A Wednesday Review— Laptop-Powered Counter Terrorism

[*This film gets a Thumbs Up! If you are planning to watch this film I advice you to leave this page as reading further will take out the punch from the movie.]

Todays headlines is about a counter-terror operation in Delhi between terrorists and Delhi Polic. True, the biggest terror attack happend in American in 2001, but more than Ameriacns it is Indians who are perhaps dealing with terror on a daily basis. As someone from Hyderabad, I know what the city has gone through because of the attacks that have changed the psyche of the laid-back-easy-going Hyderabadi. First it was the Masjid, then Lumbini Park, and Gokul Chart in Hyderabad alone in a span of less than four months. Since then, life has changed on a daily basis in every walk of life–check-posts before parking, entering a movie theater, hotels, banks, and of course the constant threat that anything can happen any time because we all know the police can do little. This is just a case in point, I am sure the same can be applied to all the places in India where terror attacks seem to have become common place for the common man.

Everytime an attack happens and people die, there is this glorifying Chakde India type statement in the paper something to the effect of: normal life anaffected by terror attacks, or city spirit refuses to die down in spite of attacks and so on. If really city life is normal after the attacks then why have all the security checks? But the question still remains: so what can be done? can the police do something? are they or are they not able to? can the Home Ministry crack down heavily? of course they can, but why arent’ they doing it and if they are why does the common man know what is being done? History is witness to the power of the common man. It is the common man’s frustration that ushered in revolutions, movements that transformed systems. In today’s governance and leadership landscape the most common term going around for showing a way for change is civil society, which consists of citizens voluntarilty coming forward to bring the change they desire. This is exactly what A Wednesday is about. More than a film about terrorism, terrorists, and the police, it is about how a common man uses the system’s helplessness to show what the common is capable of doing when frustration is at its peak.

The film begins as Prakash Rathord (Anupam Kher), Commissoner of Police is retiring and siting in front of the sea in Mumbai is remincing an X-file; a case that is not registered and nobody knows about, but it happened and remained as a highlight in their careers. One fine day, Prakash Rathord gets a call from an unkown number threating the police to release four terrorists or again see Mumbai blow up in the evening. The anonymous caller sits on top of a construction building in broad daylight after vegetable shopping with all the latest gadgets—Toshiba Qosmio laptop, cell phones with multiple SIM cards etc etc…all the latest hi-tech tools used in to today’s terror and counter terror strategies. He has the police in a spin the entire day. The Commissioner pulls him his finest team, informants, a cool young Pepsi genderation hacker who is a college drop-out by choice. After failing to catch the caller till the end, finally the police bring the four terrorists on to a bench in the middle of a new airport runway as instructed. And then….he blows up the terrorists! yes, this annonymous caller is the Common Man and he has taken it on to himself to use the terror and police’s systems to eliminate those behind the recent attacks. Throughout this process, he even gives a big break to a news reporter from UTV-News reporter (his daughter, i think). The highlight of the film is Naseerudin Shah’s speech where he explains his emphathy for the common man. In it’s third week, the film has its audience cheering and applauding during the speech and at the end of the film.

The film is gripping and well directed without any slow and unnecessary scenes. The story is simple without any twists and three fourths of the film or more moves on a routine cop-terrorist movie line till the terrorists are blown up. Once we know that Naseruddin Shah is not a terrorist, but a common man….the film goes to dizzing heights. In spite of not having anything special so far in the film save for a gripping pace, the film wins because what Naseruddin Shah says is exactly what every single person sitting in the audience feels—the helplessness, frustration, and an unrealisticly heroic desire to go bash up the terrorists. The director, through Naseruddin Shah’s character, effectively emphasizes with the common man, the audience. True, perhaps what the common man does in this film does is not practically possible, but thats what fantasy is and for us the common man is the hero in this film. In the end, Commissoner Rathod goes to his hide-out and shakes his hand and here the roles are reversed—the commissoner becomes the audience because at this point the audience wants to shake hands with this anonymous caller whose name is not revealed to us in the film.

The film works and works effectively because it is topical. Given its lack of commerical packages, probably the film would not have worked as effectively had it not been releaed in the midst of a nation coping with terror. A simple man who buys vegetables for his house, travels by trains, goes to office, takes up a heroic task using technology and the police’s inability in the face of such threats to his own advantage. The performances are first rate. Anupam and Naseeruddin excell and the rest of the cast also deliver effectively. (Jimmy Shergill tries too hard to look tough though)

True, had Shankar made this film it would have been packaged different with loads of commerical elements (remember Hindustani, Gentleman etc?), but the concept is the same—the common man takes it up on himself to clean the system. Yes, even  A Wednesday could have been made more exciting with some twists and some sub-plots, but regardless the empathy we experience is too overwhelming. The film must be watched. It sends out a clear signal—the common man did this not to show it as an example for others to follow suit, but to put to shame the State and their efforts at counter-terrorism. It is high time our State exercised its authority over anti-social and anti-state elements and move beyond silly statements and get to work. If they are already doing work, then let the common man know about it and involve the masses in this fight.

Mr. Inkenti’s Movienomics Verdict: Thumbs Up! Cheers to debutant Neeraj Pandey for the story, script, and direction.

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