In the first two decades of this millennium, the spread of small pockets of extremist thinking from Afghanistan to the rest of the world has had several unfortunate collateral consequences and has helped swing many nation states to the right of the political spectrum. Migration, not just of Muslims, but of any people, has dominated electoral debates across the world. Simultaneously, in the sphere of entertainment, the action thriller movie on religious extremism of this kind has generated huge revenue.
The actor-politician Kamal Haasan is more left of centre in his ideological positioning, and attempts to show the Indian Muslim in the light of a nationalist warrior in ‘Vishwaroopam', parts one and two. But by blowing up the danger of this kind of terrorism to the apocalyptic level that he does, Haasan allows the audience to lose perspective on the issue, and ends up creating the usual hyperbole on Islamic bogeymen threatening the existence of ‘civilised' military democracies.
The first ‘Vishwaroopam’ (2013) is set mainly in the US and Afghanistan and tells of an agent of Indian Intelligence, Viz, aka, Vizam Ahmad Kashmiri (Kamal Haasan) infiltrating an Al Qaeda outfit in Afghanistan led by Omar Qureshi (Rahul Bose). Omar has planned sleeper cells in New York City to set off a ‘dirty bomb’ there, but Viz helps defuse the crisis in the nick of time. He is arrested by the FBI, but released after information from the PMO in New Delhi reveals that he is actually a RAW agent. Meanwhile, Omar, who has become a buddy of Viz after their good old days of lynchings and beheadings in Afghanistan, is left betrayed by his friend and severely injured.
In ‘Vishwaroopam 2', Viz travels with his wife, Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) and his colleague Ashmita (Andrea Jeremiah) to England and discovers that the terrorists are now planning to use a huge cache of bombs from a sunk World War 2 ship to blow up London town. The old fox, Omar, has changed his status from presumed dead to confirmed alive, and is waiting for revenge and a possible second encounter with Viz.
The movie is divided into three neat thirds. The first is an interminable flashback to what happened in Afghanistan. The second is an incredibly boring talkathon between Viz, his two women companions, an ageing Indian head of intelligence in the UK (Shekhar Kapur) and a double agent (Anant Mahadevan). The third part of the movie is the only one that is watchable.
It involves an emotional re-union that Viz has with his ailing mother (Waheeda Rehman). She has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognise her son, but when Viz points to a photo of himself as a child with her, and voices the beat of the Hindustani classical music accompaniment to the ‘Kathak’ dance form she taught him when he was young, a light comes on somewhere in the recesses of her deteriorating mind. Shortly after, she slips back into the blank memory phase that characterises her disease. Both actors play the scene extremely well, to remind us of how well they once, individually, performed in outstanding movies of the past.
Unfortunately, 'Vishwaroopam 2’ is not one of those memorable films. It is a badly written pastiche of some new locations and sequences that are stitched together in patchwork form with the first film. It has the same characters, but without a single new thought added on in the five year hiatus since. This is exceedingly disappointing.