Kamal Haasan pounds a pulsating anti-terror film (Movie Review *** )

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Vishwaroopam 2: Starring Kamal Haasan, Waheeda Rehman, Shekhar Kapoor, Anand Mahadevan, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jermiah; Directed by Kamal Haasan: Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars).

The best thing about this lengthy lumbering but never uninteresting ode to anti-terrorism is the lovely wizened Waheeda Rehman. But we have to wait till after interval point for her to show up.

The veteran actress is cast as the protagonist's mother who suffers a memory loss and can only remember her son as a dancer not a nationalist fighter.

If you've seen the first Vishwaroopam film 5 years ago you'd remember what the lady has forgotten. Kamal Haasan's Kathak recital in the film resonated rather quaintly with all the macho desh bhakti/jihadi stuff as he had infiltrated into a Jihadi camp as an Islamic insurgent.

Those scenes of snarling militancy return in the sequel as flashy flashbacks, meant to flesh out the tale as it plods along from London to Delhi via Pakistan.

In the sequel, our hero Wisam Kashmiri (no room for subtlety here) is still being sneered at by his colleague Anant Mahdevan at RAW.

"At the end of it all you are what you are," Mahadevan smirks. "Jo tum ho woh ho."

Kamal Haasn being Kamal Haasan sneers right back with the kind of taunting rhetoric that sounds a little phoney when translated from the Tamil original. But his two heroines clap and cheer the performance.

"Maybe I am a good actor," he wonders after a session of cerebral pow-wow maybe.

Throughout its ruminative running-time Vishwaroopam 2 moves a little off-beam. It is somewhat breathless and out of sorts in parts specially when all the espionage stuff with Shekhkar Kapoor (looking suave still at 70), Anant Mahdevan and of all people Rajendra Gupta (who as a RAW boss seems... well, a little raw) comes to a standstill, while Kamal Haasan playing a RAW double-agent banters, flirts and romances with his female associates played by Pooja Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah.

Is he sleeping with both or only the one who is Kashmiri's legally wedded wife. As we are told, he is not very good with societal rules.

It is hard to say which of the two our hero Wisam is married to. He behaves exactly the same way with both. The antics of the ménage a trois somehow never achieve any of the seductive peaks they are meant to hit. Perhaps the flirty dialogues lose their edge in translation. Both the ladies are annoying in their servitude and thraldom to the Kamal Haasan School Of Hero Worship.

What gives this sequel its spin and spell are the bouts of action shot with the dizzying urgency one witnesses in the war zone. There are two lengthy fights in public restrooms, a la Mission Impossible Fallout.

But let's not even go there.As long as we don't compare the action sequences with their firangi counterparts things appear pretty engaging in Vishwaroopam.

This is not a dumbed-down militancy movie. Yes, this is a learned view of terrorism filled with sly references to Obama and 9/11. The unintiated may find the narrative hard to keep up with.

As Kamal Haasan if he cares. But those who enjoy watching a good wack on the back of militancy, Vishwaroopam 2 is an engaging if somewhat choppy ride through the terror terrain.

At times one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at the coiling-recoiling plot. At one point a RAW senior colleague tells Kamal Haasan that he would like to stare his killer in the eye whenever it happens.

A little later he is dead. Our hero, not one to let go the chance for poetic justice, drags the killer to his dying colleague's range of vision.

"Here he is," pants our hero. Here indeed.