Film: A Wednesday
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Naseerudin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Amir Bashir and Deepal Shaw
Duration: 90 minutes
New Delhi: Evoking awe and terror in a film on terrorism would be the most natural thing, you would think. And yet, most films on the theme end up as rhetoric, taking biased positions with hamsters who play more to the gallery than put up a credible storyline together. Which is why it takes the first few reels of A Wednesday to make you drop your cynicism and put the sub-plots of the narrative together, in an attempt to understand what’s going on.
If there is any flaw in the film it is this. It takes a while before the entire story unfolds and you begin to flow with the sequence of events that pile up. Set in present-day Mumbai, it is a regular week day, Wednesday to be precise and an enthusiastic hindi television channel’s city reporter is dramatizing her ‘exclusive story’ on the apathy of the government in disregarding citizen safety with countless potholes on the streets. Ideal contender for the ‘hero’ of our film – Naseer to help him carry out a threat that will soon send Mumbai’s efficient police force in a tizzy. Note the word ‘efficient’.
Here is a very unlikely ‘terrorist’ who operates out of an even more unlikely ‘den’. Nowhere like the Ajit of yore who had torture chambers within his lair or Gulshan Grover in his menacing garb who worked so hard to create the mean villainous look. Wearing an ordinary trouser and shirt, carrying a packet of vegetables, promising his wife that he will bring the almonds and raisins for her ‘kheer’ on his way home, he takes a detour, to finish a pending task.
Atop an under-construction building, on a breezy rooftop, under a covered plastic sheet is his apparatus – equipment and gadgetary that threatens to blow up Mumbai with six serial blasts, unless the commissioner of police, Anupam Kher complies to his demand – in predictable terrorist outfit style – release four top terrorists who are in police custody, responsible for different blasts that have ripped different parts of the country, since the year 2000. And this makeshift table that houses his ammunition is what is absolutely chilling. Whether it is technology that is aiding that process or the immaculate planning of a super intelligent mind – the fact is that human life is so cheap and targeting the man on the street, the easiest way to destablize a city, a nation.
The farm-fresh look of our characters is not just confined to Shah, who while munching home made sandwhiches and sipping his thermos flask coffee makes menacing calls, uses our television reporter to advantage (tempting her with the biggest story of her life and making sure she continues to keep her audiences updated) but extends to the entire look and feel of the police headquarters too. Kher’s two aides, the angsty volatile Jimmy Shergill who likes to talk with his fists and the brilliant Amir Bashir, along with those who help Kher crack the case are unlike the cops you have ever seen. Swift, sharp, fearless – they are in perfect sync with their commissioner. The film could well be a campaign that works at giving our cops an image makeover.
It is a serious theme but does not weigh you down. It makes a dig at the establishment, reveals the plight of a hapless but well meaning chief minister but also shows you how there are ways of breaking out of the maze of bureaucratese especially in critical moments like this, when getting clearances and decisions is next to impossible. And that is where its punchlines come from. Even in this somber setting there are some light moments, the role of the hacker for instance who the CP hires.
What does stay with you is Naseer’s little speech at the end, a bit too long but it forms the soul of the film and yes, the super efficient projection of the Mumbai police team. The threat of terrorism that most of us have to live with, of being ripped apart in a blast on a train, in a city mall or a busy airport almost recede, as you feel secure in the knowledge that you have cops who are actually doing their duty and are a match for any terrorist outfit.
In a lot of ways A Wednesday treads new ground. Tightly knit, it does not drag at any point. Having discarded sub-plots, songs and background scores, it just tells its story as it is. There is a reason for every character to be there and even the briefest of the brief cameos deliver. The film ofcourse belongs to Naseer and Kher. A must watch.
The film has a nationwide release today