I finally caught up with Neeraj Pandey's A Wednesday on DVD. And I completely enjoyed myself watching it. I have a few notes to share.
If you expect an arty film because it has a color-washed Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher in it, you'll be disappointed. A Wednesday is a hugely commerical, relentless thriller. Sure it doesn't have songs in it, or a suffering mother - which I recognize are the commercial trappings of regular Bollywood fare. But nonetheless, Pandey is out to primarily entertain.
This is an aspect I enjoyed most about the movie. I'm sick and tired of director's hiring people like Naseer and Anupam and then trying to create "a great work of art". For crying out loud, Pandey has the right idea! Hire these guys because they are among the best actors in India. And make them work hard and honestly in a commercial movie. Press them to deliver.
Neeraj puts Naseer and Anupam through their paces. He works them hard - especially Anupam. Importantly enough, even though he doesn't fully flesh out any character, he makes them people who do things that are consistent with their character. Because Naseer and Anupam have had to work in so much junk to pay the bills, I was really happy to see them sink their teeth into their respective roles.
A Wednesday is derivative but makes up for it with some clever writing. There is a brief but nifty satire of Bollywood, some casually underplayed metaphors, biting comedy when you least expect it and small turns of story that create an edge in the movie.
Yet the movie has one crucial flaw - I could see the big twist coming from a mile - well before the intermission. The Drift Memsaab is hugely pissed at me for ruining the movie. But if you are remotely interested in analyzing scripts while watching the movie, you'll note that the script paints itself into a corner more than once. Which makes it easy to unravel the end.
There is another problem in A Wednesday. And its worth mentioning because the solution to that problem would also have applied to the aforementioned crucial flaw.
A Wednesday is unable to put anyone in a genuinely threatening situation. Think about this: an unidentified person (played by Naseer) plants several bombs in a city of millions. Yet at no point did I feel anyone was under genuine threat. Sure, Pandey shoots the requisite pictures of 'a bustling city in motion' but it conveys chaos more than vulnerability. And this results in a vacous thriller - not overtly but just ever so.
If Pandey had been able to convey a rising sense of insecurity through some carefully written scenes, or if he had paced the subplots around two officers (Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Bashir) a little slower he might have been able to bring gravity to the situation and distract us enough from guessing the end game.
With time Pandey will learn to not rely on MTV video-style punch ups to pump up the adrenalin. Hopefully he'll also spare us scenery chewing monologues - the only time Naseer's character rings false and almost derails the movie.
Pandey, some phaltu Drift advice: rent the entire (non-kiddie) filmography of Robert Rodriguez and watch him mature with each flick. And then take your time building each scene instead of trying to assault us with it.
But still, great job!