TERRORISM is no longer confined to a particular (Indian) province, district or state. It’s a worldwide concern, affecting every nation in some way or the other.

Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam therefore, is pertinent. This time around, the legendary actor tries a genre that’s very Hollywoodish and – here’s good news – he pulls it off quite well.

Attempting a nail-biting thriller can be tough. Scores of films have traversed the path in the past. However, Haasan shuns the tried and tested, humdrum stuff and comes up with something that prides itself in mesmerising action, stunts and combat scenes and marries form (technique) and content (drama) to the delight of the spectators. The film is not without its share of hiccups – it’s way too lengthy and the second half is sketchy – but the effort is laudable, nonetheless.

America, last year. A marriage of convenience. Vishwanath alias Wiz (Haasan), a Kathak exponent, and Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) get married. All is fine until Nirupama aspires for more and wants to opt out of the arranged marriage. She cannot cite any specific reason to leave Wiz as there is nothing much to complain about.

Every male, according to Nirupama, must have a flaw. So she decides to find out something about him to feel better about her decision to leave. She hires a detective to rake up something on him. Wires get crossed and all hell breaks loose.

Vishwaroopam starts off with gusto and Haasan ensures there’s hardly a dull moment in the first hour. The transformation from a graceful dance teacher to an agent as well as the back story involving the jihadis are proficiently amalgamated in the screenplay and executed by the storyteller, with the swift pacing and brisk unfolding of events/episodes acting as a cherry on the cake. The combat scenes, in fact, are the mainstay of the enterprise, with Haasan going all out – as an actor as well as the director – to make it appear real on the big screen.

But the post-interval portions lose focus. The writing isn’t persuasive in this hour, especially towards the middle of the second hour, and the narrative seems prolonged towards the end (it’s open ended, with Haasan declaring his ambitious plans for a sequel). Besides, the resolution could’ve been far more dramatic and convincing. It isn’t.

Hollywood often portrays the jihadis in a typical style and Haasan uses this template in Vishwaroopam as well.

The ill-advised Afghanis and their cry for war against America seem straight out of a western flick. These sequences, coupled with the action stuff, keep you thoroughly involved.

As I pointed out earlier, the execution of several action/combat scenes is exemplary.

There’s no scope for the usual song and dance routine here, but the background score works well. Additionally, the movie gets brownie points in the technical department, right from shot designing to cinematography to the sound design. Also, Haasan and his art department deserve a pat for zeroing in on some stunning locales.

Haasan has portrayed a wide variety of characters in his illustrious career and when you look back on his body of work, Vishwaroopam is sure to merit a spot among his finest works. He is incredible in the dance sequence at the commencement of the film and changes colours like a chameleon as he takes to the death-defying stunts with passion.

It wouldn’t be erroneous to state that Haasan’s towering performance is one of the prime reasons why Vishwaroopam stands tall.

The film has an array of talented actors and each of them enacts their part with graceful ease.

Rahul Bose is in top form. Why don’t we see this talented actor in more movies? Jaideep Ahlawat is an amazing talent and I am very sure, we will hear more of him in the future.

Shekhar Kapur returns to the big screen in a charming cameo. Nasser gets into the character with gusto. Both Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah are adequate.

On the whole, Vishwaroopam is a Haasan show all the way. It has an interesting premise, superb combat scenes and Haasan’s bravura performance as its three aces. But a stretched second hour and far from dramatic finale dilute the impact. Yet, all said and done, those with an appetite for well-made thrillers might relish this effort! – bollywoodhungama.com

• Vishwaroopam is screening at Ster-Kinekor, Gateway.