Warning: Beware of… nah, nothing here is a spoiler, given what the trailers give away. But who knows what someone might take umbrage at, so beware, anyway.
Okay, so what exactly is all the hoopla about? Or is it just me who is unable to see the offensive material packed into a story about an Al Qaeda plot set in New York City, with significant portions set in Afghanistan? What am I missing here? Never mind, let me focus instead on the film itself.
The story, which shuttles back and forth between two timelines and locations, involves a diabolical terrorist plot and a bunch of intelligence officers who work to foil it. The frenetic pace, slick production values and nonlinear storytelling makes it seem a lot more sensible that it does now in hindsight. Which makes it no better or worse than a number of entertaining action thrillers we’ve seen come out of Hollywood in the past.
Here’s the thing: You want to tell a story where complicated machinations lurk beneath a placid surface. So you start by showing the surface, and then rip that veneer apart in a series of dramatic action sequences. It’s a fair storytelling strategy and has worked well in a number of movies in the past. Trouble is, it isn’t a good story-building strategy. Why is that? You see, the story didn’t unfold backwards from the facade. The facade had to be the result of a logical sequence of events.
So, when an effeminate TamBram kathak teacher (played amusingly well, I might add) suddenly turns out to be someone else entirely, you are appropriately surprised, but when you try to reconstruct the story later, you realize that there is no earthly reason why he had to masquerade as said effeminate TamBram kathak teacher in the first place. The answer, of course, is simple: it gives Kamal an opportunity to play that character.
Having said that, there is much to like about this film. It is, as I said, pretty slick. The portions shot in Afghanistan are riveting. I don’t know how true to life it is, but it feels mostly plausible and works on screen. Sometimes the plotting is not just complex, but also left to be complex — I like a film that trusts its audience to fill in the gaps and doesn’t spell everything out. In the midst of all this, there is room for a little humor as well, including a cute inside joke about Dasavatharam.
That Viswaroopam isn’t the film it could’ve been is cause for disappointment, but this isn’t a bad film by any means. I’ll say this, though: Had they made this film in Hollywood with, say, Matt Damon, you would most likely not have seen him play a possibly-gay salsa dancer who enters into a marriage of convenience with a nuclear oncologist.