Film: A Wednesday
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala, Anjum Rizvi & Shital Bhatia
Banner: : Anjum Rizvi Film Company, UTV Motion Pictures & A Friday Filmworks
Cast: Naseruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Bashir, Deepal Shaw, Gaurav Kapoor, Chetan Pandit, Virendra SaxenaSnehal Dhabi, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Rohitash Gaud, Mukesh Bhatt and others
It is generally the truth, the real, which has the most potential to evoke the most poignant questions. The stirring Mumbai Meri Jaan grappled with some of them and in a startling follow-up comes Wednesday, another underdog film that explodes with pertinent questions and effective statements.
Wednseday is set in Mumbai. The time is the present, a little after the horrendous 7/11 train blasts. The police receive hostage warnings from an anonymous caller who demands that four top criminals connected to the international terror rings be freed else the city will explode with bombs planted all over it. The film is about that one Wednesday whence the police are forced to play a cat and mouse game with a master-mind, both trying to outdo each other at their own game. But it is not that simple.
The master-mind, played brilliantly by Naseeruddin Shah has a plan chalked out right till the last dot. Police Chief Prashant (surname) played by Anupam Kher with a tight finesse, finds a daunting task but shoulders the responsibility that comes with a total authority. But he does not realise what he is up against. And the force this time is not of brutal physical force. It is a struggle between law and lawlessness, fair and unjust, moral and immoral. It is a struggle that puts the whole system of governance, democracy, law and order into question and gives a new meaning to the adage of democracy, ‘Of the people, for the people, by the people.’
Wednesday is a twist-in-the-tale film centred on burgeoning terrorist globally. This time it is the common man who wields the mike and makes himself heard. It is he who asks questions of his survival, his well-being, his life. Questions that are being asked all over the world but find it increasingly more difficult to be answered in India torn as it is with communal strife, poverty, external aggression and an outdated system. The film takes the system head-on and forcing itself to take a look at some uncomfortable truths. But this film takes a route few have trodden by showing drastic repercussions of its continual inability to tackle life-threatening issues.
The film is rather naïve in its disregard of broader realities of politics, governance and law and order system. It tries to shut out moral debates in favour of deterministic result-oriented action. It does not consider a wider resonance of such undertakings and remains idealistic in its fervour which due to a lack of reasoned argument remains limited to an emotional outburst and a heaving catharsis.
The film builds this catharsis, and the choices the characters make to reach here, in a tightly wrapped screenplay. Debutante director Neeraj Pandey brings to us, idealistic and incorrupt officials ready to lay down their lives at a moment’s notice but he does that with a touch of realism that makes them believable. He invests a human side to every character and juxtaposes the human dilemmas and pressures of the profession ably in each. Be it the Chief of Police grappling with his inner voice and his allegiance to law, or the young Inspector (Aamir Bashir, very competent) with a loving family equally committed to his job or the young reporter (Deepal Shaw, quite good) scouting for scoops but not without measuring her personal responsibility and where it lies or the hot-headed outcaste Inspector (Jimmy Sheirgill, cool and collected yet ready to explode). These, examples of good writing find a summation in Naseeruddin Shah’s character who juggles a clinical precision of a planner with the emotional core of a victim beautifully.
Besides a tight script, the film has very focussed direction by Neeraj Pandey. The film moves fast, the sense of urgency which is there throughout is conveyed well by hand-held shots, fast zoom outs and track ins. The director uses simple overhead shots and close-ups to tell all. The climactic speech, all in one close-up of Naseeruddin Shah cut with Anupam Kher’s reactions prove that one doesn’t always need snazzy camera work where content is the king. Editing and music keeps the energy and pace of the film going and increases the already upbeat tempo. A remarkable control of all departments coming together to deliver a small but a fine film.
By no means is Wednesday a patriotic or jingoistic film. It does not attempt what a Rang De Basanti did. It does not invoke people to action. Not because it doesn’t want to. But simply because it has no answers, no path of action. It has only questions. For everyone within and without the system. Questions with no easy answers, maybe none at all. But the asking was important and this little film bravely attempts that.