Haasan's Vishwaroop is a failed effort

MUMBAI: After much controversy, which one realizes was totally futile and uncalled for after watching the film, Vishwaroopam‘s Hindi version finally hits the screens on Friday. Vishwaroop is an espionage drama which has Indian participants but has nothing to do with the security of India in its narrative. The target of Al Qaeda terrorists is the US but the saviours are the Indians.

Producers: Chandra Haasan, Kamal Haasan.

Director: Kamal Haasan.

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur, Jaideep Ahlawat, Nassar, Miles Anderson.

The problem is that we don‘t have stories of our spies‘ real heroics in public domain or in fiction. Recently, we had Jab Tak Hai Jaan where the protagonist Shah Rukh Khan‘s character was fitted in to the character of Jeremy Renner from Hurt Locker. Kamal Haasan, for his part, chooses the character lock stock and barrel with events and sequences like coming face-to-face with Osama Bin Laden, from a Fredrick Forsyth novel of 2006, The Afghan.

The Afghan is about a popular Forsyth books hero, a retired spy, Mike Martin, who infiltrates the top rungs of the Al Qaeda impersonating one of their top activists who is now in a jail in the US; a man he has worked with and groomed earlier working side by side during the Russian war of Afghanistan. Now, Kamal Haasan assumes that character, infiltrating the top brass of Al Qaeda as a Kashmiri jihadi whose father was a respected jihadi martyr. The cover has been built for Haasan by the Indian spy agency, RAW, for his easy acceptance by AQ.

As the film unfolds; Kamal Haasan is Vishwanath, an Indian classical dance teacher teaching a band of girls his art in the US. His wife, Pooja Kumar, is a nuclear oncologist. She married him as an excuse to get entry into the US and is romancing her boss; she finds her husband to be more suited to cook for her and look after the home. To her, he is a nincompoop. Not knowing her boss is dealing with the wrong people, she ends up in the hands of terrorists along with the boss and Haasan. The merciless terrorists kill their own men as easily as they kill others and next in the line are Haasan and Kumar. The boss she was getting cosy with is not up to saving her life; in fact he can‘t save his own life either. It is time for the wimpish Haasan to show his true colours. The RAW agent in him springs into action and kills the horde of terrorists to make an escape with Kumar.

In flashback, the real Haasan turns out to be a Kashmiri Muslim spy with RAW, Wisam. The flashback takes you to Haasan‘s days with Al Qaeda in the Afghan mountains, where he becomes one of them. He gains the full confidence of the leader, Rahul Bose. While he tries to save the lives of women and innocent children, he also signals the hideouts of the terrorist groups to the American forces who then carry out bombings.

Haasan is now back to civil life with new cover as a dance teacher but the Al Qaeda has caught up with him. Rahul Bose, the dreaded Omar, is on his tail and the action is now in the US. Bose and his group plan to blow up a major part of New York with a dirty bomb. Haasan is aided by his handler, Shekhar Kapur, and two subordinates, Andrea Jeremiah, so far posing as his dance disciple and Miles Hawkins, an American. The race begins to prevent the disaster that the bomb will wreck on New York. The bomb has already been planted and a terrorist, James Bobson, is waiting for a go ahead to press the detonator. There are hurdles as Hawkins is murdered and Haasan and Kumar are arrested by the FBI. It takes the Prime Minister of India to intervene and let Haasan get back to his task.

The bomber is eliminated, bomb defused and New York saved but not before the Al Qaeda leader and his crony escape for the Vishwaroop saga to continue as a sequel.

Now, that is one problem where you let a villain escape, you are not giving viewers their money‘s worth. A sequel can very well be the hero‘s new exploit. It does not necessarily have to be with the same forces. When you talk of Afghani men, you imagine a tall, strong man so what prompted the casting of Rahul Bose as the main villain? An artificial eyeball, bruised face and other makeup touches may make him look sinister at first glance but he is not a strong adversary. And how does one expect the Indian audience to identify with an adventure that has nothing to do with India except its super sleuths who are out to save America?

