Unnaipol Oruvan

September 22nd, 2009 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD.

This movie is a remake of an Hindi movie – A Wednesday, starring Nasseruddin Shah and Anupham Kher, which was released in 2008.  I did not watch the Hindi version, but it seemed that the Tamil version followed it closely, even the movie length was similar, with no songs and comedy tracks. What sets apart this movie is that it had the “Ulaga Nayagan” Kamalhaasan!

The movie opened on a public holiday weekend in Malaysia, and also without competition from other Tamil movies, so it should get a good run. The downside (for some)  is that there’s no skimpily dressed heroines, Vadiveloo jokes, or dreamy songs. And yeah, its a short movie, about 2 hours only. But what a two hour it was!

One won’t realize time passing by, as you will be living the moment – tensed just like the police, anticipating like the journalist, plotting like the protagonist.

OK, let’s start with the storyline – its all about terrorism and the ‘Common Man” (people like you and me).  How a  man takes the  laws in to his own hands and punishes the terrorists. Terrorist for the terrorists. Oh, and its a bit like short version of the series 24, covering only about 6 hours of time (from noon till 6pm or so) on the same day.

The movie opens with a flashback. A  guy (Mohanlal) standing on a beach side with his dog, reminiscences  how he was a policeman till yesterday and today  he is a common man, all because of a guy. The flashback begins – Kamal  (nameless throughout the movie) using some tools to create a bomb. Then, we follow him on few journeys – on a bus, in a shopping centre, on a train, and a police station. Its not a normal journey, as he carries bags containing bombs. The journey is suspenseful as we wonder where he will leave the bags – numbering 5 in total.  In the train scene, we see one of the bags being left in the same compartment as a police inspector’s  (Sethuraman) wife and child. The final bag is left at the Anna Salai police station, where  Kamal makes a police report claiming he lost his wallet and leaves bag number six in the toilet. It was a typical Kamalhaasan comedy scene, playing with words and timing.

He then leaves the police station, buys some groceries in the market, and sees reporter Natasha Rajkumar (a cigarette smoking Anuja Iyer) on TV.  Kamal is potrayed as just like any other person on the street – someone’s husband, father, friend. Not a terrorist.

He goes back to his hideout, a uncompleted highrise, the rooftop his base, giving a superb view of Chennai. He proceeds to make a call using some sophisticated tools (to avoid tracking-back by authorities) to the police, specifically to IG Raghavan Maraar (Mohanlal). The dialogue between them was good, but I felt Mohanlal could have done better at expressing his doubts and anger. Kamal informs IG Maraar about his bombs, that will explode at 6pm, and asks the police to assign a negotiator to arrange a deal with him (Kamal).There’s a scene here, just before Kamal’s call. Actor Sriman comes to meet the IG, asking for security. His mannerism mimicked actor Vijay – not sure why these scenes was inserted.

Kamal then calls up the reporter Natasha, and gets her attention with promise of a scoop. She scuttles off to the Anna Salai police station as per his info.

Meanwhile, we see how the IG is in a dilemma. He activates the “War Room” and contacts the Chief Minister (current CM Karunanithi’s voice used!). the IG talks to Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu (played by Lakshmi) since CM was recovering from a trip or something. He asks her to come to the police HQ ASAP. Chief Secretary rushes to the police HQ.

At the war room, Kamal calls IG Maraar, who tries to buy time by saying the negotiator is own the way. Meanwhile, we see how politicians tries to shift their legs and avoid taking responsibility, with CM passing the buck to Chief Secretary to negotiate with the terrorist. Chief Secretary herself passes the authority to IG Maraar. And IG Maraar takes up the challenge, and extracts a promise from the Chief Secretary that she won’t interfere in his decisions. If anything fails, he will take the blame. Interesting to see how politicians are worried about elections, and the top government officials worried about pleasing their political masters.

The next call from Kamal arrives, and IG Maraar reveals that he would negotiate on behalf of the Tami Nadu state government. He asks for proof that Kamal is not lying and there are really bombs. Kamal reveals that one extra bag (free of charge, he says!) as been planted at the police station. The police manage to find the bomb in time, and Kamal tells them how to disable it. The stage is set – the police realize they are facing the real deal here. The reporter too realizes she didn’t get a prank call, but a real terrorist contact.

The police are still trying to trace calls made by Kamal, but unsuccessful at every turn. Kamal registered multiple SIM card using names of people who died in past terrorist attacks. The police are at a loss since calls seems to be coming from many places – local and overseas, indicating the use of professional tools to mask the phone call routes.

Meanwhile, the policeman who took Kamal’s police report regarding his lost wallet  is called to help in making a artist sketch. The police have a lead now since there’s a face for the terrorist. They get another lead in the form of the RDX bomb supplier who sold the material to Kamal. The IG sends Inspector Ariff Khan (hunky, suave Ganesh Venkatram  – who looks a bit like my friend Nantha!) to catch the delivery guy. Unfortunately the guy got into an accident while trying to escape from Ariff. Note that this is the only fighting scene in the movie.  The guy manages to tell Inspector Ariff the location of the delivery, and Ariff rushes to the spot. Unfortunately, I think he investigates the wrong building as we can see Kamal spying on Ariff standing on top an uncompleted building. Later the delivery guy also confirms that the person in the artist sketch is the one he delivered the bomb to.

