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cinema cinema:tamil Movie Notes

Vishwaroopam II: Tinkered Tailored Older Spy

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Let’s start with the ending
The thing that struck me about the first Vishwaroopam, a film for which I crossed state borders covertly to watch(much like an espionage operation) was the abruptness in the ending.


It ends with Wisam telling that there is more to the story and what we witnessed is not really ‘the end’, but it did not have the niggling hook that would keep me guessing on what the next part would explore and moreover it did not really help that Kamal himself is delivering this as exposition and not a visually striking image of say a (too use the often used) Kattappa killing Baahubali.


Even looking at the first part in a facile manner which is a spy navigating between complexities and saving the world; the film did provide enough closure.
{Bad guys plans a series of attacks on a city and a team of spies unearth and thwart the operation.}
But Vishwaroopam is not a superficial spy thriller, at least it aims to do more.

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At the core of it all is Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri, a spy who believes in his cause someone who does not treat his license to kill as target practice and is empathetic to those he might have to kill.


Case in point is the friendship between Omar Khureshi, Salim and Wisam which takes up much of the middle of the first movie and these threads need to be addressed.
(not necessary a universal requirement, but more like universal hero’s requirement)


That brings us to Vishwaroopam II, which works more as a companion piece to the first film and not as a sequel; filling in for things that better explain the Indian spy’s motivations.


While the movie does go deeper into things that were throwaways in the first film, especially effective is Wisam’s relationship with his mother.(Waheeda Rehman in a brief role, last seen in Tamil cinema in the 1956 film Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum). Wiz temporarily returns to being Vishwanath in a teary moment dominated by Alzheimer’s (second medical ailment in the franchise after killer cancer in the Roopam I), when the movie is just about casting away the role of the dancer.


Needless to say, Kamal is on top form or is it like displaying all these nuances in half-awake mode now? The other story machinations like how Wisam became Viz are less successful, a London mission before the intermission seems like a very long stop-over before Wisam and team reach the national capital.


I love the spy films in all forms, they lend themselves to the multi dimensional entertainment, the genre comfortably accommodates modern action films like the Bourne movies, cinephile-treasures like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the wink-winks like The Kingsman, send-ups like Paul Feig’s Spy and Oscar favourites like Argo and these are only from recent memory. All of them add to and derive from the construct of the spy thriller.


Vishwaroopam II draws from all the aforementioned sub-genres and naturally the result is not a satisfying mix; for a moment it a mission-driven-race-against-the-ticking -bomb-action-film, a few scenes later it is a musing on the futility of war and even further down the run-time it is an examination of loyalty and nationalism.


There’s isn’t time for all this, boss. Omar waits with one more bomb around the corner. (A bomb around the corner would have a been a better title to this piece, #justsaying)


There simply isn’t time and it shows, the action seems too rushed and the globe-hopping locations which usually adds to the excitement and romance to these spy films here are just tailored to suit exposition dumps.


The lack of resources too very evident, with the actors limited to performing in moving cars or in an uncharacteristic hotel suite and the number of times toilets conveniently appear in this film only made me think about how constrained the production would have been ; a stark opposite to the expanse of Afghanistan which was reiterated multiple times in the first film.


As though to make up for all the above, there are genuine fun sequences in the film and director Kamal draws me in with a cracker of a title sequence which is a crash course of things past in freeze time played to new version of Nyagabagam Varugiradha.

The story is also in the telling, the nonlinearity is intact and Wisam still gets to sweat about his past. Packed with multiple “woohoo!” moments and timely call-backs to the first film (Namaz panna poriya!). In Kamal’s world even a blood splatter can dissolve into a map.

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But Omar bhai takes precedence over everything and Rahul Bose is absolutely fantastic as the villain who thinks he is the hero and wait a minute, he isn’t even in the movie till the third act.


I loved how the movie returned to the outrageous-ness of Roopam I, when he came back on screen giving Wisam something really challenging to work with, because until then Wisam was just putting bureaucrats in place with his wit.


Yes yes, I also know that the movie tries to deal with larger issues like how education is important, how war creates more problems than it can solve etc, how nationalism cannot be ‘instilled’ etc but OK this is not the blog site for all that boring stuff.

But this is the kind-off blog which will stand-up and applaud at the inane moment of the villain’s glass eye popping out and rolling on the streets of Delhi. Movies like these are hard to come by and need to be savoured probably with steaming jilebis.

Good luck Wisam! Hat-tip to Munnavar!

