After being fed on a staple diet of masala movies and sentimental melodramatic ones, Unnaipol Oruvan takes a while to get used to. The hero is not a superman nor a superhero but ‘a man like you’ as the title reads when translated. Though it is a remake of the Hindi hit A Wednesday (2008), it cleverly weaves a local flavour into it with the comedy and the incidents of the bomb blasts it mentions.
One hot afternoon, the Commissioner of Police, Chennai, Maraar (Mohanlal), receives an anonymous phone call from a man (Kamal Haasan) who claims to have planted six powerful bombs across Chennai city. The entire sequence of events unfold between 2 pm, when the Commissioner gets the call, and 6 pm. The Commissioner acts as negotiator with this ‘terrorist’ and learns that he wants the release of 5 dangerous terrorists, which include those involved in setting off bombs and an arms dealer. He asks them to be brought to the Sholavaram aerodrome and gets them killed there. He reveals that he is no terrorist but a common man frustrated with the inefficiency and delay in the system in dealing with known terrorists. The Commissioner finally traces him but secretly salutes his guts and spirit and lets him get away scot-free even though it is at the cost of his job.
The initial part of the film, directed by Chakri Toleti, moves at a bit of a slow pace for a thriller but thereafter picks up speed and gets you involved. Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal are both phenomenal actors and the exchange of dialogue between them is a treat to watch. The director has moved away from the clichéd method of showing the protagonist’s objective via a flashback, rather everything he wants to convey is conveyed upfront through dialogue. Credit must be given to Kamal Haasan for the screenplay which keeps the audience engrossed despite the fact that the protagonist remains seated on the terrace for a major part of the film as he masterminds his plan.
The twist in the tale is easily the high point of the film. This transformation is handled wonderfully well by Kamal, who as he talks to the Police Commissioner, changes from a tough terrorist to a soft common man who recounts his helplessness at the hands of the system.
There is a touch of reality in the film’s treatment though there are a few flaws in logic here and there – Can a common man really mastermind such a plan that has so much technology involved in it? There is also the question of his access to an airport where he places a bomb. The comic interludes add liveliness to the film. They are situational and take a dig at political powers through satirical humour. A spoof on Bush and Musharaff on TV manages to evoke the laughs it aimed for.
In keeping with the tone of the film, the acting too has a subtle tone to it. Kamal Haasan has resisted the temptation to be a larger-than-life hero and stays true to his role as a common man in terms of both, body language and dialogue delivery. Mohanlal excels in the emotional encounters over the phone where his emotions range from confusion, frustration, anger, presence of mind as he makes plans at lightning speed to admiration in the climax for the protagonist. Ganesh Venkatraman as the efficient police officer carries himself with dignity while Anuja Iyer performs her role as a television journalist adequately.
The camera keeps the tempo of the story intact and is not intrusive but rather, plays the role of a witness. The editing is free of gimmicks and this helps to keep the film grounded. Shruti Haasan makes her debut as music director and has scored creditably. The film does not have the typical commercial element of song and dances sequences.
A point here though. Dialogues like “Fight terrorism with terrorism” are rather provocative and could encourage the common man to take the law into his own hands. This could be overstepping the limit for a filmmaker.
Overall, worth seeing just for Kamal and Mohanlal’s brilliant acting. The rest is bonus.
Tamil, Thriller, Drama, Color