In Vishwaroopam 2, Kamal Haasan does what he does best: break stereotypes. According to conventional wisdom in mainstream movies, Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri is an unfit candidate for the leading man part in a film about a spy fighting violent jihadist groups. Because firstly he is a Muslim and secondly, his father is a Pakistani. His background makes him perfect to play a stereotypical extremist (like the ones we see in portions set in Afghanistan).
But, in Vishwaroopam films, Wisam is the hero. A true patriot and a soldier who is not proud of killing. A soldier who is sensible enough not to push a dragger into the heart of an enemy in front of impressionable children. A soldier who is smart enough to understand that the root cause of terrorism is not religion but politics. A soldier who is compassionate enough to tell his enemy that he is a victim of propaganda.
Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2, which released on Friday, fills in the gaps of the first part that came out in 2013. And at the core of the narrative, the movie also reflects the challenges the protagonist faces from his own countrymen, who are always more inclined to see him through the prism of suspicion, courtesy his religion.
Vishwaroopam 2 picks up right where the first film ended. Wisam and his team are on the way to the UK with the mortal remains of Dawkins, who was killed in New York in the original film. As Wisam dozes off in the flight, the movie cuts to the flashback to tell us his origin story. The RAW enlists Wisam’s services to infiltrate Al-Qaeda because… he is a Muslim and his father is a Pakistani.
While we expected the sequel to dwell more on Wisam’s enmity with Omar Qureshi (Rahul Bose), it actually focuses on the disapproval Wisam has to constantly fight from the very people he’s trying to serve. A senior RAW agent who is not happy because his Hindu subordinate under the assumed name Imtiaz is trailing behind Wisam in running the covert operation in Afghanistan. A top diplomat makes no qualms in letting Wisam know that he doesn’t trust him because of his religion. And Wisam’s own mother is unable to recognize him due to Alzheimer’s (Here his mother represents his motherland).
The novelty of Vishwaroopam 2 is in its grounded approach to narrating a tale of extremism. Instead of buying into the popular hypothesis that ‘Islam leads to terrorism,’ the movie makes a case for rational thinking. It tries to show that there is no connection between faith and terrorism. The film has a high-ranking federal official, who is turned against his own country by the enemies. And children, who are expected to become Jihadi warriors due to the geographical reasons, aspire to become engineers and doctors.
Kamal’s attempt at filmmaking assumes more virtue by the way he writes female characters in his films. In Vishwaroopam 2, he has all the misogynistic lines like “Don’t speak like a woman and don’t speak a lot with women,” coming from an ugly place. Omar says these words when Wisam advises him to send his children to school. And thus Kamal makes male chauvinism look less desirable. Take for instance, how Wisam treats his wife Nirupama before others and even stands up to his superiors for her. He welcomes her to join the confidential meetings and doesn’t force her to stop when she wants to dive deep into the ocean to identify a radioactive bomb.
All good movies will have a clear-cut premise. The theme of Vishwaroopam 2 is ‘it is not the religion but politics cause terrorism’. The glamourless world of spies, terrorism, nuclear bombs, threats to national security and mankind, provide a vivid background for the film. And the intelligence of Kamal’s art lies in the way he has orchestrated the contradicting views and characters in this geopolitical thriller. Kamal does a good job of proving the premise and bursting many stereotypical images of terrorism in mainstream movies.
The fact that Vishwaroopam 2 brings us one step closer to Kamal’s voluntary retirement from cinema comes as a sharp jab to the gut.