The film, made at a small budget, was a sleeper hit at the box office grossing over Rs. 340 million worldwide. Despite its low promotion, it was a box office success due to critical acclaim and positive word-of-mouth. Box Office India declared it a hit. Critics praised the movie for its effective storyline and its twist ending. Subsequently, it won a number of awards including the Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film of a Director at the 56th National Film Awards.
Mumbai police commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher), resting after a jog, describes in a voice-over that he is going to retire the following day. He goes on to describe the most challenging case he faced in his career.
An unnamed man (Naseeruddin Shah) carries a travel bag, assumed to contain explosives, in the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and proceeds to hide the bag in the restroom of a police station opposite to the Mumbai Police headquarters. He then arrives on the rooftop of a building under construction where he has set up his base of operations, equipped with several sim cards, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. He calls Rathod and informs him that he has placed five bombs in locations throughout Mumbai and has programmed them to explode simultaneously within four hours unless the Commissioner gives in to his demands and releases four militants. In response, Rathod immediately alerts his team involved in intelligence research and surveillance, tapping all the available resources to trace the location of the caller. Meanwhile, the caller tips off television news reporter Naina Roy (Deepal Shaw), telling her to reach the police headquarters immediately as it is going to be "the most important day of her life". Rathod initially suspects the anonymous caller is bluffing, but his doubts are dispelled as the caller, to prove his seriousness and the police force's helplessness, reveals that a bomb has been planted in the police station right across the Police headquarters. He further scares them by calling the cell phone attached to the bomb but does not detonate the bomb. Just then Roy reaches the scene on the caller's instructions and reports about the situation.
As Rathod and his team desperately try to locate the caller, the four militants demanded by the caller are rounded up by police officers Arif (Jimmy Shergill) and Jai (Aamir Bashir). In the meanwhile, police depute a young hacker named Anuj to track the location of the caller. The caller then asks the two police officers to leave the four militants near a bench on an airport runway, but Arif leaves only three militants behind and takes one of them captive as he suspects that the caller would not reveal the locations of the bombs even after the militants are released.
A phone placed under the bench rings once Arif and Jai are several feet away and an explosion occurs in which the three terrorists perish. Arif relays this information to Rathod, and the anonymous caller reveals he does not belong to any terrorist organization, and his plan was not to free the terrorists but to kill them. The caller sought to avenge all the terrorist attacks they had helped carry out in Mumbai and other major cities of India, specifically the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. His final demand is that the officers kill the fourth militant themselves or he would set off all five bombs in Mumbai. In response, Rathod orders indirectly to Arif and Jai to kill the fourth militant.
After the death of the fourth militant is confirmed on the news, the caller calls Rathod for a final time to reveal that he had not planted any other bombs in the city. At this point, Rathod declares he already knew there were no more bombs, hence his decision to kill the last terrorist was not taken in fear but in confidence. Rathod reaches the caller's location with the help of the young hacker, just as the caller is leaving the place, having destroyed all his gadgets and equipment. The two meet briefly when Rathod, identifying the anonymous caller on the basis of a face sketch, offers the man a ride home and introduces himself.
In a voiceover, Rathod says the man told him his real name but he does not wish to reveal it since doing so would give away the man's religion. Rathod admits that he knew the caller was disturbed because of the insecure environment and the incompetence of the governing authorities, but he never imagined a common man would go to such lengths to achieve this end. He also notes that the facts of this incident cannot be found in any written record but only in the memories of those who actually witnessed it, and further acknowledges that although the incident has ambiguous moral significance, he personally feels that whatever happened, happened for the best.Anupam Kher as Prakash Rathod, Commissioner of Mumbai Police
Naseeruddin Shah as "the common man"
Jimmy Shergill as Inspector Arif Khan, ATS
Aamir Bashir as Inspector Jai Pratap Singh
Deepal Shaw as Naina Roy, UTV Journalist
Alok Narula as Raj Sharma; Naina Roy's Cameraman
Rohitash Gaud as Ikhlaque Ahmed(A terrorist)
Kali Prasad Mukherjee as Ibrahim Khan(A terrorist)
Mukesh Batt as Khurshid lala(A terrorist)
Vijay Bhatia as Mohd. Zaheer(A terrorist)
Chetan Pandit as Chief Minister Sunil Nigvekar
Rajendra Chawla as Jaishankar Tiwary; Chief Minister's Assistant
Gaurav Kapoor as Arjun Khanna (Actor); Special Appearance
Virendra Saxena as Officer In-Charge Baburao Patil
Snehal Dabi as Shambhu a.k.a. Electric Baba
Aayam Mehta as Shankar Patil; Chief Minister's Assistant
Apurva Mehrotra as Anuj Sharma; The Hacker
Seema Malik as Inspector Jai Pratap Singh's wife
Vicky Ahuja as a middleman who supplied RDX
Namrata Sawhney as The Common Man's wife; VOICE OVER
Though a work of fiction, the script was inspired by the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings. In fact, the incidents that followed the bombings were used as details in the plot.
