Recently, the much-appreciated Mission: Impossible – Fallout, starring Tom Cruise, hit the screens. The film gave some great cinematic moments, stunts that could cause a crick in your neck just by watching those. Now, fans of the franchise expect that from a spy film. To critics, they ask, “Well, what else can you expect from an action film?.” With the Vishwaroopam films, Kamal Haasan has given an answer that spy films need not focus on just action. This is what I loved about Vishwaroopam 2, probably something that might be a disappointment to pure-action fans.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of action; a lot of gore as well. As always Kamal aims for the sky. There’s an underwater sequence; cars tumbling all around, and the works. Kamal doesn’t give us the time to pause, think and question if the sequence was plausible. But the aftermath has been beautifully captured. Wizam Ahmed Kashmiri (Kamal Haasan) eternally winces throughout the film, even performing mundane tasks like peeing. This is where Kamal’s sensibility shines — not once does he take his viewer’s intelligence for granted. Now, does the action have serious effects, yes. But does that stop Wizam from doing more? No.
There is a lot going on in Vishwaroopam 2 and Kamal seems to realise this as well. He constantly creates space for explanations, though organically. Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) is the audience’s representative on screen. She pops up with a ‘What’s happening’, that enables Wizam to give us context. But even she isn’t just a spectator. There is a line in the first part, where Ashmitha (Andrea Jeremiah) says that everybody in this story has dual roles. One might think that covers only the agents and of course, the terrorists, but it rather stretches out to every character. Duality is a major theme in Vishwaroopam. In the first part, the pigeon, a symbol of peace acts as a carrier of nuclear elements. Even the title is written from the right to left, but Vishwaroopam is an intrinsically ‘Hindu’ concept. When Omar (Rahul Bose) asks Wizam if he remembers the people he has killed, Wizam says he does, more than Omar remembers. Kamal Haasan constantly establishes with the flashbacks that Wizam can’t really escape his story. ‘Do you sleep well,’ asks Colonel Jagannath. He doesn’t.
The dialogues are trademark Kamal Haasan, and as someone who has followed and enjoyed his work, they are an absolute riot. Wordplay has always been the man’s strong suit and he puts it to great use — there is a pun on marriage, word-play around ‘Ayutha Ezhuthu’ (also brilliantly placed). “No one accepts terrorism by choice,” he says and follows it up with a lovely thread of what can happen when a child grows up guarded against the ‘Ayudha Ezhuthu’. Vishwaroopam is rife with metaphors – an extension of what we have seen in the first part.
The cuts in Vishwaroopam 2 are as memorable as they are in Vishwaroopam 1. If the debris from a blast turned into computer pixels, here the blood splashed on a window becomes a map. The moments from Wizam’s story that keep haunting him get slow-motion treatment, sometimes in 360 degrees. And these are not just moments of gore, but the dynamic ones as well — of a jihadi boy playing on a swing; of Omar’s worry about his family; the wail of a mother whose son was ‘collateral damage’. One of my favourite cuts is the sweeping round-the-clock shot that we get after Wizam and Nirupama meet his mother (Waheeda Rehman). He is surrounded and swallowed by emotions and when the flashback cuts to the present, it is a long-shot of a frail Waheeda behind a window. His story has led to a place where he can only watch his mother from afar, so much so that he prefers to not reveal who he is to the Alzheimer-stricken lady.
Kamal Haasan starrer Vishwaroopam 2 Andrea Jeremiah deserves a big shout-out as she seems to be one of the rare women who want to be actors than heroines.
One of the major questions that Vishwaroopam left us with, was the importance of Ashmita. Vishwaroopam 2 answers that and much more. Just like Vikram (Kamal’s earlier attempt at a spy film), we have two women ‘squabbling’ over him. Here it is done with much more finesse. In fact, the Vishwaroopam films are Kamal’s version of a mass, nationalist film. In a regular film, the protagonist could almost be guilty of jingoism. But that’s not Kamal’s style. Asked if he needed plainclothesmen, he refuses, saying, ‘I have these women with me.’ A normal film would have had something close to ‘pengal nam kangal’. Kamal’s films have always been political and with him turning into one in real life, makes these details much more enjoyable.
Andrea deserves a big shout-out as she seems to be one of the rare women who want to be actors than heroines. There is a shockingly grotesque frame of Ashmita that will stay in your mind. I wonder if anyone else would have had the guts to agree to that image. I would have loved to see more of her.
Much like Kamal’s earlier work, his major ‘flaw’, if you can call it so, is his indulgence. He fits in all he wants to say and doesn’t really care if the viewer gets it all. Kamal’s movies have always been for the invested viewer — the one who takes an effort to understand the story, ponder and contemplate on metaphors and inferences. If that seems good enough, you know what to do.
PS: Do catch Vishwaroopam if possible before watching the second part. You won’t lose anything if you don’t, but there is a lot to gain if you do.