Amit had been very keen to watch this film, so we got the DVD and watched it last night. With Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah, no women (to speak of), no romance, no songs, it looked like being an interesting change from your usual Bollywood offering.
I must add for the sake of clarity and honesty, that I’m not much of a Bollywood aficionado. I’ve probably seen ten Bollywood films in the last ten years, but not necessarily one a year. Those I can recall are, in no particular order, Black, Lagaan, The Blue Umbrella, Rang De Basanti, Chak De, Slumdog Millionaire, Taare Zameen Par… And that’s not even ten.
Still, I’d heard a bit about Wednesday, it was supposed to be a good, tight, fast-paced action film. I suppose my mistake was, on hearing that, expecting something Hollywood.
I was disappointed on several accounts. First, by Hollywood standards, there wasn’t much action or suspense in this movie. It kept trying to slowly lead up to something, but when the climax came, it wasn’t an action-thriller climax at all. It was a social message. And obviously, since it was Bollywood, the message was verbose, in your face, emotional, overdone, out of character, and completely overboard. It only stopped short of being melodramatic (if it did, I’m not even sure of that) because it was delivered by Naseeruddin Shah.
In any case, I don’t like films that set out to tell a good story, rush ahead full steam until half-way through and then stop short and say: hang on; this isn’t about the story at all: it’s about this social message, and here it comes! Rang De Basanti did exactly the same thing and I hated the second part of that film, especially because it followed the good-fun type of first half. This is so disappointing, when the social message could have been kept to about two lines (instead of 200 or so), or, better still, could have been made part of the story itself. A prime example of this – from Hollywood, because I haven’t seen enough of Bollywood – is Blood Diamond. There is a social message, but it is delivered through the story – which remains a good action drama – instead of suddenly hijacking the story and completely subjugating it to the delivery of the message.
There were other things I didn’t like about this film as well. I think the characters – as in so much of Bollywood – are stereotypes, in fact almost caricatures, of themselves. Like the hacker-techie chap, for instance. And the CM. A politician who manages to become the CM of Maharashtra is nobody’s fool, the way this fellow seems to have become.
Anupam Kher and the great Naseeruddin Shah did their parts well, as would be expected. But I found too many flaws in Naseeruddin Shah’s character. If he is such a “common man,” how come he speaks such super-upper-class English? I’d sooner accept this in a well-educated, well-bred, upper-class terrorist, than in a “common man” gone mad. And how does this extremely humble “common man” know so much geeky cellphone technology (quite apart from bomb-making technology)?
I also don’t really understand this: Even if you accept that the common man has had it with terrorism; and that the common man has had it with terrorists getting a decent trial and jail sentence; and that the common man would rather see terrorists dead than back out in the real world; even if you accept all that, would you really go so far as to have sympathy with a person who is willing to bomb and kill another round of innocent people in an effort to nail a few terrorists? Isn’t one sort of violence just as bad as the other? Can you really elevate vigilant-ism over out-and-out terrorism on moral grounds? Ok, so finally the fake-terrorist-common-man character hadn’t in fact placed six bombs all over Mumbai. But when the techie-hacker and that other fellow start suddenly developing sympathy and goodwill for him, they don’t know that. Besides, nobody said that the bomb kept in the police station, which was found and defused, wasn’t capable of killing people. How about that? Or is this the famous argument about the ends justifying the means? In which case, mustn’t you measure terrorism also by the same token? Terrorists also (claim to) have an ideology… we may not agree with it, but to them it is as valid as any other ideal that anyone else aspires to. Isn’t it the “means” (violence, murder, innocent victims, communal bias etc) that make it so wrong?
And how about the Commissioner of Police going and shaking hands with the common-man-terrorist who almost bombed his police station? And how about the police cold-bloodedly murdering the one remaining terrorist who wasn’t killed in the bomb? Do we condone that as well? Do we say, “Well, it happens all the time…”? Do we say, “Well, he deserved it…”? Do we say, “He was scum, anyway, so who cares?”
So, the more I think about it, the less I like it. I want my action-drama to be an action-drama, and if I must watch a preachy film, I want the ethics clearly thought out and well presented. I don’t want a sentimental mish-mash of the two, not even with Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah. Am I the only one to think like this?