It is bad enough that Haasan has lifted his character and parts from an American authors‘ book but he could have very well designed the film around security concerns of India rather than the US. In fact, after the initial few reels when Haasan Vishwaroop changes to RAW agent Wisam, the film fails to hold interest.The Afghan war parts could well be a documentary. The part about saving New York from a bomb is routine and predictable.

As for performances, Haasan is good as usual in whatever he does. Of the girls, Jeremiah has a better part and does justice; Kumar is okay. Bose is a misfit. Kapur just has to be himself. Anderson looks the part of a RAW subordinate. Nassar and Jaideep Ahlawat are good in support. While the photography is good, not much help comes from music or dialogue. Some editing was needed.

Vishwaroopam is a failed effort; the film neither thrills nor entertains.

Mai is a purposeless film

Producers: Nitin R Shankar, Subhash Dawar.

Director: Mahesh Kodiyal.

Cast: Asha Bhosle, Padmini Kolhapure, Ram Kapoor, Shivani Joshi, Navin Kaushik, Anupam Kher (cameo).

Mai is supposedly a film on Alzheimer‘s syndrome, an affliction when a person loses control over one‘s faculties like memory, thinking and behaviour. However, it really is a film about an afflicted old woman and her selfish wards, who want to shirk the responsibility of caring for her, save for one. Somehow, filmmakers try to find new stories which they think will appeal to the audience. To think that Alzheimer will appeal at all to Rs 300-ticket moviegoer makes no business sense! In this case, a mother is deserted by her only son because she suffers from Alzheimer‘s, but, cause notwithstanding, there have been a score of films of aged parents being deserted by wards over the years.

Padmini Kolhapure, her husband Ram Kapoor and their teenage daughter, Shivani Joshi, are leading a peaceful life even as they are paying off the mortgage on their house equally. Kolhapure calls the shots. Her husband is a journalist. What Kolhapure does is not deemed necessary to explain but she works and makes money enough to support the family; makes money enough to take on her husband and dominate the family on every count!

One fine day, Kolhapure‘s brother, Navin Kaushik, says he is leaving for the US and he can‘t take their mother, Asha Bhosle, along. Of the three sisters, one is handicapped by space and economics of her family to care for her mother, the other can‘t because she is off to Switzerland for a holiday and that leaves only the eldest, Kolhapure, to bring her mother home, much against the wishes of her husband, Kapoor and the teenage daughter, Joshi.

Bhosle is a nuisance for the family. When it is not her Alzheimer‘s, it is her being a typical grandma and lecturing everybody. Why Kolhapure is doing it and willing to sacrifice her happy married and small family life as well as her career (she is due for a promotion) is sought to be explained through various songs which become flashbacks. In fact, every song the film has is about flashbacks, which is repetitive. These flashbacks remind Kolhapure of the hard days Bhosle faced as a young widow and mother of four to give them comfortable life and education through her sacrifices.

Mai is a purposeless film. It drags on. Both the title and ambience are heavily Maharashtrian. Casting Bhosle is not a coup; it is a setback for the film. She has a huge, iconic image in the world of playback and no way can she fit into a helpless, ailing, totally dependent old mother. Ram Kapoor and Joshi are okay while Kolhapure is good.

Mai has no box office prospects.


Listen Amaya doesn‘t have enough to help its sustain at BO

Producer: Ashok Sahwny. 

Director: Avinash Kumar Singh.

Cast: Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, Amla.

Listen Amaya is a film about a teenage girl, Swara Bhaskar, at crossroads of life and always at odds with her single parent, Deepti Naval. Teenage is an accepted excuse for a new generation to defy the norms. Listen Amaya has one part where her mother wants her to listen but she is always in a hurry and never does; its second part is like a sequel to its first part, where, the mother says, ‘Talk Amaya‘, but she has gone mute. The concept sounds interesting but, alas, what follows is not!