Kamal makes his request to the IG – release four known criminals involved in terrorism. 3 of these criminals are in Tamil Nadu  jail while another is in Bangalore jail. So, now the police thinks that Kamal is a terrorist who is trying to free his comrades. Left with no choice, IG Maraar agrees to the request. Plans are made to assemble all four criminals in one location. Meanwhile, the IG manages to secure reporter Natasha’s cooperation to relay news which will pacify the terrorist. The scene where IG Maraar confronts Natasha over her duty as reporter was good, but nothing new as we have seen similar scenes in movies involving Arjun, Vijayakanth etc.

As per Kamal’s instructions, the prisoners are to be brought to a old airport at 5pm. The police sends two escorts – Inspector Sethuraman and Ariff to send the four prisoners to the airstrip. He warns the IG that the airport as been booby-trapped and no policemen other than the escorts should be there. Kamal also tips off Natasha to be at the airstrip by 5pm.

By this time, the War Room gets external help by hiring a computer geek to try crack Kamal’s location. Some comedy scenes here.

The prisoners and two inspectors travel by a container on a truck to the airport. One of the prisoners try to rile Ariff, saying he is a traitor to their religion. Ariff is tensed. They arrive at the airstrip. Kamal communicates with the IG in the War Room and the group at the airstrip with conference call, so all of them are in the same loop. Kamal then instructs the four criminals to escape using a jeep located at one corner of the airstrip. He then informs that once the criminals escape and the two inspectors are back in the police HQ, he will reveal the bomb locations.

The four criminals walk towards the jeep, but an angry Inspector Ariff drags back one of them. He argues with his partner Sethuraman, saying that the four criminals should not be released just like that. The other 3 manage to enter the jeep. A handphone rings. One of the criminals, Santhanabarathi answers the call, thinking Kamal was calling to give instructions. The jeep explodes!

Everyone at the airports is surprised and confused. IG Maraar, unaware of the jeep explosion, asks Kamal where’s the bombs, since the four people have been released. Kamal asks him to get updates from his men at the airstrip. IG Maraar calls Ariff, and Ariff tells him about the situation. He also reveals that one of the prisoner is still alive because Ariff held him back. Kamal gets upset on hearing this. The IG gets angry and asks Kamal who is actually. Kamal then goes on a rhetoric – how terrorists are ruling over the mass using fear, how the common man in the street suffers, how governments are slow in investigation and catching the criminals , Why the common man should fight back, blah, blah,blah. As the IG prods Kamal, asking him whether his an Hindu or Muslim, Kamal asks back – “why can’t I be a Christian, Buddhist or atheist? Only the Hindu or Muslim can feel the pain of terrorism is it?” Some interesting dialogues, and a tiny verbal flashback hinting why Kamal took up vigilante terrorism.

Kamal then asks the police to kill the remaining criminal, and he will reveal the bombs’ location. The IG agrees, and orders Ariff to shoot the criminal. Ariff executes the remaining prisoner, and is then shot in the arm by Inspector Sethuraman – as a cover story, saying the prisoners tried to escape and Ariff got hurt in the encounter. Kamal gets the news from reporter Natasha that during “routine prisoner relocation exercise, four criminals who are terrorists were killed while trying to escape. A police inspector was also injured”. Kamal then reveals that the bags he placed were all empty. There are no C4 bombs. And the IG replied he thought so as well!

Hearing Kamal’s story, the computer geek also pretends that he didn’t find the location of Kamal, saying he is just a “common man” while Kamal is a “great man”. The policeman who helped to create the artist sketch of Kamal also blurts that he is now unsure if the guy had a beard or not. The IG is angry as the others seems to be supporting Kamal’s stand. He notices that the computer geek had actually found Kamal’s location but pretended otherwise. He then changes into casual clothes and drives by himself to the abandoned building.

Meanwhile, Kamal packs all his equipments, dumps them into a metal drum and explodes the items – leaving no trace. We see a nail-biting moment as the screen rotates between IG Maraar rushing to the building in his car and Kamal climbing down the stairs carry the groceries bought at the market early in the day.

The scene reaches the climax with IG Maraar noticing Kamal and stopping him outside the uncompleted building. The IG asks Kamal the time, and initiates some casual talks. Kamal drops some tomatoes on the ground, and they both pick the tomatoes. At that time, Kamal receives a call. The same female voice who called earlier to remind about the groceries. She asked him if he is on the way. Kamal replies in the affirmative, saying that he had bought all the groceries and walking back now. He also informs that one guy is talking to him, and he will be home soon. The IG asks him if he needs a lift pointing to his police jeep. Kamal says “police jeep?” and declines, saying that he stays nearby within walking distance. The IG introduces himself and shakes hands with Kamal. We can’t hear Kamal mention his name. Story cuts back to present time. Ex-IG Maraar closes the flashback and walks along the beach with his Labrador.

