We were one of the few to have watched an early screening of Vishwaroopam in its entirety before talks of the ban emerged in Hyderabad. In content and technical finesse, the film breaks new ground for regional cinema. In these troubled times, it must be emphasised that the film does not hurt sentiments of any community.

Everyone here has a double role to play, Andrea Jeremiah tells Pooja Kumar at a crucial juncture in the film. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam is a technically brilliant, ambitious film where most characters are not what they seem. The actor-director deals with an international espionage drama through a layered screenplay, trusting the intelligence of his audience to connect the different threads of the story.

Vishwanath (Kamal Haasan) is a Kathak teacher who lives with his wife Nirupama (Pooja Kumar), a nuclear oncologist, in New York. Nirupama confides it’s a marriage of convenience that provided her a safe shelter while she pursued her Ph.D in the U.S. The age gap between them notwithstanding, she is put off by Vishwanath’s effeminate traits. She smells something fishy about her husband and hires a private investigator to trail his every move.

In a sudden turn of events, the investigator gets killed by a member of a terrorist outfit. A visiting card on his purse gives away the names of Vishwanath and Nirupama and the terror group nabs the couple. The outfit operates from a warehouse and is headed by Omar (Rahul Bose), severely injured from the past.

Omar and Vishwanath have a past, one that takes the story back by almost a decade, to the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. What follows is a maze of events that go back and forth in time, unravelling an international spy thriller that keeps you guessing for most parts.

Nirupama is stunned to discover the true identity of her husband, his uncle (a cameo by Shekar Kapur) and the young dancer (Andrea Jeremiah) at her husband’s dance school. Together, they try to counter the plans of Omar and his group that could destroy New York.

Vishwaroopam is engaging, keeps you engrossed and as you try to make a semblance of the puzzle, several questions arise. Kamal Haasan sets up an interesting premise for part 2.

Sanu Varghese’s spectacular cinematography becomes as important as the actors in this thriller. The camera takes us into the dangerous alleys of New York and the muddy, rugged terrain of Afghanistan. In the opening sequence involving pigeons, Varghese captures the mood of the birds giving us a hint of an ominous force at work.

The songs composed by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy gel with the narrative of the film and the trio experiments with different genres to offset the mood in Afghanistan.

Pooja Kumar is expressive and convincing as a young woman coming to terms with her husband’s identity all of a sudden. Andrea Jeramiah has a smaller role and according to the makers, she has a crucial role in Vishwaroopam 2. Rahul Bose is menacing, with his tarnished look and damaged voice making him appear more evil.

Kamal Haasan morphs from identity to the other with ease, like he’s done several times in the past. He draws chuckles with his effeminate gestures and delivers an understated performance in the Afghan segment.

It’s a film that needs to be watched closely to follow the different aspects of the story. The graphic violence in some sequences make it unfit for viewing by children.

Vishwaroopam is a good watch for a discerning movie lover.

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Rahul Bose and Shekar Kapur

Direction: Kamal Haasan

Music: Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy

Plot: A couple and their friends try to save New York from a terrorist threat.

Bottomline: A gripping spy thriller of international standards