Vishwaroopam (titled Vishwaroop in Hindi; transl. The magnificent incarnation) is a 2013 Indian espionage action thriller film written, directed and produced by Kamal Haasan, who also enacts the lead role. The film has Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah and Jaideep Ahlawat in supporting roles. Filmed simultaneously in two languages: Tamil and Hindi, the film features a soundtrack composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, with the Tamil lyrics written by Vairamuthu and Haasan himself, while Javed Akhtar translated them for the Hindi version.
Development of the project began after the release of Haasan’s Manmadhan Ambu (2010) when several of the crew were brought in from the United States to lend their technical expertise. The direction was taken over by Kamal Haasan from Selvaraghavan and reports indicating a comparison with several English films surfaced during the production. The first teaser was revealed in April 2012 and first theatrical trailer was revealed in June 2012. Vishwaroopam is the first Indian film to utilise the new Auro 3D sound technology. The film was also to be the first Indian film to release via direct-broadcast satellite, also known as direct-to-home (DTH), but after protests of theatre owners this plan was dropped.
The film released worldwide, excluding Tamil Nadu, on 25 January 2013 while the Hindi version was released on 1 February 2013. Legal controversies, regarding the film’s plot of Indian intelligence service’s participation in the War on Terror, arose as several Muslim civic organisations protested the film’s release in Tamil Nadu, resulting in an official ban being imposed on the film in the state for 15 days by the Government of Tamil Nadu. The ban resulted in similar decisions in major overseas markets like Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore while release was delayed in the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka.
Despite the fragmented release, Vishwaroopam garnered positive reviews and, at the time of its release, was the second highest-grossing Tamil film of all time (as of 2018, it ranks seventh). Heeding the requests of Muslim civic organisations, controversial scenes were muted or morphed, allowing the film to be released on 8 February 2013 in Tamil Nadu. The film was honoured with awards for Best Art Direction and Best Choreography at the 60th National Film Awards. A sequel to the film, Vishwaroopam II, released on 10 August 2018.
The film opens in a rundown pigeon shop in New York City where an old man feeds them. He then sends one pigeon away. It flies high and lands in a skyscraper off the office window of a psychologist who is conducting a session with her client Nirupama, a nuclear oncologist who begins to confide that hers was a marriage of convenience that provided a safe haven for pursuing her PhD in the US for past three years and that her husband Vishwanath alias Viz is a middle-aged Kathak teacher. She is also put off by Viz’s effeminate bearing and is attracted to her boss, Deepankar. Doubting whether her husband has secrets of his own, she hires a private investigator to tail him to probe grounds for divorce. She learns from the private investigator that Viz is a Muslim. In a sudden turn of events, the investigator is killed in a seaside warehouse by Farukh, a prominent member of the cell led by Omar Qureshi. A diary on him gives away Nirupama and the group led by Farukh nabs the couple. Deepankar is later killed by Farukh’s men.
Viz surprises Nirupama by having a fight with Farukh’s men. He then kills Farukh and his men at the warehouse and escapes with Nirupama. Omar and Viz have a past, one that takes the story back to circa 2002, to the Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Viz’s real name was Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri. He claims to be a Tamil Jihadi in Kashmir, wanted by the Indian Army, with a reward of ₹ 500,000 on his head. Omar accepts him into his team and drives him off to Afghanistan. Wisam becomes a trainer to the Al-Qaeda Jihadi’s and also a family friend to Omar. One day, Omar tells Wisam that American prisoners of war are still alive, incarcerated and shifted each fortnight. He orders his deputy Salim to behead the Captain and capture it on video. The next day, Salim tells Wisam that a new tall guest is expected in the town. Wisam later that night sees Osama bin Laden greeting the Al Qaeda chieftains in a cave. Then, a joint US-led air force begins a bombing raid on the town. Omar begins to doubt that there is an informer in the team but mistakenly orders lynching of an innocent man. What follows is a maze of events that go back and forth in time, unravelling a plot where in the sleeper agents are scraping cesium from oncological equipment to build and trigger a dirty bomb in New York City.
Nirupama is stunned to discover the true identity of Viz, his “uncle” Colonel Jagannathan, British “friend” Dr. Dawkins, and the young “dancer” Ashmita . Viz later reveals that he has a lot of emotional baggage and that he had executed many militants, including Nassar, Omar’s boss. His mission is to bust the sleeper-cell of Al Qaeda in the US, which is planning to divert the attention through “capsules” capable of emitting mild nuclear radiation tied to pigeons while enabling Abbasi, a Nigerian suicide bomber to detonate the cesium dirty bomb in the city.
Together, the Wisam team tries to counter Omar’s plans. In the ensuing events, Wisam is arrested by the FBI before being rescued by Jagannath, and Dawkins is murdered by Salim while picking up a video tape from an antique shop. The FBI later releases Wisam after a call from the Indian embassy and Prime Minister of India, where the true identity of Wizam is revealed as an agent of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India. Wisam along with the FBI, takes down Abbasi and defuses the cesium bomb with the help of Nirupama by using a microwave oven as a Faraday cage to avoid incoming calls from any mobile phone. Omar and Salim try to escape in a plane. Omar tries to activate a bomb through his phone but fails. He then calls Abbasi, but the call is answered by Wisam, who tells him that Abbasi is not alive. Omar is shocked to hear this but escapes with Salim in his plane. The film ends with Wisam indicating that he would now go after Omar, alluding to a sequel set in India.
Kamal Haasan as Vishwanath (Wiz) / Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri
Rahul Bose as Omar Qureshi
Shekhar Kapur as Colonel Jagannathan
Pooja Kumar as Nirupama Wisam aka Nirupama Vishwanath (Voice over by actress Anu hassan)
Andrea Jeremiah as Ashmita Subramaniam
Jaideep Ahlawat as Salim
Samrat Chakrabarti as Deepak Chatterjee
Nassar as Nassar, Omar’s boss
Zarina Wahab as Psychiatrist
Miles Anderson as Dr. Dawkins
Nareen as Osama bin Laden
Mukhtar Khan as Farukh
James Babson as Tom Black
Jude S. Walko as Captain Joe Black
Chris Kotcher as Tollbooth Operator
Greg Sammis as FBI Agent
David Scott Diaz as FBI Agent
Rajesh Selva, the first assistant director, appears as a terrorist in the film.