A Wednesday Hindi Movie Review
Hmm. I wonder if RK Laxman would approve. The legendary cartoonist's mild, submissive and quietly accepting Common Man finds a voice and a startling and dangerous new avatar this week in Neeraj Pandey's debut feature A Wednesday. He is superbly embodied and brought to life by Naseeruddin Shah- undoubtedly one of the finest actors this country has produced- and it's truly a casting masterstroke, as Shah's unnerving presence defines the soul of the film.
A Wednesday is about- well, as the somewhat inane sounding title puts it- a Wednesday, but needless to say; this is no ordinary day of the week. The Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) receives a call from an unknown number, and the cold voice at the other end calmly informs him that he has planted a number of bombs throughout the city, and demands the release of four terrorists in return for disclosing the exact locations of these bombs.
A Wednesday is a no-frills thriller- tightly scripted and directed by Neeraj Pandey for the most part- and makes for a fairly impressive first for the filmmaker. Even though the film is often conveniently naïve and simplistic, and often resorts to some unnecessary loudness and repetitiveness, the film makes a strong statement- one that is rather politically incorrect, and even terrifying in its leaning towards anarchy- without being blatantly didactic.
So even while I find myself complaining and cribbing about the film's lack of significant depth, A Wednesday does make an eminently watchable film despite the fact that it neither has the emotional heft of Mumbai Meri Jaan or subtle sophistication and subtext of Aamir. It's short, riveting and mercifully never pretends to pause and think too much and is crisp and crunchy enough to make an entertaining watch.
But the true mark of a fine thriller is in skillfully, believably and meticulously leading to the finale, no matter how revelatory or earth shattering it may be. A Wednesday ends on a provocative note, but it doesn't have that unsettling quality simply because Pandey's arbitrarily constructed screenplay containing silly gimmicks and conspicuously gaping plot holes doesn't allow you to take the film very seriously. There are countless amateurish moments, some descending into unintentional humor, and while this could be excused in a routine popcorn thriller, it is difficult to ignore in a film that attempts to make a profound ideological statement.
Still, the very competent cast including Anupam Kher (in pretty good, no-nonsense form), Jimmy Shergill and Aamir Bashir do well in giving the film some much-needed substance and credibility, something that Deepal Shaw's terribly annoying lip-glossed reporter act constantly threatens to take away.
The rest of the supporting cast is pure cardboard, but frankly- it hardly matters when Naseeruddin Shah's out there sitting on top of a desolate building, chewing the scenery with alarming nonchalance. It's clearly an author-backed role, and Shah is at his effortless best here in a lean, solid performance that is both chillingly convincing and filled with humor and unpredictability as he delivers a knockout punch.
It is probably on purpose that Shah's character is kept as a menacing shadow instead of being a full-fledged, flesh and blood character, but his performance actually made me wish that the film was about him and delved deeper into this potentially fascinating character. And thus, while it's none of my business to dictate the story a filmmaker chooses to tell, I can't help but get the niggling feeling that that could truly have made this A Very Memorable Wednesday.