Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroop 2 (Vishwaroopam 2 in Tamil) comes to the theatres without the usual controversial humdrum that surrounds his films. The first Vishwaroopam movie came out in 2013 where it was noticed for its detailed narration of Al Qaeda's training, as well as the making. Vishwaroop 2 was to be an immediate follow-up to the film, as the movie begins with where its predecessor ends. But it took five years for the sequel to arrive in the theatres and that's exactly what goes wrong with Vishwaroop 2.
So the protagonist, the sleeper cell agent Wisam (Kamal Haasan) goes to the UK along with his mentor Jagannath (Shekhar Kapur), fellow army recruit Ashmita (Andrea Jeremiah) and still-befuddled wife Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) to lay low after the events of the first film. However, the looming threat of the dreaded terrorist Omar (Rahul Bose) and his loyal aide Salim (Jaideep Ahlawat) shadow them everywhere through frequent attacks on their lives and huge terrorism conspiracies. Can Wisam save the World once again and end the menace of Omar once and for all?
Watching Vishwaroop 2 reminded me of this Hollywood movie called Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie. If you don't know what I am talking about, well, it was a follow-up to the 2004 cult comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It wasn't a sequel per se; the makers had used the deleted scenes and unused footage to make a whole movie that looks like a stitched-up set of gags. Vishwaroop 2 looks a lot like that, except that it isn't hilarious, at least not intentionally. I mean, I can't blame you when you laugh over some of the atrocious Hindi lines or Rahul Bose's wheezy voice.
As a movie, Vishwaroop 2 suffers on two main counts. Firstly, it looks like a disjointed effort that seems to be made for tying up the loose ends from the first film. It is not an issue if a sequel comes years after the first film. Didn't Incredibles 2 come 14 years after the first time and still rule the box office? But Vishwaroop the first was not exactly a memorable effort, despite its making. So expecting the audience to remember the first film and follow what's going on in the sequel is too much to ask. And if you haven't seen the first film, then tough luck, dude, in making out what the heck is going on in the sequel! We do wish that Kamal would have opted for a new adventure for his hero, with minor callbacks to the first film.
The first half and the second half feels like two disparate movies, and not very good ones at that. The first half is set in the UK and involves Wisam and his team discovering a terrorist plot to destroy the country, involving a sunken ship. It has its moments, but the proceedings feel very hard to follow at times, thanks to the frequent flashbacks and exposition. Then the action abruptly shifts to New Delhi in the second half and the movie suddenly has the making of a Tamil potboiler. We have the hero enjoying an awkward lovemaking scene with his wife, getting a maa moment, faces the death of a dear friend and then kills the baddies in a shoddily shot climax where logic goes for a toss. You can easily pick up which scenes have been shot five years back and which had been added later. If you want to take a hint, maybe check out the increase in the wrinkles in Kamal's face or his ever-changing waist size.
The other big issue with Vishwaroop 2 is the clear lack of budget. You can clearly make out scenes where green screens have been used for outdoor locations, making the final product have the feel of a less-polished student film. The VFX is very patchy and the editing is jarring. There is also a lack of consistency in how the visuals are framed. The background score is good, though.
Considering Vishwaroop 2 comes mere a couple of weeks after Mission: Impossible - Fallout, a Hollywood film that worked well in India, the desi spy effort looks a lot inferior. Now you can say that VR2 lacks the budget of a Tom Cruise movie, but didn't Tiger Zinda Hai looked a more polished effort despite its numerous flaws? Or for the matter, even the first Vishwaroop had better production values!
Kamal Haasan is a very inconsistent and indulgent film-maker, but I have enjoyed his past directorial ventures like Dasavatharam, the underrated Hey Ram, the enjoyable Chachi 420 and my most favourite, the gritty Virumandi. Vishwaroop 2 is his weakest effort, and save for a couple of scenes, lacks that Kamal touch.
As an actor too, I must say, with a heavy heart, that the multiple award winner disappoints. Having grown up on some of his memorable, heart-breaking performance, this is the most average Kamal Haasan act I have seen till date. It's not that he is awful; Kamal can never be that. But the actor looks too tired and I half-expected him to give up at some point and quote Lethal Weapon's Roger Murtaugh, 'I am too old for this shit!' He also shares zero chemistry with his leading lady, Pooja Kumar (who is quite decent before she gets all damsel-in-distress in the third act). Andrea Jeremiah's character annoys a lot. Shekhar Kapur is efficient, but for some reason, he mysteriously disappears from the proceedings in the second half. Rahul Bose as the main baddie is better in the flashback scenes, but is unintentionally hilarious in the second half. The vocal tics he used also reminded me of Forest Whitaker in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Waheeda Rehman, who plays Wisam's Alzheimer-struck mother, also invite unintentional chuckles in the climax. Whether the director was invoking dark humour in these scenes is something not easy for a viewer to deduce. Jaideep Ahlawat leaves an impact as the menacing sidekick.
Vishwaroop 2 is not a complete lost cause. The flashback scenes, involving Wisam infiltrating Al Qaeda, are still the best part about the movie, just like the first film. Here, the portions expand on some of the threads that were left hanging in the first film and are better-directed too. There are also some surprising nuances in the film that give us a hint of how Vishwaroop 2 could have been a better film. A love track at the start of the film looks unwarranted at first, but it leads to a pleasant twist. Wisam's interactions with a dubious government agent (Anant Mahadevan) has some interesting moments. Also, the hand-to-hand combat (Brahim Achabbakhe, Stefan Richter, Lee Whittaker) is gritty, gory and impressive.
- The flashback portions
- The hand-to-hand combat
- The cast giving their best
- Some surprising nuances
- Everything else
As a sequel to the 2013 film and also as a spy thriller, Vishwaroop 2 disappoints in both factors. Kamal Haasan, as an actor and an auteur in cinema, has raised the benchmark so high for himself that his latest effort fails to reach anywhere near it. At best, Vishwaroop 2 can be watched only if you want to tie up some loose ends from the first film.