Unless you are living in a shack in Siberia, you would know that Kamal Haasan has made a movie called Vishwaroopam.
The movie was banned one day before its release in Kamal’s home state of Tamil Nadu and as a result of the ban there is chaos and confusion in the traditional media, social media and among fans.
It’s also not clear which states / countries have allowed the release of the film.
Thankfully, some of us live in a more sane and civilized society where freedom of expression and entrepreneurship are not trampled upon for selfish political motives or minority appeasement.
Vishwaroopam has finally seen some light at the end of the tunnel with its on time release in dozens of theaters across the United States.
Due to the release fiasco and today being a weekday, I wasn’t expecting a big turnout at Big Cinemas but I was wrong! People showed up in numbers big enough for the theater to add two more shows today.
Besides Kamal’s loyal fan base, surely the hype and negative publicity seem to have worked.
Kamal Haasan is the Producer, Director and Lead actor of Vishwaroopam. The Story and Screenplay are also by Kamal.
As if that list is not long enough, Kamal also takes shared credit for Lyrics and Playback singing. I don’t know what else he takes credit for as the list runs quite long!
Nasser, Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Jaideep Ahlawat etc. make up the rest of the cast.
Wiz aka Vishwanath (Kamal) is married to Nirupama (Pooja Kumar), a Tamil Brahmin. It is a marriage of convenience as it helps Nirupama come to the US and pursue a doctorate in the field of Nuclear Oncology.
In Nirupama’s eyes, Wiz is a Kathak dancer with feminine behavior. Nirupama is having an affair with her boss who is dealing with money originating from countries suspected of aiding and abetting terrorism.
Nirupama sets a private detective on Wiz to see if she can find any reason to justify a separation. However, she learns more than what she would like and it sets off a chain of events that converge on to a terrorist plot meticulously planned by Omar (Rahul Bose).
This is as far as I would go into the story as anything more would give away too much.
What’s Appealing about Vishwaroopam?
Kamal Haasan gets most things right after a long time in a movie.
The movie is bold, daring and succeeds for the most part in walking a thin line between entertainment and realism with a tilt in favor of entertainment and hence a few cinematic liberties.
The cinematography and photography was brilliant.
The visual imagery was classy, texture was rich and hence alien to the usual crude standards of Tamil Cinema. For most of the movie, I got the feel of watching a Hollywood movie.
The action scenes were fantastic.
Kamal has spared no expense in getting real military grade weapons and choppers.
The bombing of terrorist hideouts, innocent people getting killed in crossfire, military camps, destruction sites and most of the set-pieces are well executed and believable.
However, the FBI is made to look pretty dumb when the action shifts to New York.
Vishwaroopam deals with the deadly subject of terrorism.
While the story itself is sound and relevant in our current times what makes the movie engaging is the screenplay.
The narrative switches back and forth in time with questions emerging in one narrative and answers in another. This keeps the viewers glued to the proceedings.
Vishwaroopam doesn’t take any moral stance or paint the problem of terrorism in black and white. There are some moving scenes like the one where a youth trained to be a suicide bomber shows childlike innocence. It stays clear of stereotypes.
The use of Arabic, Persian and other languages of the region lend authenticity to the scenes.
Finally, Kamal gives roles even to Nuclear Oncology and Pigeons!
Kamal has donned several caps in the movie and kudos to him for acting close to his age and delivering a restrained performance.
Kamal also shines as a director which is not surprising since he had directed fine movies such as Hey Ram and Virumandi.
Kamal also has multiple getups here and thankfully everything seemed natural. Thank goodness, he stayed away from prosthetics. Who needs another Dasavatharam?
In the portrayal of the dancer, Kamal carefully avoids the effeminate behavior from becoming a caricature.
Pooja Kumar and Rahul Bose are quite good in their respective roles. The others including Nasser don’t add much value although they are adequate in their respective roles.
Rahul Bose plays a restraint character due to the handicaps and injuries he has sustained in his life. It comes across very well.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music while not extraordinary is still pleasing.
Except for “Unnai Kaanadha,” all other songs blend into BGM without interrupting the movie.
I liked the lyrics for Anu Vidhaitha Bhoomiyile and the classical Unnai Kaanadha Kathak number. Unfortunately I have no knowledge of Kathak to comment how well / bad the dance scenes were done.
The Vishwaroopam number is a fan-pleaser and it works well to that effect.
The BGM is also ideal… quiet unless there is a need to add dramatic value or build the tension.
Is Vishwaroopam Flawless?
Oh, no! Vishwaroopam is not without its flaws.
It doesn’t have the finesse of a Hollywood product to match its International story. Kamal’s $100 M dream is made with $20 M and that gap cannot be hidden completely.
Some of the minor irritants were Hindi artists dubbing in Tamil which makes their Tamil sound horrible.
If Kamal wants to make a proper bilingual, then he should get the right star cast from each industry.
The editing is not smooth. Some scenes end abruptly and it may confuse viewers.
I expect many people to be dissatisfied with how the movie ends abruptly to make way to Part 2.
Comparison to True Lies
Having seen both movies, I can confidently say that the two are completely different.
The similarity ends at the point where the wife doesn’t know her husband’s real name / job.
Considering Kamal’s history of plagiarism, it may be possible that the plot is stitched from multiple movies but at this point the story seems refreshingly original.
Are Muslims Shown in Bad Light?
Vishwaroopam does not insult Islam or any other religion.
I did not find a single scene that is even remotely debatable.
I only saw Kamal taking extra effort to act as a Muslim correctly.
It is not possible to talk about Ramayana without Raavan and similarly it is not possible to make a movie on Terrorism without Islam.
I think Vishwaroopam is unlike any Indian movie ever made.
Despite a few flaws and minor irritants, Vishwaroopam is quite thrilling and enjoyable.
However, the subject matter warrants some violent scenes that are not suitable for young children.
Go for it!
Good films don’t come by often and you don’t know when it will get banned again!