Deepti Naval, a South Indian widow in Delhi, keeps herself occupied by managing a mini-library cum coffee shop called Book A Coffee. This she runs from her house. The shop generally attracts some youths and some intellectual types who love Indian things. One of her regular customers is Farooq Sheikh, a widower in his sixties and a still photographer by profession. Bhaskar has grown really fond of Sheikh, who is fondly called by all around as Jazz. Bhaskar has a fondness for writing and she and Sheikh decide to join forces to produce a coffee table book.

Before the book can be published, Bhaskar sees the proximity between her mother, Naval, and Sheikh. This unnerves her. The Delhi teenager can‘t come to terms with another man in her mother‘s life and equates the relationship as sexual; how could her mother bring another man in a bedroom she shared with her father? There is turmoil in Naval‘s life as Bhaskar refuses in any way to have Sheikh as part of her life and stops communication with mother. She generally sulks and also fights with her friends.

The part about the coffee shop and its visitors, which was light and fun, is over as the drama turns into a triangular conflict with Naval at the centre. It takes time, intervention by Bhaskar‘s dad‘s sister, Amla, and the success of her book with an offer for a sequel that finally brings a change of mind.

Sheikh and Naval are readily acceptable as a pair and their chemistry feels like a continuation of their earlier love stories. Bhaskar has to mostly sulk and be generally unpleasant which is a tough thing to do but she manages it well.

Listen Amaya has some watchable parts but not enough to help it sustain at the box office.

David is an idea not worth repeating

Producers: Bejoy Nambiar, Sharada Trilok.

Director: Bejoy Nambiar.

Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vikarm, Vinay Virmani, Isha Sherwani, Lara Dutta, Tabu, Nassar, Rohini Hattangadi, Nishan Nanaiah, Milind Soman, Satish Kaushik, Sheetal Menon.

David has three stories to tell, of three characters sharing the same name, David, over different periods and locations, these being London, Mumbai and Goa. This is rather ambitions since most of our films are lacking in even one story to make into an interesting movie. The stories may have started on different locations in different era but all culminate around the same time. The three parts have different issues. One is about London and its Indian underworld; the second about a middle class family in suburban Mumbai becoming a victim of the local land grab mafia and its politics while the third one is about a happy-go-lucky Goan who discovers love.

Neil Nitin Mukesh is David, the blue eyed boy of the local don Ghani who holds sway over the local Asian community. This part is shown in black and white. The story is more about the internal passions and politics of the family with patriotism and attempts to kill him by some outer forces on the side. The part takes off interestingly as the don demonstrates his powers and Neil establishing himself as the protective shield of the household. His in-house romance with Monica Dogra and doubts about his parentage later dilute the story.

The Mumbai David, Vinay Virmani, lives with his devout Christian father, Nassar, and two sisters. He aspires to make a name in the world of music. His relationship with his father is a love-hate one while the only person he is comfortable with is his older sister. While he is at the threshold of a break to play with a renowned music composer, his family falls victim to the local land mafia and a manipulative politician and religious activist, Rohini Hattangadi. Their peace is shattered and Virmani gets after the villain to seek revenge. However, he is no match for the mafia or the politician‘s might.

In Goa, Vikram is David living a life of a perfect loafer, either fighting or drinking or doing both. His mother wants to see him settled and when in need of help, his dead father, Saurabh Shukla, gets into the body of somebody around and helps solve his son‘s problems. Vikram has but one buddy in town, Nishan Nanaiah. Both fall for the same deaf-mute girl, Isha Sherwani. This part offers some relief with help from Tabu and other characters.

Finally, the story of all three end on different notes. None really gets what he had set out for. All three stories begin well but lose grip on the way.

With three stories, David has a lot many characters playing brief parts of which the three Davids along with Tabu, Nassar, Lara Dutta and Saurabh Shukla make some impact. The film has as many as fifteen tracks and some of them blend well with the proceedings. Direction is average. Camera work is good by all three cinematographers, handling a part each. That is about all.

David is an idea not worth repeating if commercial cinema is what one has in mind.

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