On Monday evening, producer V Ravichandran became the first and only person to see Vishwaroopam 2, from the first shot to the last. The next morning, he kept his promise that he will give his first reaction only to the director Kamal Haasan, who is also the co-producer.
“Kamal Sir, do not act after this,” he said excitedly. “Whatever you had to do in the department of acting, you have achieved it all.”
Lest you dismiss it as the PR spiel before the release of a movie, Ravichandran insists he could not see Haasan in Vishwaroopam 2. “I only saw the director Kamal, not the actor Kamal. And I would rate this film as one of his best. The man has a brain equivalent to that of 10 lakh people,” Ravichandran continued to gush.
Haasan should be a relieved man. At least the person who has put his money is happy with the product. Ravichandran has produced many Kamal films in the past, including Dasavatharam in 2008, where the actor played 10 roles.
Another person who has seen the movie, converting it from raw footage to a finished product, is editor Mahesh Narayan. Kerala-based Mahesh is considered one of the best in the editing business and had cut the first part of Vishwaroopam as well. Mahesh turned director in 2017 with his much acclaimed directorial debut Take Off in Malayalam, that won a slew of awards including for its lead actor Parvathy at the International Film Festival of India, Kerala State Awards, Filmfare Awards and the National Film Awards.
“Kamal Sir was the guiding force behind Take Off as well. The movie was set in Iraq as it was the story of the ordeal of Indian nurses in the city of Tikrit in the trouble-torn region. He taught us to convey things while staying within the budget,” says Mahesh.
Despite the time gap between the first part of Vishwaroopam and its sequel that releases on 10 August, Mahesh says Vishwaroopam 2 will be like a standalone product. “For the audience, it will be like watching a fresh movie. Like in the first part, there is a lot of intrigue about who the real Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri (the role played by Haasan) is and that would keep those in the cinema hall engaged. It is like a Shakespearean drama, with all elements including revenge in it. It is an action driven thriller but there is a lot for the die hard Kamal fan, including his dancing skills and emotional drama,” says Mahesh.
A significant portion of the sequel that included heavy action scenes was shot in 2013 in order to fully utilise the set of Afghanistan that had been erected in Chennai. Portions in Jordan too were canned five years ago. But the time lapse, those associated with the movie say, does not show up in the manner in which the project has been executed.
“I would say working with Kamal Sir is like going back to a film school. It is a learning process with him. He is a filmmaker in the classical mould. I would say his direction skills are better than his acting skills,” says Mahesh, looking to wield the megaphone once again.
Mahesh, whose body of work has been largely in the Malayalam film space, says one of the reasons working with Haasan is their sensibilities are the same. He points out that Haasan shoots very fast, a style similar to the Malayalam film industry where projects are completed in quick time.
The box office response to Vishwaroopam 2 will be keenly watched as it is the first Haasan release since his political plunge. But unlike actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala that had politically loaded dialogues and had the superstar playing a man-of-the-masses role, Vishwaroopam 2 will not have any politically messaging, relevant to a Tamil Nadu audience. That is because when it was conceived, politics was not on Haasan’s mind. It will be a swansong of sorts, the first of the last three films Haasan is likely to be seen in, with Sabash Naidu and Indian 2 to follow.
Vishwaroopam got into more than a spot of bother in 2013, with Muslim groups taking objection to the depiction of the community in the movie. The then-Jayalalithaa government stopped its screening, citing law and order concerns. That led to a public outburst by Haasan when he said he will be forced to leave Tamil Nadu and settle down in another secular stat if he cannot find any, leave India like artist MF Husain did. Under pressure, he subsequently agreed to mute certain scenes.
Haasan has maintained that political interests antagonistic to him created trouble the last time around and does not expect a similar reaction this time. Playing the role of a RAW agent, Haasan’s onscreen avatar perhaps would be in sync with the debate around nationalism and patriotism that is playing out in the real India.