Vikram Vedha Review: Wholesomely Entertaining

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Vikram Vedha Review: Wholesomely Entertaining

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The Hrithik Roshan-Saif Ali Khan starrer, Vikram Vedha is a relatively faithful remake of the original film, that saw Vijay Sethupathi and R. Madhavan, in the respective roles of Vedha, and Vikram. Since it is helmed by the same writers and director – the accomplished Pushkar and Gayatri, on paper, Vikram Vedha appears to be a frame-to-frame adaptation. If you haven’t watched the Tamil version, then it’s likely you’re in for a more fascinating experience than those who’ve seen the Tamil original. For the latter, it’s vital to remember that a remake shall always be a remake at the end of the day. None of that, however makes this new adaptation any less enjoyable.

Saif Ali Khan brings gravitas to the role of Vikram,  but compared to Madhavan the moral superiority and the flair feels a bit put-on. There are moments when you’re watching Khan, that make you nostalgic for Madhavan because the former is unable to translate the complexity of Vikram on-screen as the latter has already done in the Tamil original. This is not to say, that Khan completely bottles it but here he is serviceable compared to his adversary, the undeniable Roshan. It’s natural that in a film structured as a battle between two icons will also eventually be evaluated as a competition between the two. It’s a competition that Roshan wins.

If you haven’t watched the Tamil version, then it’s likely you’re in for a more fascinating experience than those who’ve seen the Tamil original.

Roshan glides captivatingly through every frame that he is in and thankfully doesn’t try and ape Setupathi’s original performance. While there’s a lack of emotional expressiveness in Roshan’s Vedha, he also has a feline charisma. A gliding, starry quality that can at times feel jarring next to a grieving Vedha’s backstory.  In the Tamil original, you can visibly see how Sethupathi’s version oscillates between the worlds of menacing crime and individual sorrow.

In a scene, where Vedha cruises along the rooftops of a slum, in order to escape cops, Roshan’s easy flair is beyond impressive, or when he glissades across the room in another action sequence with effortless finesse, that you’re left bewildered at sheer elegant athleticism on display.

In many ways, one feels grateful to have witnessed the same character, in two diametrically different depictions. It is both a privilege and pleasure to have witnessed Sethupathi’s impeccable skill and Roshan’s graceful physicality.

The iconic nature of both Vikram and Vetaal lets Vikram and Vedha to be more than just one-dimensional depictions of good and bad.

As for the plot, it’s a cleverly fleshed-out story that captures your attention and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It helps, that the urban tale of a cop, and a gangster set in Lucknow, are weaved against the backdrop of an age-old folktale of Baital Pachisi, allowing the actors to escape the stereotype that both their characters are burdened with. The iconic nature of both Vikram and Vetaal lets Vikram and Vedha to be more than just one-dimensional depictions of good and bad.

The film questions the lines that blur the distinction between right and wrong. It oscillates between aggressive action and satirical commentary on the grey philosophies of life. What makes Vikram Vedha a treat to watch is how it picks a theme and sticks to it, with unrivalled conviction. Despite being slow and stretched in parts, the story never gets lost in its own web of riddles, and therefore keeps coming back to its larger theme of the dynamics of justice. It is this coherence in the screenplay that makes Vikram Vedha, such an easy film to devour, in spite of many flaws. When the script stands on its own, little else falters. It’s also interesting to see how the film in many ways becomes a return of the quintessential Bollywood heroes, who are broody, tough and charming all at once. The extraordinary background score by Sam C.S, amplifies the magnanimity that both the actors, especially Roshan brings to the table, and provides a healthy staple of startling moments, that leave you glued to the screen.

Fortunately for the audience, both Khan and Roshan, have aged like fine wine, and exude a certain middle-aged sex appeal that makes them delightful to watch.

Khan and Roshan dominate, an otherwise forgettable cast, that is filled with names of brilliant performers like Radhika Apte, Sharib Hashmi, and Rohit Saraf.  They just aren’t given a lot of material to play around with, unlike the Tamil original, in which the supporting characters had their own fair share of impact. Fortunately for the audience, both Khan and Roshan, have aged like fine wine, and exude a certain middle-aged sex appeal that makes them delightful to watch. Vikram Vedha is a classic example of what a great screenplay coupled with even average performances, can accomplish. To put it simply, this Pushkar-Gayatri directorial is by far one of the most entertaining films to come out of Bollywood in the past year, even if it is at the end the clichéd old thing now – the remake of a South Indian film.

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