Vishwaroopam: An Underwhelming Prequel/Sequel That Loses Its Mystique
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed and written by Kamal Hassan, Vishwaroopam 2 is just what the director said it would be. Don’t remember? When Vishwaroopam 1 came out, Kamal mentioned that the film was too long and hence the leftover portions would be released as a sequel. This is exactly what this sequel is, it is the leftovers stitched together intricately with many additional plot twists that are merely underwhelming and disappointing coming from a master storyteller like Kamal. As expected, there are some mysterious, intriguing and challenging references that are subtly embedded in various places of the film. Sadly though, the newer portions seem to be too hastily put together in order for the audience to consider Vishwaroopam 2 as an entirely satisfying film.
Vishwaroopam 2 takes off right from where the first part leaves you. You are taken through the instances that lead, the trusted soldier, Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri (Kamal Hassan) to be the face of wanted posters published by the Indian government. Wisam in en route England with Ashmita (Andreah Jeremiah) and Colonel Jagannath (Shekhar Kapur) who are on a mission to diffuse a deadly bomb. From here on, the story jumps back and forth between Wisam’s past and present to take you on a journey that eventually comes to a close with a battle between the film’s deadly duo, Wisam, and Omar (Rahul Bose).
There can never be a Kamal film without his signature nuances. So, Vishwaroopam 2, too has many fascinating double entendres and subtle nuances hidden throughout the film. Take, for instance, ‘Which God are you talking about?’ the dialogue that has been cleverly handed over from Wisam to Salim in the sequel. To dig deeper, everything from Nirupama’s mistaken name to the song about Wisam’s mother has a thought-provoking significance to it. To detect and uncover these nuances in a Kamal film is an utter joy. Furthermore, it is to be noted that, at a time when producers are stacking franchise films for entirely commercial purposes, Kamal’s Vishwaroopam while being commercial is also made for the kind of audience who are in love with the visual language of cinema. From his first film as a director, Hey Ram to his recent outing, it is clear that cinema is to Kamal what a candy shop is to a child. He excitedly tries to mystify his audience by using the mise-en-scene in the most unique perspective that is possible. When you take these aspects into account, Vishwaroopam 2 is satisfying. Unfortunately, if you draw comparisons with the first installment that turned out to be pure cinema, this one fares quite ordinarily.
Unfortunately, Vishwaroopam has more than a few flaws. But only three crucial mishaps leave quite a heavy impact on the film. One, Omar is a Taliban leader. One can recollect seeing a spiteful and terrorizing version of him in the first installment. In this sequel, he makes an appearance only in the second half. For whatever little time you see him, you are not at all intimidated. His presence no longer reeks of spiteful vengeance. Instead, he seems to have gone soft. Shortly before the climax, the way his journey comes to an end is completely disappointing. To kill off such an important character in such an unimaginative manner is infuriating. This ineffective character development is also extended to another key character colonel Jagannath.
One of the other reasons why the film does not work well is the manner in which it satisfies the central character’s ego. You would never expect Kamal to be self-indulgent on screen. Sure, maybe if its a comedy one can see it coming. But given the depth of global politics Kamal brought into Vishwaroopam’s storytelling spectrum, a self-serving sequel/prequel is quite a measly affair. Every now and then you are reminded that, wherever a bomb goes off, only Wisam is smart enough to diffuse it. If quintessential heroism is what you were in store for, why do you need Kamal for that? You expect more from a storyteller who is as seasoned as him. For example, take Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan. In that film too, Shahrukh Khan has to save the day. Whatever happens, he is the sole protector and there is never room for an unhappy ending. In Vishwaroopam 2, you start to sense quintessential heroism when the focus of all scenes is Wisam. Sometimes, with the way they parade his dancing skills, you forget Wisam and Kamal is all you see. In fact, he throws in a supposedly happy ending by disclosing the whereabouts of Omar’s family who is out chasing the American dream. This manner of overshadowing the central character and weaving in cliched tactics just to please the audience leaves an irreparable dent in the film.
Lastly, Kamal seems to be confused on what direction to take the film in. On one side, he tries to enable you to get to know Wisam and his background but never sees this through. You know Wisam is a dancer, you get to know his mother and you even understand why he is wanted by the Indian government. But you never get a window into his psyche. You never understand his principles or the circumstances that lead him to shape them. When a film gets so personal without ever diving into the actual personal characteristics, it is bound to be unsatisfying. The film becomes all the more directionless when you witness a watered down version of Taliban. You never believe that Wisam is smarter than them. Instead, the Taliban here is made to look dumb just so that Wisam looks and sounds better. Kamal takes this uncharacteristic behavior a step further by actually having the screenplay explain its plot twists every now and then. This feels like a magician revealing his tricks. For instance, the scene in which Wisam breaks free and comes to save his wife is explained to us frame by frame. From untangling the rope he is confined by to the manner in which he escapes the clutches of Omar, everything is explained. This tendency to fill in the blanks in a Kamal film is as misplaced as a bull in a China shop.
Furthermore, it doesn’t help that the film has a few obvious loopholes. For instance, why is the RAW angle only introduced in the sequel? How come Kamal falls off a flying car, breaks glass windows with the use of his body and yet never manages to get hurt? Why did Wisam and his team go to Europe all of a sudden? Were they summoned by the European police force? These are a few loose ends, the film leaves.
As Wisam, Kamal is charming, witty and quite brilliant. But here and there, Kamal begins to overshadow Wisam with his own personal characteristics. Andreah Jeremiah has a meaty role and she sees it through with a lot of grace and valor. She is especially breath-taking in a few stunt sequences. Pooja Kumar has a lot more to do in this sequel. It is refreshing to see heroine play a role that actually has a significance to the story. Her performance in the underwater sequence is quite gritty. Sadly, Rahul Bose has very little to do. But even in his limited screen time, he isn’t as intimidating as he used to be.
Cinematography and VFX in Vishwaroopam 2 are below par. The background compositing in the Delhi sequences appears terribly amateur. The visuals too lack the appeal of a thriller. There is no frame suspense at all. Altogether, whether it’s the editing, special effects or the cinematography, everything is pieced together quite shoddily. In fact, the England portions appear far more convincing than the New Delhi portions. For a film that thrives on visual excitement, a lot more effort could’ve gone into the production design.
Ghibran’s music is average. But “Naanaagiya Nadhimoolamae” song manages to rekindle a multitude of emotions.
On the whole, Vishwaroopam 2 is underwhelming. When Kamal Hassan is at the front of a project, one can never settle for the ordinary. Considering the fact that his political career is going to cut-short his presence in the silver screens, one can’t help but hope that at least his next outing as an actor/writer/director lives up to his legacy.