(With never before seen revised footnotes)
It is quite difficult for us to give exact reactions of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, not that there is a dearth of reactions but it is quite important that we enlist all that is to be said in one piece and the difficulty only lies there.
So it is right we begin with Kamal himself, Vishwaroopam is his third official film as director, close to seven years after the agitated rural drama Virumandi. The only thing that unites them is the different approach to telling a story.
Here he catches us unawares when we are just about to sink into what could have been a regular flashback, director Kamal literally stops time at infrequent intervals as if to add parts to a growing jigsaw puzzle that is never shown in its full light through the entire film!
One always wonders with the concept of the flashback, usually in films it is just at one go; but in reality do we reminisce an event in its entirety?
Clearly inspired in giving a different color to structuring the film, Kamal adopts these memory slash cuts from different perspectives, but the problem only lies in the knotting of it all together.
Terror seems to be a theme Kamal regularly comes back to, be it the bunching of ahimsa and violence quote in his previous Manmadan Ambu or the angry stupid common man against in the Tamil remake of ‘A Wednesday’. Even Dasavatharam has its share of terror group name droppings and Anbe Sivam begins with a ‘bloody’ confusion; perhaps the concept of living together with differences and that even a slight remark could cause an imbalance worries the actor-director.
But should Vishwaroopam be stripped out off all this theme-talk and treated as a tick tock race against time-save the world thriller, if so how does it fare?
Sometime in the film, in a warehouse: a sound informs us that there is a leak somewhere, a drop of water. Cuts to a drop of water falling into placid water creating ripples indicating how one trigger could bring out unforeseen transformations and similarly so in the film.
There is so much to see in Vishwaroopam, and Kamal guides it in a way there is always more to come. Kamal getting behind the camera, for us is the best decision in years.
Kamal has shown unabashed love for Hollywood thrillers previously and Vishwaroopam is only a resource strained attempt at saying ‘I’ll do anything that you do’.
That previous statement puts us in right in the middle of a homegrown cinema vs feigned cinema debate; but we bravely choose to walk away from it, because in Vishwaroopam you are only assessing how good a reprint is, not questioning its existence. And personally, we like ‘Hollywood-like’ thrillers.
That brings us to first unanswered question, is it really as Hollywood as they say it is? We would say it doesn’t make the cut as far maintaining the tension is concerned and quite disappointed as to how most of the loose ends will only be explained by using the sequel card (which only means more waiting) But laurels should be showered on the entire attempt and striving attention to detail, there are sequences that have never been shown by any Tamil filmmaker, say like the Pashtun segment (not saying anything more)
Needless to say Vishwaroopam was the most fulfilling and entertaining Tamil film we had seen in years in the theatre, it satisfies the primeval want of many like us who coo, “if only someone here makes a film like that*”.
And Vishwaroopam has all our votes; it even has the votes of the postman who brings mail to the Laureate office buildings**; for it satisfies the basic rule in film entertainment.
Basic rule in film entertainment is stated as thus, “No film which has a villain who stores one eyeball in a plastic transparent dubba in gooey liquid has ever failed in any corner of the world”
And now for the footnotes
*That, in that quote refers to any generic American thriller.
**So you thought you could find out where The Lowly Laureate Buildings are by reading this footnote. Hmmmm.