Movie review: 'Vishwaroop' - Harsh but human

Vishwaroop still
Pic/ Santa Banta

Nirupama (during an interrogation after an arrest): Our God has four hands.
FBI Agent: Four hands? Then how do you crucify him?
Nirupama (with disdain): We don’t crucify our God! We dunk him in the sea.

So what have the so-called fringe groups been objecting to? That an Indian Muslim is shown to be patriotic and brave? That real terrorists (that too of indeterminate nationality) are shown to be misled, harsh but even then human? Come on, even the Al Qaeda wouldn’t object to that! To be honest, Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroop is sensitive and mature - in its portrayal of terror and the factors that instigate and breed terrorism, in its ideas about bravery, loyalty, and courage, but most of all, in its notion of what we perceive to be masculine and macho.

So here we have Vishwanath, an effeminate guru (who looks like he shares salon advice with Zakir Hussain and style advice from Pt Birju Maharaj) teaching Kathak to a group of girls in New York and married to a nuclear oncologist doctorate Nirupama (Pooja Kumar).

It is a marriage of convenience for the wife; she has started seeing her sexy boss (What she sees in him is a complete mystery) and confides in her psychiatrist her wish to have sex with him ‘when the time is right.’ Although not macho enough for Nirupama’s taste, Vishwanath has his uses: he runs the house, he can hear the microwave timer over a lot of noise, and he can cook a mean grilled chicken, in spite of being a vegetarian. To absolve her own guilt about lusting after another man, Nirupama has set a private detective on the tail of her husband to find if he is cheating on her too. (You may be forgiven for thinking Nirupama to be silly and shallow. But it is meant to be that way.) Understandably for a Kamal Haasan epic film, things aren’t what they seem. And within the first 45 minutes of this awkward supposedly funny domestic exposition, the plot and Vishwanath reveal their terrorist connections and a horrific plot to plant a dirty nuclear bomb in New York that will destroy all signs of life in the city for generations to come!

Entertaining and livewire enough but in parts. Much technical mumbo-jumbo about CCM, RDX and other chemical equations is exchanged between long-winded documentary style flashbacks about training camps across Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban way of life, their close-knitted but often callous community, their political and fund-raising activities and their camp chief Omar (Rahul Bose) and his family.

The basic problem with Vishwaroop is its inconsistent pace. For some strange reason, many dramatic scenes have been repeated, and in the same order and perspective of their edit. Somewhere it trips the pace of the film and makes it stodgy. The plot too is a little dense, considering that it is unfolding itself so rapidly right in the middle of USA, arguably the most terror-alert country in the world. Difficult to believe that warehouses and personnel scavenging chemicals from used cancer treatment machines and Indian-looking people shooting and chasing each other all over New York go totally unnoticed.

Kamal Haasan wears and sheds his skin between graceful danseuse, Taliban war tutor and special agent quite effortlessly. There is also very little of the self-indulgence that is so apparent in some of his earlier films.

Among let-downs though, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music, that could have played such a vital role in such thriller, fails to work. Rahul Bose wears a permanently fierce scowl under his Afghani beret. If you are a Shekhar Kapoor fan, you will be sorely disappointed. The man barely has two dialogues in his so-called comeback film. And Andrea Jeremiah is another spare baggage, she has absolutely no role to play. Hopefully the pair has more to do later, there is a sequel coming up after all.  

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