|Kamal Haasan, Rahul Bhosle, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Shekhar Kapur, Nassar|
Meanwhile, a cockroach sits on the RAW's mini-camera, stationed inside a terrorist's home, blocking their view. Total fun, this!
The story's pretty riveting, too. An effeminate kathak coach Vishwanath (Kamal Haasan) based in the US is actually an undercover RAW agent.
His pretty wife Nirupama (Pooja Kumar), who's a nuclear oncologist, is having an affair with her boss. Clueless about Vishwanath's true identity, she is shocked to find out that her husband is actually a Muslim.
She learnt this through a harmless act of employing a detective to follow him. That detective's indiscretion lands the two in the hands of a terrorist organization.
The terrorist boss Omar (Rahul Bose) is your archetypal comic-book villain with a constant grimace and one bad eye.
Omar immediately recognises Vishwanath. They go back a long way. Suffice to say that Vishwanath was once an Al Qaeda man who even had the "privilege" of meeting Osama Bin Laden.
As the spiffy jacket wearing, clean-shaven RAW agent who has to stop a bomb from exploding, Haasan gets into his third roop.
The Dirty Bomb threatens to wipe out all signs of life from the face of New York for decades. Vishwanath and his team swing into action.
The film is consistently fun and producer-writer-director Kamal Haasan manages to add bits of humour along the way. It's quite an achievement really, to add in laughs in a grim shot of a captive being beaten (he requests a paper napkin), or in the midst of a kidnapping (the kidnapper politely asks the victim for scissors).
In another funny scene a stern interrogating officer, on learning that an Indian god has four hands, wonders how they crucify such a god!
The jihadi training camps are shown with authenticity, nuance and sensitivity. Note the portions where the uniformed men take a break and play throwball, and in those moments, become like the many young men their age.
But there is no respite from violence - both physical and emotional. You are as perturbed by the barbaric scene where a person is hung by a crane, as you are when Omar admonishes his son's wish of becoming a doctor and decides the little boy will be a mujahedeen.
Now for the question as to whether the film is offensive. The answer is a resounding no. Yes, the jihadi terrorists want to destroy in the name of Allah, and you often hear Allah Hu Akbar before an attack.
Yes, the film implies that several American Muslims (including a stylish antique shop owner) are hand-in-glove with the terrorists. But by showing the fight from their perspective (innocent Afghani people gunned down by American soldiers) and by portraying Haasan's character as a devout Muslim who loves his country, the film balances both representations.
The music and background score is exceptional and the film is technically proficient. Note Sanu Varghese's sharp cinematography and the neat editing by Mahesh Narayanan.
The special effects are excellent and complement the sophisticated visuals.
Kamal Haasan is superbly restrained in the film; one was dreading reliving a Dashavataram! He's a delight to watch in all the three avatars, bringing out the humour in one, the intensity in the other and the smarts in the third.
Rahul Bose makes for a deliciously dark villain. Pooja Kumar is very good and shows a flair for comedy.
So there you have it. A film that has it all - the romance, fights, comedy and loads of entertainment. Recommended!
Rating: 3.5 stars