Cast: Kamal Haasan, Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur, Jaideep Ahlawat

Director: Kamal Haasan

The Indian Express rating: ***

Let's see now. What did I get offended by in 'Vishwaroop' ? By the fact that Kamal Haasan plays an effeminate dance teacher in an American town? No, Kamal has proven he is good at both classical dancing and being limp-wristed, on screen. Or by the fact that his wife is played by a girl who looks young enough to be his daughter? No, Kamal has given himself an out on this one: the script calls him a 'much older man' who is a prize catch only because he has a green card.

Once I was done casting about for things to get offended by, I sat down to watch the film, which turned out to be fairly gripping in true comic-book style, covering such current hot topics like global terrorism, jehadis, Mujahideens, and a few good guys. Not that I didn't sigh impatiently here and there because of some parts being too stretched, or because feeling that it could have finished before it did. But on the whole, once I got past my insistence on realism and wishing it was shorter, I enjoyed the film. There are no complications in the way it goes about its business : it thoughtfully rewinds a super- quick portion in slo-mo so we can easily reach where Kamal Hassan wants us to get to.

It's one of the few Indian films that actually spends time in building up a lived-in mujaheedin base : almost a third of the film is shot in the bleached mud huts and caves of what looks like Afghanistan and its neighbouring terrain. ( There's also, ahem, a sighting of OBL :this must have been done before Kathryn Bigelow turned the dreaded Al Qaeda big man into toast) . Last we looked, Saif Ali Khan's dapper` Agent Vinod' was scooting about similar looking places : before that was John Abraham in 'Kabul Express'. `Vishwaroop' takes it further, and actually manages to inject some realism in the portions dealing with the Big Bad Mujaheedin's ( Bose) wife and child.

... contd.

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