Tamil ‘Wednesday’ misses out on Mumbai context…Sandy’s review of Unnaipol Oruvan
Starring: Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Lakshmi
Directed by: Chakri Toleti
It’s obvious why the subject of A Wednesday appealed to Kamal Haasan. The nature of commercial film business in India is such that 50 plus heroes find very few scripts appropriate to their age and stature. So when a vigilante justice drama comes along, where the two leads have plum parts to essay, a remake is a tempting proposition.
Of course, both Hindi and the Southern industry are heavily into borrowing each others’ hit ideas these days, and so far, they are reaping rich dividends. There have been Ghajini and Wanted – both Southern remakes – that created fireworks at the boxoffice. Similarly, many hits in Hindi like Munnabhai MBBS and recently Jab We Met have been remade in Southern languages.
Among these remakes, masala films and love stories that have a certain universal appeal find favour on both sides. However, when a subject is more location or culture specific, remaking it in a different setting poses problems of plausibility.
That is a major issue with Unnaipol Oruvan, a story about a common man being so angered by the situation of terrorism in his country that he comes up with the requisite technology and temerity to dispense off with terrorists responsible for the crimes. Democracy has enormous strengths, but the essential slowness of the legal processes and the general ineptitude of our governing bodies, is what makes vigilante justice appear so appealing to it people.
Unnaipol Oruvan points towards this rage inside the common man and presents a fantasy-like scenario where the evil is cleansed off in one stroke.
The concept of course is not new to the South at all. One knows of films like Aparichit, Nayak and Haasan’s own Hindustani that had similar themes. But unlike them, which were meant as masala entertainers, Unnaipol Oruvan — as one has seen from A Wednesday — has a quasi-realistic tone, which is why the film can’t escape from being judged on different parameters. The same can be said for Madhavan’s Evano Oruvan – remake of the Nishikanth Kamat directed Marathi film Dombivili Fast— that released a couple of years ago to a mixed response in Chennai. The local train motif is a vital aspect in Kamat’s film, and since trains are the very life-line of Mumbai, the theme is more rooted to the exact problems of the city. The Tamil version missed that element.
When Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday was made, the 26/11 had not happened to Mumbai, yet, the wounds of several bomb blasts afflicted on the city were still fresh, which is why a common man emerging from the multitude of people and talking the launguage the terrorists understand was attractive. Even if the idea of one man holding an entire police department to ransom by virtue of some technological prowess is not entirely plausible, it’s a leap of faith the viewer is willing to take. The emotion struck a chord.
However, Unnaipol Ouruvan is left to strive hard to achieve any such emotional connect. The Southern states have not really been in the eye of the storm as much as Mumbai, Gujarat or some of the other states. Yes, there has been an instance of terror attack in Bangalore and one in Chennai, but nowhere close to what Mumbai has gone through. Naturally then, Kamal Hasaan, as the ordinary man, keeps harping on these two incidents alone. And then goes on to add that the Southern states must not be apathetic to what goes on in the rest of the country. It’s easy to see this gesture arising from the compulsion of the subject itself more than anything else.
The film loses its punch because of the change in location but if that aspect were to be entirely ignored, it’s a mostly well-made film. There are very little changes made to the screenplay from the Hindi version, but overall, this is a neater, sensibly toned down film (many of the scenes in A Wednesday were horribly loud). The biggest attraction is of course watching Mohanlal and Kamal in action and they make this film worthwhile with their powerful personas. In A Wednesday, Naseeruddin Shah was clearly the pivotal character. In the Tamil version, Mohanlal as the chief commissioner makes a stronger impact. The slight variation to A Wednesday is the addition of Lakshmi’s character, a senior minister who is part of the team meant to thwart Kamal’s plans. She starts of being high-handed and officious and it’s interesting to see her and Mohanlal getting into a few verbal duels. It’s clear Mohanlal is not too fluent in Tamil and he keeps interspersing Malayalam words.
One disappointing aspect of the film is lack of Shruti Haasan’s music. The promos gave an inkling that there might be some interesting bits of background music or a song at the start or end to look forward to. No such luck. There’s very little of it, almost negligible. If you have to watch it, do so for the two actors who leave a definite mark with their presence in a film that comes with its share of problems.