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Review: A Wednesday

It has speed, energy, technical dazzle and is the kind of medium-budget enterprise we should be seeing much more often, writes Khalid Mohamed.

movie reviews Updated: Sep 08, 2008 19:33 IST
Khalid Mohammed

A Wednesday


Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher
Direction: Neeraj Pandey
Rating: ****

A man with a slight hunch, frizzy hair and a vegetable shopping bag is nagged by his wife, “Don’t forget the tomatoes.” The man grunts, plants a bomb in a police office, walks coolly to the empty terrace of a building under construction and is about to kick off a plan of mass destruction.

That’s first-time director Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday, which could well be the story of any day in any metropolis. It has a walloping impact – and despite some sections which could be interpreted as Muslim bashing – is absolutely A-grade. It has speed, energy, technical dazzle (never mind some cheesy split screens) and it’s the kind of medium-budget enterprise we should be seeing much more often at the multiplexes. What a relief to get away from the pan caked poppets and imitation Rambo Bambos! Essentially here, two old men match their cunning and wit. And their performances are sensational.

Naseeruddin Shah, with intuitive ease, plays that duplicitous tomato shopper who threatens the city with serial blasts. And Anupam Kher, as the beleaguered police commissioner, is flawless, concealing his anxiety under a cool stealth. Shah was terrific in a cameo in Khuda Kay Liye just a few months ago. Now without much fuss or fret, he demonstrates that he’s the most valuable actor on the scene today. Kher is a marvellous counterpoint, his body lingo, talkative eyes and voice pitch defining a first-class performance.

Indeed, Pandey extracts bravura performances also from Jimmy Sheirgill, concentrated and convincing, as a rough-tactics cop, Deepal Shaw whose Hindi dialogue delivery is incomparable in the part of a TV news reporter, an attention-grabbing turn by Aamir Bashir as a ramrod-straight cop, and a strikingly expert cameo by Kali Prasad Mukherjee in the role of a taunting terrorist.

The plot could be from Die Hard with a Vengeance, or a page from the screenplay of any cat-and-mouse Hollywood thriller. Pandey’s triumph is in relating it to our current conditions, avoiding speed breakers and pinning your interest as the scenes zoom from that empty terrace to the police headquarters and to the jam packed streets.

All of 100 minutes with first-rate photography by Fuwad Khan, however, the effort’s closing segment is extremely questionable. Like it or not, there is in-between-the-lines Muslim thrashing here besides the ongoing obsession of associating terrorism with Islam (“They are cockroaches”). Are they talking pest control?

Without revealing the end, suffice it to say it has been used before in Kamal Haasan’s Hindustani. Also, several points are indigestible, like the absence of all TV crews but one at the hot spots, the police commissioner zooming off on a solo car ride, and the finale kick-off which is more fantasy-like than believable.

Indeed, the conclusion is the sort that could only happen in the movies. And that doesn’t work is an effort steeped in reality. Oh well, then, who’s perfect? A Wednesday has to be seen, absorbed and debated. Go for it.