While watching Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday again to revive memories of its impact as it turns 15 on September 5, one was struck by how amateurish the end-product looked in hindsight, in spite of its original claims of being hiplocked to authenticity.
Nothing in A Wednesday looks authentic any more. This could be due to the film’s lack of a moral stance. Pandey seems not to take a stand when his anonymous terrorist(Naseeruddin Shah) plants a bombs in Mumbai and sets up a negotiation office from the rooftop of an underconstruction building.For Pandey,the story and its telling are the focal points. The ethics of his characters’ action were none of his concern.
Neeraj Pandey had told this writer that there was no lift in the building and that Naseeruddin Shah would climb the stairs to the 25th floor every day to shoot.This kind of punishing routine explains why A Wednesday remains one of Naseer’s last attempts at something within the commercial space but done in an authentic tone.
This is the crux of the problem in A Wednesday: it wanted to be Black Friday in tone. But it wanted the audience of Diehard. The research exposing the grime behind the crime seems slipshod.Looking at the film today,one can’t see why Naseer’s character could get away with his amateurish vendetta scheme against an Administration which wants to eliminate terrorism.
Pandey’s plotting predilections make anti-terrorism activities seem like a crime against humanity.Naseeruddin Shah(who refused to speak on the film as it turned 15) had spoken some months ago about all the terrorists in A Wednesday being Muslim.
This stereotyping, not baseless, remains a problem with cinema on terrorism even fifteen years after A Wednesday created a stir in powerful places. Significantly Naseer never worked with Pandey again. And Pandey never made a better film than this debut. The closest he came to recreating the palpable suspense of A Wednesday in an anti-terror swell was in Baby in 2015. By the time Pandey made Aiyaary his voice became garbled.