Vishwaroopam Movie Review: Much Ado Over Nothing

I cannot but begin reviewing the movie without clearing the obvious, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can justify the umbrage and consequent banning of the movie in three states. Vishwaroopam, at its best, is a thriller that passes muster above the mediocre and would have been forgotten easily had it not been for the hoopla over its release.

Vishwanathan is an effeminate Kathak teacher in New York, whose wife, a nuclear oncologist, works in a “deep oncology” research lab. She employs a detective to find some fault in her loving husband so she can divorce him and live with her boss. What she ends up doing instead is unintentionally break Vishwanathan’s cover- he is not a Hindu, not a dance teacher, not effeminate and is difficult to categorize as a hero or a villain- in short he is Kamal. The film then goes into flashback mode, with Kamal being re introduced as a Tamil speaking jehadi who is taken under by Omar (Rahul Bose) and trained in jehad in Afghanistan. Here on, the film meanders into the past and the present, unveiling a Cesium bomb meant to irradiate whole of New York and Kamal being the only hero capable of preventing the catastrophe.

Vishwaroopam begins promisingly. Kamal is brilliantly nuanced as the kathak dance teacher, in his element. The story introduces characters swiftly, drawing you into the proceedings with a slight dash of humor that is very unlike a typical Tamil film. A burst of exuberant action accelerates the pace and sets in an intriguing thriller that keeps you guessing whats next. The scene shifts to Afghanistan as flash back begins and all the interest ne gathered is squandered away mercilessly as scene after scene the pace of the movie goes slug like. Things go from bad to worse post interval as most of the suspense is revealed and Kamal gets back to his over the top Dashavtaram mode, culminating in one of the most lackluster fizzle out of a climax in recent times.

To be fair, Vishwaroopam is abundantly better than Kamals last outing Dasavataram. For one, there is no compulsory donning of a gaziliion prosthetic aided looks by the veteran. There is a story that is for some time atleast told with earnestness and sans any gimmickry or pretend smartness. The action sequences are energetic and neat- to match them to Hollywood standards is a tad exaggeration for the American war machinery was CGI, and most of Kamal’s afghan antics were body doubles retouched by photoshop evidently visible in the scenes. Yet the stunts are fun to watch and decently carried out. Yet, one cannot help but feel disappointed at the overall product.

Kamal has been of late on an over ambitious streak- Vishwaroopam is no less in ambition- the entire movie is set in NYC and Afghanistan- the movie tries to merge the idea of terrorism with a simple espionage saga, over indulgence is written all over the directorial style, the movie cries out for some better chopping, especially the jehad portions that are long drawn and end up pointless. Most importantly, like all recent Kamal films, this is an all Kamal show. The film begins with him and ends with him. Period.

Rest of the cast is decent in whatever little part they get to play. Shekhar, having seen him personally, is not actually acting, rather just being himself. He on screen is no different form he talking to me in his office. Rahul Bose’s Omar is an interesting opportunity let gone, simply because Kamal can’t let anyone else tower. The two heroines justify their presence, one with perennially dilated pupils and the other with an orgasmic expression even when in front of a nuclear bomb. Kamal on the other hand, goes from brilliance to absurdity in the span of three hours. He begins as a believable secret agent, only to renegade to the usual smarter-than-everyone- on –the –planet Tamil hero who can tell the FBI where the bomb is, get it located, find the Nigerian carrying it, and prevent radiation by getting his wife to place a microwave over it. And yes, also in the between of this all, say sweet nothings to his wife. The standard Tamil film fare also finds place with a moronic FBI, stupid looking firangs, and funny looking Afghanis hamming it up with glee. As the film meanders into mediocrity post interval, one only wished for once Director Kamal would let go of his show off and choose some simple story telling instead.

And that brings us to the story itself and the raging controversy over it. The real strength of Vishwaroopam is the fact that it merges the issue of branding terrorism with faith and religion very beautifully. If Muslims are shown as terrorists all along, there is also the Muslim Kamal who is out to eradicate terror. If the Muslim Nigerian is shown praying as he sets down to detonate the nuke, the Muslim Kamal is also shown offering Namaz before entering the Nigerian’s house to kill him. If Americans are shown as aggressors, American soldiers are shown repenting killing innocent women in the line of fire. Pakistan and ISI find a mention too. Only problem is, none of this is made into a focal point or a running theme. Each of this is incidental, or a ploy to play to the gallery, making it all come undone in the end. One only wishes Vishwaroopam took a stronger stance, made a harder point, for as it stands right now, it is just a token over smart comment on the global menace.

Shortening the running time by at least half an hour and some better music can save the film from absolute dismissal at the ticket counters- something that the ban has ensured might not happen for people are flocking to see the Universal Hero in action. Ban aside, Vishwaroopam is a film that is desperately trying to be universal in its appeal and look. Slo-mo’s in long trench coats with NYC skyline for background does not make a good espionage thriller. The Kamal of Mahanadi is lost forever perhaps. Till that returns, Vishwaroopam is all we have to settle for.

PS: the movie ends with a “coming soon Vishwaroopam 2 “warning. I cringe at the thought; while I am sure the Tamil Nadu Govt must have already passed its banning too.


5 thoughts on “Vishwaroopam Movie Review: Much Ado Over Nothing

  1. Commenting on this even though i have seen Hindi Version i am assuming both Versions are Frame to Frame faithful.What i liked was the Opening Sequence of Kamal Dancing to Kathak,i guess very few Heros of our Industry will do that.The First action Sequence,the Sequence where Kamal confronts another RAW officer and chides him for mistake and officer says he is not from minority community.The Swing Sequence where a child refuses to sit on swing because of his upbringing which has robbed his childhood,while other teen wants his childhood back.

    Length i have to agree with you for thriller genre of this kind is burden and whole third act falls flat.

    Why Casting of Non-Actors like Shekhar Kapur.

  2. The film was ok. Loved the action sequences and Kamal’s acting. I agree that there is nothing to get offended in this. The main problem with the film is its length. and the climax was a massive WTF.

  3. Good review. The only one listed at imdb which is pretty close to what I also thought of the movie. Hence this acknowledgement. 🙂 I feel Indian movie fans thirst for a movie that will compete with the Hollywood action thrillers and hence tend to overlook the weaknesses in order to praise any that comes close. 2/5 is the max it should get.
    Anyway, couple more points to add to yours. I felt the main issue with the movie was the script. There were lot of loose ends which were not explained well, ex: why exactly is an Indian RAW agent out to save NY? and he seems to know more than the FBI! Why was he inserted into taliban? I suppose they will be explained in Part 2..which means be prepared for lengthy dialogues! The climax as you mentioned was a damp squib considering that they just saved NYC from blowing up. I agree also that action sequences were too exaggerated for a serious movie and was aimed towards the tamil kamal fans who want to see him as some kind of a super hero.
    Good acting by Kamal and nice Camera Work. Rest is just average.

  4. I don’t know why people have to go overboard to find some mistakes in a well made is a movie and we all know movies try to exaggerate a little bit, sometimes to drive a point. To make such a movie one must have a artistic mind, and that has ot be appreciated. Plus everybody acted well, the music was very good, the humor too was subtle and good and what else do you need. It was not boring in any part. It so easy to criticise, but very difficult to make such movies as this and also English Vinglish. Sorry, it is just my opinion and was not meant to offend any body

  5. Pingback: The Very Best of Tamil Cinema in 2013: A Comprehensive Take | mad about moviez

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