Rajeev Masand

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Man on fire



Rating: 2.5

January 01, 2013

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Rahul Bose, Jaideep Ahlawat, Pooja Kumar, Shekhar Kapur, Nassar, Andrea Jeremiah

Director: Kamal Haasan

I’m happy to report that Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroop (the Hindi version of his Tamil film Vishwaroopam that became embroiled in controversy) contains nothing that might offend any community. Set around and after the events of 9/11, the film contains a message of anti-terrorism, but never anti-Muslim.

During a tense moment in the film, a key character casually points out that “Everyone here has a double role to play.” It’s this very element of mystery that lends some excitement to Haasan’s story, especially as the action kicks in. But alas, Vishwaroop quickly loses its way, and more than once during its two-and-a-half hour running time you find yourself asking that familiar question: “What’s going on here?”

As the film’s opening scenes establish, Dr Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) is an oncologist based in New York, who is having her Kathak teacher husband Vishwanathan or Wiz (Kamal Haasan) followed by a private detective because he seems altogether too strange for her. Nirupama is upfront about her marriage – she isn’t attracted to the effeminate and much older Wiz and only got hitched to him because she wanted a green card. Yet there’s more to Wiz than meets the eye, and his past catches up with the two, even as they face dangers far greater than a threat to their marriage.

The twists in Vishwaroop work, and writer-director Haasan shifts between the past and the present in surprising, sometimes spoofy, cuts. The film’s middle portion is set in terror camps in Afghanistan, where Haasan makes a statement for senseless killings in the name of jihad. Like the director’s earlier film Hey Ram, there are a couple of beautifully captured, moving moments…like one in which a teenaged jihadi soldier sways back and forth on a swing, trying to recapture some of his stolen childhood. At the same time, the film is also relentless in its depiction of violence – you’ll often see maimed hands, blown torsos, and men savagely kicking others to death.

There is a technical finesse to the action scenes and to the way in which the attacks in Afghanistan are filmed, but the same can’t be said of the confused screenplay that lingers on a bunch of needless characters who converse exclusively in Arabic. These bits, along with the plot’s return to New York in the final act turn a tired story into an even more trite one.

Of the cast, Rahul Bose hams it up as terrorist mastermind Omar, alternating between menacing and caricature with a raspy voice and the event he makes out of the act of inserting a glass eye into its socket. Omar’s right-hand man is played by the gifted actor Jaideep Ahlawat (last seen in Gangs of Wasseypur), but Shekhar Kapur is stiff in a smaller part. Pooja Kumar is suitably ditzy as Vishwanathan’s wife, giving the film its comical interludes. Expectedly, it’s Kamal Haasan himself who steals the show with his uninhibited performance. He gives the film a heart and its conscience by questioning terrorism. Vishwaroop is his most accessible film in years, even though the script is sadly all over the place.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroop. A lot of it is unabashedly entertaining, although you’ll wish the film was shorter and smarter.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

38 Responses to “Man on fire”

  1. nolan says:

    y u take so much time rajeev!…was eagerly waiting for ur remarks on this flick!

  2. diptiman pandey says:

    jaideep ahlawat was last seen in chittagong….not wasseypur…..my dear frnd

  3. Srichand says:

    First time ever Rajeev has given a proper review to a movie made by South Indian, because I believe that he never appreciates south film makers

  4. dhiksha says:

    i liked this movie..!

  5. Raghavendra C says:

    First of all, a big hats off to Kamal Haasan for making a movie that truly lives up to the tag of hollywood standards. Its definitely his show all the way with fine performances from the rest of the cast especially Rahul Bose and Jaideep Ahlawat. I would definitely recommend u watch it if intelligence and action is what u want in a movie unlike the mindless action regulars you are getting nowadays. And finally, there is nothing gravely objectionable in the movie, so it would be better if people just take it as a movie and sit back and enjoy the experience of watching a truly landmark movie regardless of the ratings it is given. **** from me. Support artists like Kamal. They know what they are doing and would never intentionally hurt anyone’s beliefs.

  6. kothari says:

    i loved vishwaroop….loved the actions and the performance by the supporting cast…the action is in par with any A CLASS hollywood movie….wouldnt mind watching it again…i would give a 4 star for the techincal brilliance…

  7. rajeev lal says:

    absolutely loved vishwaroop….actions were mindblowing…it is a little slow in the middle…but never boring for me….and hats of to kamalji…kamaal ka performance…

  8. rajvinder singh says:

    Hi Masand,

    I watched this movie for the media publicity it had garnered, the movie to be honest is really well made… it was a revelation for me to see a movie like this come out of India. Well you have your right to review the movie the way you want to, but at the end of the day as a movie goer, i would say that the movie is a one time must watch. It is definitely better than Dabangg and Ra. One… these movie are of different Genre but then if you had to rate a movie i would rate this atleast 4 out of 5 mainly for the effort that has gone into this.

