeda and the efforts of a RAW agent (who is also a devout Muslim) to fight global terrorism, the screenplay and dialogues are clear enough for the audience to understand and connect with. As in Dasavatharam, the message is clear: The hero is trying to save the world, this time New York.
Unlike villains of earlier spy thrillers in Indian Cinema, Vishwaroopam concentrates on character development. Kamal deserves appreciation for choosing to unveil the entire flashback in bits. The screenplay works this way; the viewer remains curious to know more about Wisam and Omar’s relationship, which adds a personal angle of vengeance. The execution of the Afghan sequences establishes the credibility of the characters and their potential to save or destroy the nation and its people.
Though it moves like a documentary on the life of the Jihadis at times, the action sequences and twists retain one’s interest and maintain the pace. The global terrorism story is treated aptly with appropriate editing by Mahesh Narayanan. Cinematography by Sanu Varghese receives ample support from the visual effects team and the Afghans portrayed look realistic. Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is never loud or distracting. The art direction deserves a big applause. No wonder the movie has won National Awards for choreography (Birju Maharaj for ‘Unnai Kanaadhu Naan’) and art direction (Lalgudi N. Ilayaraja and Boontawee ‘Thor’ Taweepasas).
Vishwaroopam differs from “regular” Indian masala spy thrillers and cop stories (in which the protagonist does everything single-handed to save the world). Here, even his wife does her bit in saving the world as a research specialist in nuclear oncology (though she calls it a marriage of convenience). This team effort could only happen in a Kamal movie!
The promise of a sequel is interesting. We may have preferred Kamal to erase Omar in the climax, but we need to see Vishwaroopam 2 to comment on his decision to let Omar go. There could not be a better antagonist than Omar; Rahul Bose is excellent and we can look forward to more of his villainy in the sequel.
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