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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Critics Review: Vishwaroop is an interesting thriller

Hindustantimes.com   February 01, 2013
First Published: 12:46 IST(1/2/2013) | Last Updated: 14:18 IST(1/2/2013)

Film: Vishwaroop
Cast: Kamal Haasan, Rahul Bose, Pooja Kumar, Upendra, Andrea Jeremiah, Jaideep Ahlawat, Shekhar Kapur
Director: Kamal Haasan
Produced: Raaj Kamal Films International, Chandra Haasan, Kamal Haasan
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lyrics: Kamal Haasan,Javed Akhtar (for the Hindi version) 

Plot: America, 2012. A marriage of convenience. Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) and Vishwanath alias Wiz [Kamal Haasan], a Kathak teacher, get married. All is fine till Nirupama aspires for more and wants to opt out of the arranged marriage. She cannot cite any specific reason to leave Wiz as there is nothing much to complain about him. Every male, according to Nirupama, must have a flaw. So she decides to find out something about him to feel better about her decision to part. She hires a detective to rake up something on him. Wires get cross-connected and all hell breaks loose. 



Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama
Terrorism is no longer confined to a particular province, district or state. It's a worldwide concern, affecting every nation in some way or the other. Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroop, therefore, is pertinent. This time around, the legendary actor helms a genre that's very Hollywoodish and -- here's good news -- he pulls it off quite well.

Attempting a nail-biting thriller can be tough. Scores of films have traversed the path in the past. However, Kamal Haasan shuns the tried and tested, humdrum stuff and comes up with a fare that prides itself of mesmerizing action, stunts and combat scenes and marries form [technique] and content [drama] to the delight of the spectators. The film is not without its share of hiccups -- it's way too lengthy and the second half is sketchy -- but the effort is laudable, nonetheless. 

America, 2012. A marriage of convenience. Vishwanath alias Wiz [Kamal Haasan], a Kathak exponent, and Nirupama [Pooja Kumar] get married. All is fine till Nirupama aspires for more and wants to opt out of the arranged marriage. She cannot cite any specific reason to leave Wiz as there is nothing much to complain about him. Every male, according to Nirupama, must have a flaw. So she decides to find out something about him to feel better about her decision to part. She hires a detective to rake up something on him. Wires get cross-connected and all hell breaks loose.

Vishwaroop starts off with gusto and Kamal Haasan ensures there's hardly any dull moment in the first hour. The transformation from a graceful dance teacher to an agent as well as the back story involving the jihadis are proficiently amalgamated in the screenplay and executed by the storyteller, with the swift pacing and brisk unfolding of events/episodes acting as a cherry on the cake. The combat scenes, in fact, are the mainstay of the enterprise, with Kamal Haasan going all out -- as an actor as well as the director -- to make it appear real on the big screen.

But the post-interval portions lose focus. The writing isn't persuasive in this hour, especially towards the middle of the second hour and even otherwise, the narrative seems prolonged towards the concluding stages (it's an open end, with Kamal Haasan declaring his ambitious plans for a sequel). Besides, the resolution could've been far more dramatic and convincing. It isn't!

Hollywood often illustrates the jihadis in a typical style and Kamal Haasan uses this template in Vishwaroop as well. The ill-advised Afghanis and their cry for war against America seem straight out of a western flick. These sequences, coupled with the action stuff, keep you thoroughly involved. Like I pointed out earlier, the execution of several action/combat scenes is exemplary.

There's no scope for the usual song and dance routine here, but the background score works well. Additionally, the movie gets brownie points in the technical department, right from shot designing to cinematography to the sound design. Also, Kamal Haasan and his art department deserve a pat for zeroing on some stunning locales.

Kamal Haasan has portrayed a wide variety of characters in his illustrious career and when you look back on his body of work, this act in Vishwaroop is sure merit a spot amongst his finest works. He is incredible in the dance sequence at the very commencement of the film and changes colors like a chameleon as he takes to the death-defying stunts with passion. It won't be erroneous to state that Kamal Haasan's towering performance is one of the prime reasons why Vishwaroop stands tall.

The film has an array of talented actors and each of them enact their parts with graceful ease. Rahul Bose is in top form. Why don't we see this talented actor in more movies? Jaideep Ahlawat is an amazing talent and I am very sure, we will hear more of him in the future. Shekhar Kapur returns to the big screen in a charming cameo. Nasser gets into the skin of the character with gusto. Both Pooja Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah are adequate.

On the whole, Vishwaroop is a Kamal Haasan show all the way. It has an interesting premise, superb combat scenes and Kamal Haasan's bravura act as its three aces. But a stretched second hour and far from dramatic finale dilute the impact. Yet, all said and done, those with an appetite for well-made thrillers might relish this effort!
Rating: ***





NANDINI RAMNATH, Livemint.com

The world is not enough
The man can sing, he can dance, he can speak several languages, he can punch several men to death at the same time, he can train jihadis, he can give American intelligence a run for its money, and he can save the world from nuclear annihilation. Kamal Haasan is a self-declared atheist in real life, but on the screen, he is no less than the Almighty. Vishwaroop, the Hindi version of Vishwaroopam, is a showcase for Haasan’s wide-ranging skills with both microwaves and machine guns. He plays a Research and Analysis Wing agent who is pretending to be an effeminate kathak dancer in New York City. His code name is Vishwanath, but his real name is Wisam—it unscrambles as swami, or master.

