When you "voice the nation's fears" and you "tell it like it is", you inadvertently take a risk far unparalleled.
Records and experiences tell us that we, as a people, are far more volatile when the fingers are pointed at ourselves, at our faults and at our inner misgivings (which is a way of saying that we don't trust as easily as we should).
That's where A Wednesday scores a point(one of many). It isn't afraid of doing the one thing we Indians are so unsure about: taking the initiative.
Now here's an interesting concept (specially for all those terrorists out there); we, the people, the nation, are ONE. Whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh, this nation is secular to the core. Fine, we've got our communal riots, we've got our social disputes, we've got a pleasant bunch of irrevocably weird "bad" men. Cool, I acknowledge that (along with a billion or so others, of course).
But what we don't realize is that an INDIAN, above all, is responsible for the crimes. An INDIAN is the terrorist, whether he sets fire to a Hindu-loaded train or ruthlessly cuts unsuspecting Muslims in "retaliation". An INDIAN is at fault when he's caught plotting against the British/American government. Yes, we are O.N.E.
And that's exactly what A Wednesday embodies--it tackles the issue of terrorism head-on; it approaches the subject with a clear-cut view of things and a solid idea of right or wrong. But most importantly, it finds a solution.
The tricky part here would be to explain the plot to you--there's no possible way I can do it without revealing to you the "twist in the tale", which, of course, is the mainstay of the film. Here goes:
Naseeruddin Shah plays a nameless, faceless man who, seemingly, has an agenda of his own. He cunningly devises a plan to secure his identity and yet "harass" the already tired Mumbai police (headed ably by Anupam Kher) by sending them on a "treasure hunt"--the treasure, albeit, being six bombs that he's allegedly placed across the city.
While Mr.Kher and gang are initially inclined to believe the call to be a hoax, Naseer reveals that he has, in fact, planted a bomb at the police headquarters right across the street from Mr.Kher. A hunt and a few tense minutes later, the bomb is found.
And Naseer establishes that he, indeed, means business.
The film progresses quite like the way that most terrorism inspired flicks progress--with the age-old demand by the "kingpin" to have his comrades released and be gathered at a specific point. Anupam Kher (helped by Jimmy Sheirgill and Aamir Bashir), obviously, has no choice but to comply, the deal being that once the terrorists are handed over, the locations of the six bombs will be revealed.
However, nothing is quite like it seems; when the four terrorists are gathered at an abandoned Juhu airstrip, they are, literally, "blown away"--by a bomb.
Yes, Naseeruddin Shah portrays the common man, the "stupid common man", as he calls himself, the common man who's started living a life of fear.
I'm not gonna give anything else away, I've already revealed to you the twist, but suffice it to say, the end moments of the film and the "showdown" in the end are some of the most gripping scenes in cinema. Period. I mean ALL cinema, Hollywood included. It's not an exaggeration, mates, it's seriously the voice of a billion odd people. And BOY is it loud.
The acting? Here's the lo-down:
What can I say about Naseeruddin Shah? I mean, what can I say that's not already been said? What I admire most about the man is his uncanny body language. He fits any role he's given, like a hummingbird to air, like cactus to sand (cheesy, I know), whether it's the dull, lazy, alcoholic washed-up-has-been in Iqbal or the upright, scared, intelligent and ever-hurting common man in A Wednesday. He's just simply outstanding--what with the perfect modulation and dialogue delivery, Mr.Shah has truly outdone himself. And not for the first time ;-D
Anupam Kher, as the totally in-control police chief, is marvelously restrained. After watching him in the AWFUL C Kkompany (and other such recent disasters--Dhoom Dhadaka, too, comes to mind), I'd given up hope of seeing him actually "act" and not "ham". But he's the perfect foil to Naseer's character, something very, very few actors could match upto. I guess it helps having been Naseer's friend for years and years, getting to know the subtleties of his acting and, resourcefully, having developed his own personal nuances to complement those of his co-star.
Jimmy Sheirgill's role is the most perplexing of the lot and it's not because he acts well (which is also not because he doesn't act well--wait, lemme explain). Fine, the director wanted to establish that he's a no-nonsense, violently-inclined, no-holds-barred officer, but what, may I ask, does that have to do with the damned film??? Not ONCE is his character effectively used--for all it mattered, he could've been a whining wimp (or Bobby Darling, for that matter) of a cop! Weird.
Aamir Bashir is good as the pleasant, bhola-bhala officer. A nice change from the "Shinde"'s we've become accustomed to in recent years.
A note, however, to the director: why waste talented actors like Jimmy Sheirgill and Aamir Bashir in such roles? Seriously, they could've been done by just about anybody with half a brain and a scowl and smile, respectively.
A special mention to Gaurav Kapur, the man who plays the lead terrorist in the film--he's very, very effective as the scared terrorist trying to weasel his way out with words. A very gifted actor, I hope we see more of him.
Okay, on to the technical department:
I must say, it's consistent, alright: consistently bad. The DOP somehow decided that he'd love to chop the top half of just about everything in the film, including cell-phones, tables, roofs, the sky, and, in several cases, even normal humans! I mean, sure, you wanted to let the audience know what Jimmy Sheirgill doesn't have a brain (which is quite obvious, actually, from the fact that he chose the role in the first place), but that doesn't mean you'll chop his head off! Also, the over-usage of the fade-outs is very jarring. Cinematographer Fuwad Khan does NOT live up to the visual expectations from the theme itself.
Thankfully, there's no music and really no need for a background score, either. The sheer "blandness" of the film, music-wise, that is, is a point in its favour since it doesn't distract you from everything important.
Minimalistic make-up and really no need for costumes round up the technical aspects.
Now here's what I REALLY wanted to tell you. The dialogues, the dialogues, the dialogues. I won't go further, I wouldn't want you to develop a bias coz of me, but the DIALOGUES!
The two lines that summarize it all and, at the same time, manages to shake you up and introspect is this:
1.) "They attacked us on a Friday and on a Tuesday. I am responding on a Wednesday".
2.) "Usnein mujhe apna naam toh zaroor bataya, par woh main kissi ko bata nahin sakta--aadmi naam mein mazhab dhoondleta hai". (He told me his name yes, but I can't tell anybody--man tends to find religion in a name).
Despite the visual shenanigans the camera plays with the audience, I'll go with a full 5/5 for A Wednesday, director Neeraj Pandey's debut film. It's an amazingly crafted treat to watch and one with the most socially relevant message in years.