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cinema cinema:tamil

INDIAN MADE FOREIGN FLICK

                                               Vishwaroopam

It is quite difficult for me to give exact reactions of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, not that there is a dearth of reaction but it is quite important to note that there is lot to be said and only one post to say it.

Let’s begin with Kamal himself, Vishwaroopam is his third official tamil film as director, close to seven years after the agitated rural drama Virumandi. The first, as our smart readers would remember as the decades spanning truly Indian epic “Hay Ram”, even smarter readers would recognize that the first film Kamal was officially credited as director was Chachi 420. Even more smarter readers would….nevermind.

The only thing that unites them is the different approach to telling a story.

Writer Kamal catches us off-guard, when we are just about to sink into what could have been a regular flashback and 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!

I have always wrestled 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?

Kamal adopts these memory slash cuts from different perspectives, but thus faced with an unavoidable problem of knotting of it all together. Kamal feels almost motherly in his conviction in showing things from the other-side, constantly reversing roles on who is the hero and who is the villain. Yes, that is also summarised nicely as dialogue.

Terror is a theme Kamal regularly comes back to. There is a lot about terrorism in even in the films which are not thematically about terrorism: be it the bunching of ahimsa and violence quote in his previous Manmadan Ambu, 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 him.

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 that creates a feeling there is always more to come. Kamal getting behind the camera, is the best decision in years.

Also intact is his unabashed love for Hollywood films (opening dialogue is something straight out of The Godfather) and Vishwaroopam is only a resource strained (but optimized?) attempt at saying ‘I’ll do anything that you do’.

That previous statement drops right in the middle of a homegrown cinema vs feigned cinema debate; but I 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, I am okay with ‘Hollywood-like’ thrillers.

I would also like to add that Vishwaroopam was the most fulfilling and entertaining Tamil film I had seen in years in the theatre, it satisfies the primeval want, “if only someone here makes a film like that*”.

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”

Over to part II

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cinema cinema: hindi

OUR MAN FROM SAROJININAGAR

While I try desperately to come up with a title which references a another spy film, the extensive research tabs on my browser count up to five, if only Sriram Raghavan would also write his own review he would have come up with titles, multiple variations of ‘Never say never again’. But he keeps it simple here, a direct reference to a 1977 film which I know I can watch entirely on you tube.

But why do the directors take so much trouble in showing us from where they get their ideas from?

Agent Vinod begins with a Sergio Leone-esque dry land, where our man is captured in a rogue Afghan prison, much like the opening of Golden Eye in which Bond plays buddy cop; in Agent Vinod there is Ravi Kishen who keeps popping up acting more like Kato more than Sean Bean, so they prepare to give him a special appearance credit along with Gulshan Glover who walks in white like a man who has come get back some loaned money.

A Russian don gets killed and with him a secret known to the secret world as ‘242’ changes hands, our man who walks into RAW headquarters and has fleeting joke with an Indian Moneypenny is briefed briefly about the same. Thus begins his crash cruise through the world aided by an attractive Pakistani agent(Kareena Kapoor) going by many names. Will thewarring countries come together in saving the world? Or will they lose themselves in the process?

Reading through what I have typed in so far, I seem confused as to how approach in writing a piece on Agent Vinod.(I detest the word review, and how could a personal opinion be passed off as judgement) Should I indulge in length about the ‘Raabta’ sequence a clear homage to Scorsese or should I take a few critic like jokes on the wig of Ram Kapoor or the pony tail of Prem Chopra?

I truly enjoyed the film, with my minimum understanding of Hindi seventies pop culture I think I managed quite well, and I cannot speak on behalf of those who grew up on those films.

That brings us back to the original question of in-jokes and references/homages. Some things worked out quite fine, like calling a character after Indian model and Star Trek voyager Khambatta or the ‘Rakkamma Kayyathathu’ playing in the background while Vinod bashes up a Tamil, sometimes it doesn’t work or I hope to appreciate at a later age, Chaplin playing on the big screen at Riga. Wait was it Morocco? Through the course of the film Agent Vinod so many countries that you wonder that the makers will have trouble creating countries for the sequels (like Kamal and Sujatha attempted with Salamia in the much under-seen and derided Vikram).

Sometimes length is an issue.

As for the acting, I thought it was quite good considering the subject metter; Saif blends in as Agent Vinod and Kareena is adequate in the emotional scenes. Nobody expects Daniel Craig to accumulate nominations for playing Bond, so we should leave it at that.

And I take this opportunity to pass on some fact as advice to Sriram Raghvan, not that he doesn’t know. Here goes:

The man who made New York New York ultimately went on to make Goodfellas.

Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. It is OK.