  9. good review Rajeev. But your rating seems to be low.

  10. sunder says:

    ^ I remember him raving about Enthiran the robot, the rajini movie..so dont post s**t. That said, being a tamilian, I know for a fact that Vishwaoopam would be far better than Enthiran on all levels (maybe not music coz there is AR there)..but havent seen it yet coz of the situation here..What a pity..:(

  11. Danny says:

    Lowest score in the web, everyone thinks its 3.5 and this one 2.5 and Aiyya is also 2.5? REALLY WHATS WRONG WITH yOU?

  12. William says:

    Masand, I don’t agree with your rating. This one can’t be rated on par with trash like race 2. I know you are unbiased, but this is Unfair

  13. Ananth says:

    Deserve a higher rating than 2.5 for avoiding unwanted songs, running around trees (dream scenes), mother sentiments, and for various other good inputs.

  14. proud indian says:

    2.5/5 stars is very much low rating. This movie is on par with hollywood spy thriller and deserves more.

  15. Vishal Tanwar says:

    I think it was a torture. No editing.. bad screenplay .. there were so many WTF moments in the movie.

  16. sunaand says:

    if u remembered rajeev rated makhi(dubbed version of telugu movie eega by s.s rajamouli) with 4 out of 5.it was worth too.

  17. Crazyy says:

    Rajeev gave makkhi 4 stars@srichand

  18. Shekhar says:

    A correct and proper review, mirrored my feel, saw the movie yesterday, was disappointed and relieved. Tamil politico on TV the day before yesterday that the movie claimed Taliban refuges in Coimbatore and Madurai – he was talking of some other movie. I would have definitely skipped the movie else, ‘cos i read/watch Rajeev’s reviews before investing 3 hours to any movie. I am satisfied that unless one is a Taliban supporter, there is nothing objectionable. I suspect the Taliban themselves would view it as apt propaganda for themselves.

  19. aditya says:

    rajeev appreciates south indian films too..becoz i remember him giving 4 out of 5 stars for makki( dubbing of telugu film ”eega”)..but viswaroop deserves 3 stars for sure!!

  20. kamal says:

    Kamal is goin gangs of afghan way, there is more, i mean 2nd part.

  21. kamal says:

    Kamal is goin gangs of afghan way, there is more,i mean 2nd part. the endin says it n he too hinted in his interview, if this controversy happens again he would leave the country. he meant to say if the same would happen with vishwa part 2

  22. Raju singh says:

    Its an five star movie,I have seen it.Its an film on terrisom and on should not expect people to jump on every scene

  23. Neha Kulkarni says:

    @Srichand,He highly appreciated Robot ,Sir!
    And it would be better if we do not compare art on religious /language grounds 🙂

  24. Ajber Rahman says:

    Atleast Kamal tries.. Scene of His metamorphosis from dancer to Agend is superb. The film has plenty of positives.. As Rajeev commented its a full middle part

  25. Kumar says:

    Seriously, 2.5 stars???…..we know u have always been jealous and burnt over South Indians doing good. and since Kamal is going places (HOLLYWOOD) only because of his talent and hard work, you prove your worth here.
    I thought you are few critics who can be weighed upon and you disappoint.
    Didnt you understand by the end of the movie that theres a sequel to this and it would connect to this.
    I dont know weather its shame on your senses or your inferiority complex over Tamil Cinema.
    Better you learn to see what a movie is trying to convey and how much impact does it have on audience and then rate a movie.

  26. sadddddd says:

    U gave 2.5 to race 2 as well r u serious, comparing a sensible movie like vishwaroop to crap like race 2

  27. sadddddd says:

    U gave 2.5 to race 2 as well r u serious, comparing a sensible movie like vishwaroop to crap like race 2
    And u gave 3 to student of the year that is just amazing

  28. Subu says:

    Hi Rajeev,

    I was following your reviews and I felt your reviews were fair.

    Now after seeing a low rating for Vishwaroop , I am beginning to think otherwise.

    I think you have a biased opinion. Vishwaroop should fall between 3 to 3,5.

    For example, You gave a rating of 3.5 for Talaash which in my view was a average movie in comparison with Vishwaroop.

    I am no longer going to follow your reviews as they seem to be heavily biased.

  29. Sandjaie says:

    I loved the movie, it lived up to my expectations. A real break from the usual masala flicks.. i ‘d rate 4 stars

  30. shamanth says:

    all thanks to kamal hassan.

    the movie has done the best attempt to show the nature of terrorism in all perspective and it has not made any1 look stupid either. hence giving the Indian commercial movie some value at all stages.

