Vikram Vedha is inspired by the folktale of Betal Pachisi, in which King Vikramaditya sets out to capture a cunning demon who repeatedly tells different riddle-filled tales to the king and escapes when the king gives the right answer. The film is set in modern day Lucknow. Vikram (Saif Ali Khan) is a senior police officer heading a task force set up to corner dreaded gangsters. Their prime target is Vedha (Hrithik Roshan), a middle-rung gangster who has suddenly risen high in the hierarchy after committing a spate of murders. Like the Betal of the stories, Vedha tells the cop a story every time he gets captured and escapes. The stories are a mirror to the past lives of both the goon and the policeman, and tell us how circumstances shaped them into becoming who they are. Vikram, who is known to be a trigger happy cop and believes in segregating life into black and white, begins to see everything in a new light. He starts to understand that everything can’t just be classified so easily, that life is made up of shades of gray instead. He starts unraveling past happenings layer by layer and finds that there’s nothing called good or evil in his and Vedha’s world. People like them have to choose the lesser evil and stick by it.
The film is a retelling of Pushkar-Gayatri’s own Tamil thriller of the same name, which was released in 2017 and starred R Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi. The film was hailed as an instant classic and rejuvenated the careers of both Madhavan and Sethupathi. Remaking an already acclaimed film is a challenge, even for the original directors. The Hindi heartland or rather badlands is an unfamiliar milieu to them, and they have taken pains to get the background right. A major portion of the film has been shot on location in Lucknow. Kudos to cinematographer PS Vinod for not sparing the grit and grime of Lucknow in his cinematography. The dialogue varies from being conversational to philosophical, in keeping with the film’s structure, which itself is both a neo-noir thriller and a story debating human existence at the same time.
People who have not seen the original wouldn’t miss the raw, visceral quality of the Tamil version. While it’s the same film with minor variations, it doesn’t punch you in the gut as the original did. Though we must say that the director duo haven’t Bollywoodised it much. The essence of it remains the same. Also, Hrithik and Saif are totally different from Maddy and Sethupathi. They have their own quirks and characteristics and hence the approach towards playing the roles is different. With his Greek god looks, Hrithik is never going to look like someone hailing from lower-middle class. And Saif looks too suave, too polished for a cop.
Both actors have given their all to the film. Each has risen to the occasion and tried to make their characters as real as possible. They play off each other’s strengths and their confrontation scenes remind us of the Amitabh Bachchan-Shatrughan Sinha scenes of yore. In fact, take away the mobile phones and the film is pure pulp, ’70s, Salim-Javed brand of cinema. Hrithik has got the meatier role of the two. He infuses his gangster avatar with tenderness and vulnerability. His scenes with Rohit Saraf, who plays his younger brother, offer an emotional core to the film. Saif is also shown to be a loving husband and shares a few scenes with Radhika Apte, who is flawless, as always. She’s one of the surprise twists of the film and her verbal spars with Saif help alleviate the dark and sombre mood of the film.
Watch the film for its stylished action scenes. The Parkour sequence involving Hrithik is action choreography at its imaginative best. And also for the rock solid performances by both Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik Roshan.
Trailer: Vikram Vedha
Rachana Dubey, September 28, 2022, 3:03 PM IST
Vikram Vedha Story: Vikram, an honest officer with the Lucknow police, is on a mission to find and eliminate gangster Vedha. However, when Vedha surrenders himself to the police, and starts narrating stories to Vikram, it alters understanding of good and evil.
Vikram Vedha Review: Crafted out of the Tamil hit of the same name, ‘Vikram Vedha’ is a neo-noir action thriller which is rooted in Betaal Pachhisi, a popular Indian folktale. Vikram, a top-billed officer of the Lucknow Police Special Task Force, is assigned to find and kill gangster Vedha Betaal. However, Vedha surrenders himself to the police. During interrogation, he starts narrating stories to Vikram, which slowly start changing the latter’s own perception of good and evil.
Conceptually, the film has been written and throughout really well. Almost everything, even little props and minor satellite characters that play out in the film have relevance to the central plot. The directors, Pushkar and Gayathri, also the writers of the film, make it a point to leave the story’s flow to the two central characters after establishing them sufficiently. Vikram and Vedha’s parts have been written with a kind of finer detailing that works at so many levels. Like Vedha’s love for Raj Kapoor songs, which has been used in action scenes. It’s impressive how nuanced things like these have been woven into the narrative.
Nearly, everything ties up neatly at the end, without much wastage. The exception here is the track of a prominent character like Parshuram bhaiyya who is still out there with his minions. It’s left unfinished, though you keep hoping that it would tie up somewhere to the central plot at the end. The writers also could have focused a little more on Chanda and Shatak’s (Yogita Bihani and Rohit Saraf) love story which gives rise to a pivotal conflict in the film. You also yearn to experience a little more of Vikram, and dwell some more on how Vedha became as powerful as he is.
In terms of execution, the film offers a degree of freshness, and stays true to its world. Even with a non-linear narrative, it’s not tough to keep a track of the story’s movement and the characters. Yes, the dates do feel slow at times, and the climax feels a tad stretched. But the film delivers on a host of accounts. Like the action scenes have been choreographed really well. Like the pre-interval action sequence where the police are combing an area for Vedha, and how he escapes to a container yard is quite slickly done. The use of Lucknow as a setting is quite neat. The film has a smattering of delicious local flavours – from the food to the bylanes to the neighbors. The film’s music album is above average. The Alcholia track becomes even better with Hrithik dancing in the video, but you wonder if it was really required.
In terms of balance, the film tilts towards Vedha’s character, which has been performed excellently by Hrithik. He’s menacing, ruthless and yet, extremely emotional in parts. He imbibes the vibe of the character really well. He’s effortlessly convincing as Vedha. You can’t help but notice the dialect which reminds you of the actor from his Super 30 avatar; that needed a little more attention.
Saif as an honest cop, who thinks he knows what’s right and wrong, perfectly compliments Hrithik on screen. He’s in control of his body language, he embraces the character’s inner strengths, vulnerabilities and depicts the gradual change in his thinking really well. Yes, one would have loved to see a little more of Saif in the story. The actor is in his classic good form here, but he needed a little more to chew on. Ditto for Radhika Apte, who plays Vikram’s wife, Priya.
To sum up, Pushkar-Gayathri, the writer-directors of the film, have pretty much stuck to the blue-print they created for the original, including the way they weave in the elements of folklore in it. It’s a plus that they haven’t changed the roadmap too much. But they’ve also not tried revisiting the elements that they had at hand to make the redux better than the original. And yet, this one’s worth a ride to the big screen.