Wisam is a “good Muslim” who stakes his life on smashing the bad eggs in his community, of whom there are more in this movie than in Guantanamo Bay. Wisam’s mission is to prevent Al Qaeda operative Omar, a one-eyed jihadi with a voice hoarser than Marlon Brando’s Italian mafioso, from dropping a dirty bomb on NYC. The two men go back some way—a few years ago, Wisam had gone undercover as a jihadi and trained Omar and his cohorts in Afghanistan. Wisam even manages to see Osama Bin Laden, but is unable to get his hands on the terrorist. For that story, turn to Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, opening in India by mid-February.

Vishwaroop’s story is preposterous at the best of times, but it is directed with one hundred percent conviction. Haasan attempts to match the scale and impact of similar terrorism-themed Hollywood films, and he orchestrates several taut and gripping action sequences—the Afghanistan set pieces are especially effective and a good showcase for cinematographer Sanu John Varughese’s skills.

The controversy that has dogged the Tamil version since its release on 25 January can also be traced back to the Afghanistan sequences. A bunch of Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu, aided by the TN government, have succeeded in blowing the film out of the cinemas. One isn’t sure how many of them watched the movie before clamouring for a ban, but they might have been reacting to the repeated, and redundant, shots of the terrorists praying and yelling “Allah hu Akbar” at the drop of a hat. Haasan blows a bazooka-sized hole through political correctness in his depictions of the Islamist terrorists as despicable creatures, but he can be accused at best of poor judgement rather than evil intent. The ending suggests a sequel, and a second movie will be cheered on by “We-told-you-so” screaming government spooks and national security wonks. The movie most definitely doesn’t need to be banned, but it can be panned. At two hours and 28 minutes, it’s too long, unnecessarily replays scenes for effect, and slackens every time its characters stop smashing things or wielding weapons.

Haasan focuses so intently on the action that he lets himself be overshadowed by the other actors. Rahul Bose is deliciously hammy as the one-eyed Omar, clearly modelled on the Afghan jihadi Mullah Omar. Jaideep Ahlawat is in fine fettle as Omar’s henchman, while a weary looking Shekhar Kapur pops up as Wisam’s boss. Puja Kumar, who plays Wisam’s wife Nirupama, is also in good form as the initially clueless wife who later comes into her own. She happens to hold a doctorate in nuclear oncology. Who said that Wisam is the only multi-tasker on the set?

Haasan’s motivation to make the movie seems to have been to prove that he too can direct an action scene or two and tell the Federal Bureau of Investigation how to do its job. His curriculum vitae is healthy enough. Thanks to the needless controversy over the Tamil version of his movie, he can add agent provocateur to his list of achievements.
Verdict: The movie most definitely doesn’t need to be banned, but it can be panned. At two hours and 28 minutes, it’s too long, unnecessarily replays scenes for effect, and slackens every time its characters stop smashing things or wielding weapons.




Deccan Herald
First things first. Kamal Haasan's enormously controversial film doesn't hurt Muslim sentiments. In fact, it doesn't hurt the sentiments of any section of the people except those party-poopers who think having a ball at the movies went out of style with Sholay and Chachi 420.

Leave aside its sobering take on global warfare, Vishwaroop, the Hindi version of the Tamil, Telugu Vishwaroopam, is one helluva entertainer. If you've forgotten what edge-of-the-seat entertainment meant, then it is time to rediscover that pleasure.

Stylish and substantial, the narrative weaves and winds its way into coherent and compulsive threads that bring together the theme of international espionage with the more sensitive issue of the Islamic and the personal identity of a man, whose heroic stature grows out of a sense of commitment to the country and to world peace.

Personal interests, we are told, are easy to put aside if you can define heroism from a context far greater than your own good. The deeper thrusts of Kamal Haasan and Atul Tiwari's devious screenplay leap out of this compact epic drama, which takes off into the Taliban terror outfit in Afghanistan and hence to the New York suburbia where domestic normalcy is replaced by a violence - a kind of ceaselessly renewable violence that has gripped working-class lives ever since the 26/11 attack on the US made it clear that international terrorism is here to stay. Deal with it.

Yes, Kamal Haasan dominates the show with three different avatars whose destinies intertwine in ways that one can't reveal without giving away the plot. But that's the way the plot unfolds. That is the way it is meant to be. The narrative in this case just can't get enough of Kamal Haasan. Who but this actor can pull off heart-in-the-mouth never-seen stunts (action director Lee Whittaker and his associates have done a remarkable job) in the same range of vision as an elegantly performed Kathak number?

Pooja Kumar as Kamal Haasan's beloved is charming. She has a pleasant screen presence and yes, she isn't in awe of her awesome co-star. However, if anyone leaves a lasting impression after Mr.Haasan, it is Rahul Bose, who as an Al Qaeda chap swathes his persona in menace and terror without getting into the gritting-teeth mould.

Rahul Bose had last played a villain in Govind Nihalani's "Thakshak" in 1999. It is no coincidence that he returns to the colour black in a film that in many ways owes allegiance to the dark sinister angry anti-establishment tales of Nihalani. But Kamal Haasan adds a dash of warmth and humour to the intrinsically ominous saga. He is in terror-land with his tongue firmly in cheek.

The sharply-drawn characters, the terrifying insight into the psyche of terrorism and the sumptuous mounting and packaging add up to a movie that is quite easily one of the finest adventure sagas in recent times. The action sequences are, at last, on a par with Hollywood.

Insult to any community? Hah! It would be an insult to the filmmaking community to miss "Vishwaroop". Miss this big screen adventure your own risk.
Rating: ****

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