    The editing and the animations were bad and the hero’s wife didn’t seemed to be surprised by her husband real identity and the diffusion was rather too easy. 🙁

    waiting for Vishwaroop 2..

  31. ravi says:


    Rajeev, do u have a template that says describe atleast one scene from the movie?… its becomin.too repetitive – in the name of doing an in depth review, ur spoilin it for the viewers…

  32. shrish says:

    i’ll say it was a strictly average movie..only interesting part was say 30 min before the interval…the director tried to be a taratino but ended in being nothing.lol

  33. Gaurav G says:

    What’s wrong with Indian Audience?
    I found conception easier to understand compared to vishwaroopam. The opening Kathak dane takes AGES to get on with. Atleast 2 times in the movie I found it difficult to understand what is actually going on. Writing all this makes me feel like some uneducated, illiterate who only enjoys masala flicks but seroiusly, race to was bad.. but better than vishwaroopam. It is worth a miss. totally.

  34. ranbir says:

    mr.rajeev, do u think that u will appear too much intelligent by giving this type of low ratings?

  35. Vivek says:

    Suprised to see such a low rating for one of the better movies recently seen in Indian Cinema…. Of late I could only see crap coming from Bollywood….. STOY, JTHJ, Dabaang 2, Talaash (average), Race 2 (utter rubbish with poorly executed stunts, acting and pathetic visual effects)…. Kamal is a LEGEND and his work speaks for himself… No other actor in India has given us such diverse films llike he has…. I understand that he may have compromised to please the front benchers but he always thinks ahead than the rest…. Most of his films have been become cult classics and appreciated much later after their release…. Everybody should see the movie and judge for themselves…. I enjoyed it thoroughly and have been hotly debating about this movie with my friends and collegaues…. Way to go Kamalji…. India is proud of you and I am sure you will rock HOLLYWOOD once you set your foot there!!!

  36. Hariharan says:

    Hello Rajeev,

    First of all , I am a big fan of yours and till now i always believed that you do good review of movies. But strange isnt it nobody is perfect and you proved you are not this time.

    Let me tell you my assumptions of why you didnt get involved on this movie. I myself have watched movie twice and had 2 differenent feel about the movie.

    First time when i watched I guess i went into the theater which had proper surround sound systems and the movie was outstanding and went fast and was very gripping. The Afghanistan scenes were really cool and amazing and infactt mouth watering , all actors were brilliant . With kamal bringing the parallel screenplay into place at right place and explaining the cause and effect and with SEL amazing background music , it was riveting and pure hollywood like.

    The Second time however i went into different theater which didnt have a proper surround system at all and the background music was failing to impact and there was somthing missing. I could easily figure out. See certain scripts need background music to get you actually involved wiht the script and feel of the atmosphere and thats why we have background music isn’t . Because of lack of quality sound systems i wasnt involved at all with afghanistan scenes and i was feeling bad for the viewers because they have been robbed of such a quality beautiful movie by not so good theater.

    This movie is actually made in AURO 3D sound technology. i cannot ask you to go to see in a theater which has AURO 3D, I guess i can only request you to see in a theater which has good surround audiio system . I also didnt see in AURO 3D but i did watch in a proper surround environment.

    Again certain scripts actually need background music to pull you in to get the feel and understand what’s happening.

    Please do justice to this movie and i am sorry you havent ddone this time. Please watch it again and do justice to the movie.

    Please dont think or be narrow minded to say that people who like the film are kamal’s fanatic fans. Because in India as we know it take a lot of effort to correct things.

  37. Andy says:

    Dear Rajeev,
    It’s an outstanding movie that definitely deserves more than two and a half stars.. By the way i really want Rajeev Masand to direct a five star movie himself, so that we can know what actually deserves a five star..

  38. INDIAN says:

    Dear Masand,
    You missed lot of departments from review for this movie – cinematography, sound mixing and recording, art direction, background score, action as well as dance choreography- to tell a few, which easily grasp attention, which were all truly indigenous except action choreography, but again truly world class. I doubt whether you knew the movie was sound mixed in Auro 3D. The film gets special appreciation for its uncomprimising quality in bringing the visuals, a feat to Indian Cinema till far. A total deviation from regular Indianwood potboilers especially in relation to its content.

    Adapting your style from the last lines, lot of this review is unabashedly diplomatic, although we wish it were wiser and unbiased. Keep yourselves the rating Gentleman.

    I might be a Universal Hero’s fanatic, heard that the word “fan” has its etymological derivative from the word “fanatic”. But I am honest.


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