A Wednesday -- Film Review

Bottom Line: Brilliant performances, characterizations and crafting but with questionable messages

International Film Festival of India

PANAJI, India -- Neeraj Pandey's "A Wednesday" may be yet another take on the subject of terror, but it has been crafted with unusual energy. And this energy flows not out of the usual melodrama popping out of Mumbai, but from extraordinarily restrained performances. Thin on plot, the movie still grips us with its penetrating characterizations and superbly slick editing.

The racy thriller takes places in Mumbai on a Wednesday afternoon between two and six. A phone call to the city's police commissioner, Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher), from one calling himself Common Man (Naseeruddin Shah), demands the release of four Muslim terrorists from Indian jails. The man says he has planted bombs all over the city that would go off at 6.30 the same evening if his order is not carried out.

Rathod is not a cop to take things lying down. He puts two of his best men on the man's trail and enlists a college dropout hacker to trace the calls. But the police are always a step behind the man, who has made himself comfortable on the roof of an unfinished building with sandwiches and a flask of coffee. He has a portable television set and a notebook computer to help him in the cat and mouse game he plays with Rathod. What an exciting game that turns out to be -- highly cerebral and peppered with mind-blowing punch lines.

Shah's performance is as brilliant as Kher's, and they are wonderfully supported by Amir Bashir (who plays cop Jai Pratap Singh), Jimmy Shergill (cop Arif Khan) and Deepal Shaw (television journalist Naina Roy).

However, the script has weak moments. Television journalism appears superficial, even silly. But what is more disappointing is that the movie makes the Muslim into a homogenous terrorist killing innocent people for no reason. Some of the final scenes that link the just-about-to-be freed terrorists with Al-Qaeda are extremely disturbing, and the messages conveyed are highly questionable. With the Common Man doubling up as a kangaroo court, albeit from a considerable distance, and dispensing justice most arbitrarily, makes for a an unnecessarily provocation within the context of a commercial thriller.

Production companies: UTV Motion Pictures, Friday Filmworks and Anjum Rizvi Film Company.
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Bashir and Deepal Shaw.
Director/screenwriter: Neeraj Pandey.
Producers: Ronnie Screwvala, Anjum Rizvi, Shital Bhatia.
Executive producer: B.L. Gautam.
Director of photography: Fuwad Khan.
Art director: Sunil Nigvekar.
Music: Sanjoy Chowdhury.
Costume designers: Riyaz, Ali R. Merchant.
Editor: Shree Narayan Singh.
No rating, 100 minutes.