Vikram Vedha: A Powerhouse of Performances
During the hype of Navaratri, another reason for crowds congregating was the release of the action packed Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan starrer Vikram Vedha. The 2017 original film in Tamil spearheaded by the same directors Pushkar and Gayatri featured R. Madhavan in Saif Ali Khan’s shoes and Vijay Sethupati in Hrithik Roshan’s. While a lot of the audience, extremely rooted in their regionalism, are refraining from watching the Hindi version, the film has turned out to be a powerhouse of performances which the whole country is now being privy to the exceptionally well woven narrative of the film.
The implication of the folk Vikram and Vetal and its implementation in a criminal-cop backdrop is utterly interesting. Vikram(Saif Ali Khan) is an earnest police officer who doesn’t regret shooting point blank at criminals because he takes pride in the act of decimating the layer of filth and scum floating in the face of society.
However, Vikram faces an indecisive dilemma when Vedha (a criminal on the loose) comes face to face with Vikram every time to tell him a story. Every story that Vedha narrates poses a question of moral dilemma subjected to right and wrong in the given situation. With every correct answer that Vikram gives, the film takes us to a flashback of Vedha executing what was just and thus places Vikram and Vedha on the same pedestal irrespective of their occupational backgrounds.
The dialogue writing, both in the original and the Hindi version offers its share of flavors in the respective languages and is reflective of the writer’s linguistic soundness in both versions. The visuals are a complete replica of the original film, with every frame and its mise-en-scene including the hues and shades of color, projecting similarities. Even the sound design and original score are borrowed and there’s no hiding that on the part of the makers. They have gracefully made a version of the film in Hindi, but instead of dubbing it, they’ve actually made usage of different actors with a whole distinct mass appeal for the nature of the audience this time, on the national level.
What is different about Vikram Vedha is the portrayal of Vedha as a character or rather, the casting of Hrithik Roshan as the filthy, raw godfather underground, a look very unlikely of the Greek God of India. With no fault of his own for looking unapologetically elegant all the time, Hrithik has managed to make Vedha divergent from Sethupathi’s understanding of the character. While the latter could bring the coarseness of the character to life, Hrithik on the other hand is a rowdy with an attitude.
The inclusion of the song Alchoholia was choreographed only to give the exceptional dancer a screen time he deserves for his adeptness in the skill, but not for a moment in the dance, does it feel like he’s digressing from his character only for the sake of shaking his leg. The expressions accompanying the unrefined dance steps keeps one in awe as to how one dances clumsily with grace.
While Sethupathi offered a more realistic appeal to Vedha and brought to life his ruggedness with a sense of cunningness and manipulation, Hrithik was more about bringing a charm to Vedha’s uncouth mannerisms and suggesting a possibility of perceiving Vedha’s character from what has already been seen.
Saif Ali Khan on the other hand fits the shoes of an honest cop who has his ways of getting work done and keeping his head high. However, steering his conscience clean with the conviction that he is a good guy loaded with the responsibility of cleaning up the dirt in the system feels like an attitude he holds and less like something he truly believes in. He does a decent job in pulling off Vikram and his moments of realizations in choosing the right and wrong feel convincing because it breaks his so-called bubble of objectivity.
His pain is worth relating to as the audience which is initially watching things from the perspective of Vikram slowly shifts to that of Vedha, as Vikram himself fits in Vedha’s shoes and ultimately poses a moral question to Vedha himself, thus again getting stuck in the loop of a never ending discourse on the justification of triumphing right over wrong. R. Madhavan had already designed an arc for Vikram and Saif doesn’t try to stick to those.
Although both of the Vikrams are not distinct from each other, they’re also not very similar, but both offer compelling performances in their own style. Radhika Apte as Priya, