Movie - Unnaipol Oruvan (Tamil)
Director - Chakri ToletiProducer - Raajkamal Films International, UTV Motion Pictures
Cast - Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Lakshmi, Ganesh Venkatraman, Bharath Reddy, Anuja Iyer.
Music - Shruti Haasan
Cinematography - Manoj Soni
Editing - Rameshwar S. Bhagat
Story - Neeraj Pandey
Screenplay - Neeraj Pandey, Kamal Haasan
Dialogues - E. Ra. Murugan, Kamal Haasan
Art Direction - Thotta Tharani
Release Date - 18th September 2009.
First of all, let me thank the whole team of this movie for giving such an amazing movie. This was one of the best movies I have seen, especially in Tamil. Even though it is a remake of a much acclaimed and appreciated movie like 'A Wednesday', the fact is that this movie has improved upon the original and has done a neat job of transplanting the story from a much terror-ridden Mumbai to a much more peaceful South India, specifically Chennai. I happened to see the original in September last year, so I already knew the story of the film and the twists and turns that would happen in it. But my excitement was for a different reason. Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal are two of the best actors in the world. These two coming together is indeed a great moment for any film buff. And if they are coming together in a movie like this, with a solid script and a social message, the excitement goes to much higher levels. Enough of fan talk now, lets get to the review.
The movie begins when IG Raghavan Maraar, the police commissioner of Chennai (A Malayali) is on the beach remembering an interesting case which he had to deal with (Which was on A Wednesday in the original. [;)]). I couldnt hear any of the dialogues which he said because, as u know, on the release day of a Mohanlal film in Cochin, people actually go mad seeing his introduction. I was loving every bit of the atmosphere there. But of course, not hearing the dialogue is not such a good thing. The movie then cuts to Kamal Haasan preparing some high-end explosives and the title credits roll in. The names of Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal and Shruti Haasan meet with thundering response in the hall. As most of us know the story already, I'm not going into it in detail. In short, the movie is about a stranger who places bombs at different strategic points in a metro and threatens the police department, that if they dont release certain criminals, the bombs would go off at a specified time. The whole movie is mostly an interaction between the police commissioner and this stranger with no name.
The director has an easy as well as difficult job on his hand. Easy because he already has a readymade film to refer to and all he has to do is cut and paste. But the difficult and challenging part is how he adapts that movie from Mumbai to Chennai and how he delivers a neat remake of the brilliant original, that too by working with huge talents/stars like Kamal and Mohanlal. And he has done a great job. The movie doesnt look like one made by a debutante. Full marks to Chakri Toleti, because this film is an improved version of the original. Thereby making it better than that.
The movie has a lot of interesting characters and the casting for them is dot on! Mohanlal as Commissioner IGR Maaraar and Kamal Haasan as the stranger with no name, lead the pack. There is veteran actress Lakshmi who plays Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu; Ganesh Venkatraman as Arif Khan, a rough and tough young cop; Bharath Reddy as a softer but responsible and level-headed young cop; Anuja Iyer as a cigarette smoking journalist and Anand as a young IIT drop-out hacker and there is yet another important character who is present only as a voice, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu (Brilliant). The performances by all these actors are brilliant as well.
It is a delight for anybody who loves cinema from the South (or maybe even from the north) to watch Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal in a single movie. And both of them give stupendous performances. Both of them are very much in control, subtle, but at the same time, powerful. It is Mohanlal who shines till the climax with Kamal taking the backseat, except for some powerful tit for tat dialogues. But it is in the stunning climax that Kamal, the performer comes into full form. The scene is not exactly like Naseeruddin Shah's monologue in the original, as the dialogue is often interrupted by Mohanlal with some powerful retaliations. His emotional outburst is different from that of Naseer's and is more calm and composed. The shot where he wipes his tears with the gun was the best moment of the film according to me. BRILLIANT!!
His dialogue delivery is amazing and he keeps switching between Tamil and English smoothly. Though there is an overdose of English, we do not complain. Anything Kamal says in the movie is brilliant. At the same time, Mohanlal is no less either. He has played the calm and composed cop before in Company. But this one is completely different. His calmness, his self-confidence, his sarcasm at the play of power and politics, his interactions with his subordinates and of course, the usage of Malayalam in between, all this is brilliant. He had great lines which got amazing applause sessions throughout the movie. The best one being the one where he says he loves Tamil Nadu as much as he loves his home state Kerala. Mohanlal's interactions with both Kamal and Lakshmi are brilliant. The sarcasm and the blame game with Lakshmi is a highlight and is something which wasnt there in the original.
The only scene where Kamal and Mohanlal meet is right at the end. It leaves you hoping for more and the movie ends right there in a clever way. The sheer sight of both of them together on screen would give you your ticket money's worth. Mohanlal says his name as Irinjalakkuda Govindan Raghavan Maaraar, which got a thunderous response in the hall. Kamal's minute changes in body language when he sees Mohanlal and Mohanlal's growing confidence in that scene is brilliant. I'm not going into details as it will give away the plot to those who havent seen the original. Mohanlal gets a much more meatier role than Anupam Kher and plays the role better than Kher in most parts. Kamal's performance is on par with that of Naseeruddin Shah and at certain instances, even better. Like I said, the shot where he wipes his tears with the gun was a brilliant touch. Totally symbolic to the theme of the movie. In the original, Naseer had an edge over Kher, but here both the superstars have got equal importance and shine equally well. If it was any other actor pitted against Kamal, he wouldnt have been able to hold his own self against Kamal's performance. But here, Mohanlal does just that.
From the other people in the cast, Lakshmi has the most brilliant character. Her character wasnt there in the original and her conversations and arguments with Mohanlal are a treat to watch. The IAS - IPS egos clash in those scenes and some great lines come from these two actors. Ganesh Venkatram as the angry young cop shines well in his role as Arif Khan. Especially in the scene where he beats up a constable and the scenes towards the climax. Bharath Reddy was good too. Anuja Iyer as the journalist was ok. Her face looked weird. But she acted well. The scene where she tries to smoke a cigarette in front of Mohanlal was a good one. The movie also takes a direct dig at Ilaya Thalapathy Dr.Vijay in the form of an actor, Dr.Arvind (Sriman), who comes asking for protection to Mohanlal. Its a genuinely funny scene. Sriman does extremely well by mocking all possible mannerisms of the younger superstar.
Manoj Soni's camerawork is brilliant again. The RED camera is used for a complete film for the first time in India, and will be a much feasible, cheaper and better option for cinema in the future. I couldnt make out the difference in picture clarity (most people accuse that digital formats have lesser clarity than celluloid). The projection was very poor in Saritha theatre, Ernakulam, where I watched this movie. The theatre seriously needs to better its equipment. All movies shown there are so horribly bleached out and bright. It was very hard to notice the nuances in lighting because of the poor projection. The camera movements, especially in the shots inside the police chamber and the building where Kamal operates from, were deadly. Rameshwar Bhagat's slick editing keeps this movie going at a breakneck speed and slows down purposely when it nears the climax to give emphasis to Kamal's state of mind and Mohanlal's reactions. Shruti Haasan's music is apt for the movie. The songs she has composed for the album have not been used. Only 'Allah Jaane' plays for a short while in the background and 'Unnaipol Oruvan' plays during the end credits. She gives minimal background music in the beginning of the movie and towards the end, the music further elevates the thrill of the scenes, especially with the guitar notes. Neat Job!!
But the best part of this movie are the dialogues by E.Ra.Murugan and Kamal Haasan. The lines in this movie are one of the most brilliantly written lines I've ever heard. Most of the Malayali audience here couldnt follow some dialogue gems because they were spoken in pure Tamil. The English dialogues too, were brilliant. Mohanlal's English delivery is much much better than usual and he has some great lines in English as well, the best one being about the beer [;)]. The movie is rich with so many brilliant conversations and I cannot recollect the exact lines of most of them, and if they are not quoted exactly, they will lose their beauty. There is also a lot of humour and sarcasm that comes across through the dialogues. The transplantation of the movie from Mumbai to Chennai is well explained through some great dialogues which make you think.
This is only the second Tamil movie that I have seen which doesnt have even a single song (First one being Kamal's too- Kurudhippunal). It has no comedy track. No irrelevant supporting characters. No 'Amma-Akka' sentiments. No foreign locations. And since it doesnt have all this, it is such a relief. In fact, one of the protagonists in the movie rarely moves from his seat and still makes you sit on the edge of your seat. This is certainly the kind of cinema that Kamal Haasan stands for (He does the routine stuff as an actor to make money for movies like this which he can make as a producer/writer/director). A brave attempt and it certainly deserves a huge success. The movie also gives out a strong (maybe not practical) message against modern day terrorism and tries to make a statement to the judicial systems in the country. The movie has already taken a huge opening (guessing from the response I saw today), and has created a huge buzz in TN and Kerala because of the casting of the 2 legends together. A Wednesday had a very short theatrical run here in Kerala. Most people watched it and appreciated it on DVDs and TV. This one has an advantage with the star power of these 2 people, who are brilliant actors as well.
All in all, a must watch for anyone who loves well-made, good cinema. For people who havent seen 'A Wednesday', this might as well be the movie of the year. For people who have seen, it isnt any less either. I'm definitely watching it again and again. Fakr Hai, Mr. Kamal Haasan, Lal Sir and the rest of the team!! Hats off!!
Rating - 4.6/5 (I would have given 5 on 5 if it wasnt a remake)