Storywise, its a remake from an Hindi movie, thus whatever shortcomings should have been ironed out. The story is different compared to regular masala mix or even vigilantism stories dished out in Tamil Nadu. There are some loopholes –  for example, I don’t really see the police as that efficient until data asked by the IG can appear in 10 minutes.

However,  I find it irrelevant to cast the reporter as a chain smoker. There’s no “Smoking is bad for health” notice as well during the shots involving reporter Natsha smoking.

Acting wise, nothing to complain about Kamal. He aces his role easily. Mohanlal on the other hand was not so convincing. At times, his facial expression doesn’t seem to match the situation – its basically emotionless. Actor Sriman did a cameo as Vijay-lookalike. Another Kamal favorite – Santhanabarathi had a minor role as well. Lakshmi also acted OK., having  verbal duals with Mohanlal over authoritiy and power. Anuja Iyer as reporter played her role ably too, but I think her role did not require much effort. But most interesting was the two inspectors – Sethuraman and Ariff Khan. I think it won’t be long before we see them as heroes in Tamil movies.

Comedy in Kamal’s movies are mainly based on the dialogues. If one doesn’t understand Tamil or not in tune with current issues or important events, may miss many of the double entendres or jokes.

In terms of direction, movie was focused, not many unnessary scenes. The beginning part of the movies is more like stage-setting. Each character is introduced and given a bit of morality/characteristics – IG Maraar, Sethuraman, Ariff Khan, Chief Secretary, Natasha, and Kamal himself. After that, the characters were developed and we see how they intertwine neatly with one another. Lots of focus on gadgetry and weaponry.

Songs – No songs! The background musics was OK, adapted well into the movie. Other than that, can’t say Shruti Haasan did extremely well or anything.

Cinematography is good. It helps to create the expectation and tension in the audience, making them feel to be part of the movie, with its crisp shots, and close-ups.

Conclusion: A cool thriller. Not to be missed. And its short too!

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Ganesh Venkatram, Anuja Iyer, Lakshmi, Karunanithi (voice)

Genre: Action, Thriller

Acting : 7.5/10

Story : 9/10

Special Effects: 8/10

Cinematography: 8/10

Overall Oomphness: 8/10

Note: Saw this movie in Sunway Pyramid on second day of Raya. Not much of a crowd, about slightly more than half full.

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7 comments

  1. Mahendran says:

    anne…ur review is lengthier than the movie! ahhahahaaha 😛 lol..joking

    it was a superb show with a great message of the power of a commoner 😉

  2. Piragash says:

    Haha.. now that you mention it.. Inspector Ariff Khan DOES look like Abang Nantha… 🙂

    And good review.. watched the movie, and agree with you on most of it… Only feel that the Sriman scene was totally unnecessary as it didn’t contribute much to the storyline.

  3. MENON says:

    Hi there.

    Thanks for the wonderful review on Unnaipol Oruvan.. But you shouldnt have killed the movie by writing the complete story in the net… its an excellent movie to watch and I did watch 3 shows in 3 days…

    so let everyone watch and enjoy..

  4. Honey Language says:

    very lengthy review brother;) don’t have the patience to read:)

  5. Killer says:

    Just managed to catch it on Friday and I must say this was a much better movie than the rubbish that was Kanthasamy. The good thing is that the focus was on the acting, good story and dialogues rather than superficial aspects like songs, dance, sexy costumes,semi-nude heroines, etc. I was also impressed the way the director has unearthed some new and refreshing talents rather than using the same old faces.Some of these newcomers were very impressive.

    However, the negative aspect was on the technical errors and the logical flaws that abounded.

    In real life no common man can get access to such software which can mask calls. Also in every terrorism situation there are highly trained speciliased team and negotiators will handle the negotiation and manage the situation.

    I also found the scenes of some police officers beating up other lower ranking policemen (instead of subjecting the offenders to disciplnary actions) to be highly unprofesional, even though it might the actual situation in India.

    As for the explosives, RDX cannot be used in isolation but as a key incredient in a type of explsoives called as plastic explosives (PE). The Czech version is called SEMTEX while the American’s version is known as C4. There are other types of PE produced by other countries which carries different names.

    I also cannot buy that the Kamal character after all his careful planning can be so careless as to expose himself to the police and also to the explosive supplier. One would expect him to use disguise at least.

    I also have problem with the rationale behind killing the terrorists as it solve nothing as India has hundreds of terrorists in various states. I also have problem in portraying Muslims as terrorists (mainly), the movie is sending the wrong message. The Mumbai bombing in 1993 for example was a reaction to the Shiv Sena massacre of Muslims.

    It is also hard to imagine the CM would be just happy leave such a serious matter to his subordinates to handle while he’s busy with politics considering the potential political fall out and cost.

    These are just some examples of the flaws and there are many more.

    But in summary, a satisfying movie that entertains without overly insult our intelligent.