Not surprisingly, every time I critique a movie or a star, I get nasty rejoinders. My critical review of Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam 2 on August 10 got one reader to lambast me. He said, “I would really want to know which film school Mr Gautaman had headed and how did he learn to rate a film.”
Here is my answer: I did not head any movie school. Nor did I study film in any school. Or, rather not in one school. I have learnt all about cinema from the hundreds of thousands of movies I have seen till now, and they have included Indian cinema and world cinema.
If my favourite star or actor does a shoddy job, I get not only disappointed, but also disillusioned and even angry. Kamal Haasan is a favourite and he did a rank bad job in his latest outing.
Like anybody else, I have my likes, dislikes and prejudices. As a reviewer, I have to constantly fight off my biases. It’s not easy.
To begin with, Haasan is a brilliant actor. I can never forget his magnificent portrayal of an underworld don in Mani Ratnam's classic, Nayagan. To me, this film remains Kamal's career best, and Mani's too. The way Haasan emoted anger, pain and sheer frustration is unforgettable.
Another favourite is Ek Duje Ke Liye, a Romeo and Juliet story of two star-crossed lovers whose lives can only end the way it did in the film. In his highly accented Hindi, he was charming to the hilt -- as a handsome young man in love with Rati Agnihotri's character.
Kamal has had several feathers – Saagar, Chachi 420, 16 Vayathinile, Anbe Sivam, Thevar Magan and many more – and excelled in each. But Vishwaroopam 2 is not one among them, rather it may well pull him down.
Also, Haasan has been a man with vision: Let us not forget that five years ago – before organisations like Netflix and Amazon trooped into India – he had sought to stream Vishwaroopam 1 on a DTH platform and on the very day of its theatrical release! He was stopped though.
So, with this kind of intelligence and pluck, I am certainly peeved that Kamal could have come out with such a sloppy work. Had it been some ordinary actor or director, I would have been less unhappy.
Finally, I think every ticket-paying man or woman must try and evaluate an actor or director on his or her contribution to a movie. There is no point saying that Kamal is a great actor, and he can do no wrong. He certainly is a wonderful actor, but his screenplay and everything else were not up to the mark in Vishwaroopam 2.
It is supposed to be thriller, but most of it is verbal. It is heavy and pedantic. And where is the thrill? Also, what is this great idea in the digressions and distractions through two women characters, Puja Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah? The first plays his wife, desperate to keep him to herself, and the second essays his colleague, equally desperate to get her hands on him. This way, a serious work runs into obstacles and the narration stutters and suffers.
Now is the time for the viewers to get over hero worshipping. They are human and perfectly capable of making mistakes. Kamal did that just now.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and film critic)