After finishing the script, Pandey sent it to Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah, who were his only choice for the two principal characters. Once both accepted the roles, he approached the producer Anjum Rizvi who liked the subject and the casting. Meanwhile, UTV Motion Pictures heard of the project, took it on, and bought the film’s rights from Rizvi and Pandey.
From casting to completion, A Wednesday! took about eight months. It was filmed on location around Mumbai in 28 days. The terrorist's ‘workstation’ was an actual under-construction 25-story building; it was chosen from 50 other such buildings for its clear view of the Mumbai skyline. Since the building had no elevators, a trolley lift was installed; Shah walked up the 25 floors every day.
The release was delayed because UTV's own production, Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008), also based on the Mumbai train serial blasts, was scheduled for an August release. Wednesday! was released in September alongside Hijack and Santosh Sivan's Tahaan.
A Wednesday! received critical acclaim with many comparing it to the movies of the Die Hard series. In a Tehelka review, while commending Neeraj Pandey for a tightly scripted film, "red herrings, finely etched characters", also noted "(for the film), the real Anupam Kher, whom we met in Saransh, and the real Naseeruddin Shah, whom we knew from Bazaar and Mandi and Sparsh, both show up." The Times of India 's critic Nikhat Kazmi called the movie "an intelligent diatribe against terrorism, refreshingly packaged as a racy thriller, reminiscent of the Die Hard Series." Rony D'Costa of Box Office India gave it 3 stars out of 5, stating "it will take just 100 minutes of your time but will give you an exciting & enriching movie going experience. A good watch, any day of the week."
Noted critic Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave 4 out of 5 stars, and a positive review saying, "It's difficult to explain just how good A Wednesday is without giving away too much about the film. Because believe me, it's a film best seen without any impressions. It's a film whose charm lies in its unraveling". The Economic Times's critic, Gaurav Malani, wrote, "A Wednesday is one of those rare variety films about which one can't discuss much despite a strong desire for it could hamper your viewing experience as an unappraised audience. It's a film one wants to rave liberally about but even then you can't conveniently converse on the instances of acclaim since those are the moments of surreptitious surprise held in reserve by the director. It's the kind of film that is discussed in detail once it acquires the cult status." He also gave it 4 stars out of 5.
Anupama Chopra of NDTV thought the film to be a "provocative theatre. Its message is urgent and relevant but also disturbing and dangerous." She also felt what it suggested was "implausible".
A Wednesday! grossed around Rs 120 million in India. The film had a distributor share of Rs44,600,000 in India. It gave satisfying results to the producers, distributors and exhibitors.Won Indira Gandhi for Best First Film of a Director - Neeraj Pandey
Won Best Director – Neeraj Pandey
Won Best Story – Neeraj Pandey
Won Most Promising Debut Director – Neeraj Pandey
Nominated for Best Background Music – Sanjoy Chowdhury
Nominated for Best Editing – Shree Narayan Singh
Nominated for Best Director – Neeraj Pandey
Nominated for Best Actor – Naseeruddin Shah
Nominated at 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards at Queensland Australia
The film was remade into Tamil and Telugu. The Tamil version had Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal in lead roles, while the Telugu version had Kamal Haasan and Venkatesh in the lead.
UTV sold the rights of the film to Asia Media and Gemini Media, which remade it into A Common Man, starring Ben Kingsley and Ben Cross.