No remake can avoid a comparison with the original and the dictum holds good for Kamal Haasan's version of A Wednesday. Well-crafted, at times it makes you forget the original. The director is Chakri Toleti, yet it is Kamal's hand that pervades the screen.
With Unnaippol Oruvan (U/A), a story that happens in a day, Kamal should be on a hat-trick after Vaettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Dasavathaaram. Told in flashback mode, the climax and the sequence that precedes it leave you awestruck (that is, if you haven't watched the original)!
Life and career turn topsy-turvy in a matter of hours for IG of Police Raghavan Maraar (Mohanlal), thanks to an anonymous call that informs him of bombs planted at vital spots in the city. They would explode by evening if the four terrorists who have been imprisoned aren't released immediately.
The caller (Kamal Haasan) takes on the law-keepers single-handed. After his ultimatum they swing into action.
Probably for the first time in his Tamil film career Kamal doesn't have a heroine. The novelty doesn't end there - the linear narrative is wrapped up in less than two hours! Knowing the taste of the Tamil audience, the actor hasn't stuck to the completely underplayed performance of Naseeruddin Shah. Kamal's is original and it is appealing. Very cleverly, the dialogue (Era Murugan) establishes the essential connect between the North and the South of the country. The witticisms in the exchanges among the various characters are typically Kamal. Giving the name Karamchand to a terrorist is another astute move. The use of a voice resembling the CM's lends authenticity, and the conversation with the wife over telephone make Kamal's common man role credible. The scene where the chief secretary (Lakshmi) leaves the premises of the Chief Minister in a hurry has been shot right at the gate of the CM's Gopalapuram residence. A commendable choice of location that makes it all so real!
Mohanlal's prowess gives the sheen his role warrants - he goes all out for the kill. Lakshmi looks imposing but the actor goes slightly overboard in her obsequiousness in her first telephonic conversation with the CM. Anuja is Tamil's answer to Deepal Shaw, the TV reporter of A Wednesday. As it is a one-day event, almost everyone has been made to sport just one costume throughout the film.
Ganesh Venkatraman who looked a little wooden in Abhiyum Naanum returns as the hot-headed policeman, Arif Khan, in Unnai and makes quite an impression. His well-toned physique is an aiding factor. Calm, composed and commanding, Bharath Reddy who plays the other efficient cop Sethuraman, puts up an admirable show. Santhanabharathy, a Kamal camp constant, is Karamchand, an arms supplier to terrorists. His fear and anxiety that sprinkle humour on a serious sequence remind you of the character he played in the rib-tickler, Michael Madhana Kama Rajan.
Composer Shruti Haasan lives up to the hype and hoopla that surrounded her music for Unnai Her use of percussion in the re-recording enhances the impact and so does the hum-worthy 'Allah Jaane' number soulfully sung by Kamal. The varying range and subtle brigas are noteworthy. The alluring base voices of the 'Nilai Varuma ' piece touch the right chord.
Manoj Soni's unobtrusive camera that is in sync with the narration deserves to be complimented. And so does the slick editing of Rameshwar Bhagat.
The thought cropped up even when you watched A Wednesday - What was the logic behind the protagonist's surreptitious act of going around with different black bags and planting them around the city? Was it to buy time or make matters dramatic?
Neeraj Pandey's screenplay was undoubtedly etched well. All the same the intelligence of Unnaippol Oruvan reminds you of Sujatha's 'Nirvana Nagaram' - a novella in the Ganesh-Vasanth detective franchise, where an ordinary man exposes the vulnerability of the city and the system. Also, if the title, Unnaippol Oruvan, is the same as Jayakanthan's film (based on his novel) which won the President's Award some decades ago, it is probably because the two inimitable litterateurs have been a great influence on Kamal Haasan - himself a writer with acumen.
Director: Chakri Toleti
Cast: Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Lakshmi
Storyline: A sedate common man plants explosives in various parts of the city holding it to ransom.
Bottomline: Kamal, the Commendable!