“Vikram Vedha” is a spectacle of a film. On the surface, it appears to be a crime thriller, but it is much more than that. It simply employs genre tropes to arrive at completely different conclusions about the concepts of morality. It is written beautifully, keeping in mind the tendencies of the genre as well as staying true to its thematic elements, which are elevated when the former reaches its structural zenith. So, each twist brings us closer to where we had started and takes it a top-notch higher. The interplay of the story and what it wants to say is something paramount to Cinema. It is a visual triumph when the aesthetics successfully bring out the voice of the film, especially when it is in a popular genre. Pushkar-Gayatri, the filmmaker duo, does just that, allowing the entire theme to come out of the storytelling as if placing the fodder at just the right places for the story to chew on and come to life.
Pushkar and Gayatri use a certain type of manipulative filmmaking, which again is synonymous with the elements of the story. While in the story, one character can be seen playing games with another: similarly, the film as a whole plays game with us. The folklore-ish quality is embedded in filmmaking in the way its structure is designed. It starts with narrating a tale of Vikram Aur Betaal from the folk tale, where Vedha keeps telling Vikram stories from his life where the good-bad dichotomy gets blurred. These instances also serve as major plot points and change the course of the film by either giving out new information or making Vikram realize how things are not as black and white as they seem. There is an interesting play of colors and symbols which becomes a part of the narrative and makes this clear. In the beginning, Vikram sports a pure white color in most of the scenes, sitting opposite Vedha, who wears black. The two discuss good and evil, with Vikram’s understanding being a simplistic one. The entire film then is about Vikram realizing how there are many shades to everything and how his twofold understanding of the world and the human psyche is flawed, even leading him to make bad decisions. It also represents the different sides of the law from which the two come, with Vikram being a policeman who is an encounter specialist and Vedha being a gangster. A significant shift takes place in the way Vikram thinks by the end, which is again reflected in a change in the shade of his clothes. This is a small detail, but it ends up speaking volumes about the ideas upon which the film is trying to shed light.
An important highlight of the film is its background music by Sam C.S., with one track playing throughout in parts to create harmony as a whole. The music is visceral and, at times, more than the visuals themselves. There is a certain quality of repetition in music that makes it work when played over and over. In the film, while the catchy part from the track is heard from the beginning, it is only in the final act that the entire song plays out, and we realize it is not just a background track. It gives out a sense of completion, but at the same time, it also serves as a bridge to the final act, where things are going to change completely. The music makes its presence felt with the distinctness of the sound, almost creating images in our minds and transforming them into a truly “cinematic” form. If Vikram and Vedha are the two main characters in the film, the music track is the third, which joins the violent tendencies of both of them together.
Leaving aside some minor inconsistencies in the screenplay and the simplistic filmmaking in certain scenes, “Vikram Vedha” is a treat to watch, especially in the second half, where it blossoms to its fullest. Saif Ali Khan is sincere in his portrayal of a cop who thinks he is on the good side of the game. He fits in perfectly to become Vikram, both physically and mentally. Just a look in his eyes, and you will know the honesty with which he has transformed himself to bring out the emotional dynamics of Vikram as the scenes demand. Radhika Apte does well with the little that was written for her character. She is an important person in the film, but there is not much involvement within the narrative, which side-lines her both as an actor and a character. She could have been more actively involved in the narrative, but her absence does no harm to the overall plot. The film takes advantage of the exotic look on Hrithik Roshan’s face and uses it to further accentuate the visuals. The exotification is underlined with glorified visuals, and it becomes difficult to make out who the real protagonist is as we see both Hrithik and Saif synergize the action in style. Hrithik’s portrayal just feels like it is falling short of completely becoming Vedha. His body language and facial expressions bring out the ferociousness and the haunting violence of Vedha quite well but at times, Vedha becomes lost under the struggling Bihari accent. If acting was to be compared with writing, his performance is still on the third draft when it could actually be realized in the fifth. Nevertheless, it is a treat to watch him break bones, even though his doing so doesn’t quite manage to create the fear that Vedha represents. All in all, “Vikram Vedha” is a clever reinvention of the thriller genre that messes with your mind and leaves you with more questions than answers about the nature of beings. It feels like a conversation throughout its 2 hours and 30-minute runtime, forcing one to think deeper. Starting with a question, it ends with another, and it is striking when any piece of art manages to do that. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
“Vikram Vedha” is an action thriller film directed by Gayattri and Pushkar.