Directed and written by Neeraj Pandey
★ Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill
The first half of A Wednesday seems like a mixture of the most basic, well-known, mainstream terrorism thriller elements; a police officer receives a call from a stranger telling that he has planted bombs in various places of a big city (Mumbai). The police officer wants a proof, he gets it. The stranger wants some terrorists with muslim names to be released.
And that's where the film gets interesting. I don't want to say much about the plot from that point on, except that this is not your typical Indian terrorism film at all.
What I really liked was that the film didn't focus on religion - it even said very clearly that terrorism isn't about your name or origin. By making the viewer expect a film with an anti-muslim tone, it shows how much we've gotten used to this from Indian films, and I hope that film makers have learned a lesson from A Wednesday. I can only speak for the minority of female non-Indian young adults, but: now that we've seen how it can be done, we certainly won't turn a blind eye to the religiously motivated terrorism films anymore.
The interesting thing about terrorism is the people behind it - their motivations, ideologies, dreams. A film about terrorism should play on that and let the audience feel the desperateness and inner conflict of the terrorists, instead of portraying them as either genuine villains or heroes. It shouldn't tell us what to feel and think, but let us be torn between our bad conscience and frustration about the system.
There is a very central monologue scene at the end of A Wednesday, where the potential terrorist, played by top-notch actor Naseeruddin Shah, displays and explains his feelings and his motivations that led him into (potential) terrorism. At first I feared that the neutral framework of the film would blow apart, because it felt like we were supposed to agree with the man and not question his actions and ideas at all. The film however did a great job at maintaining the atmosphere of doubt and disremption, and this was the point where I decided it was a great film.
I was able to see the questionable patriotic sequences as part of the depiction of a system that is theoretically fair, but nevertheless frustrating. And I was able to see that there are no final and right answers in this film and the issue it is broaching.
Every character thinks he is doing the best thing to do, yet no one is absolutely and definitely sure. Therefore, A Wednesday is a film that is truly realistic and in many ways philosophic, and a film that I will think of often in the future. Its praise and success, especially among non-Indian viewers, is well-deserved. Because even though it isn't perfect, its intentions might be just that.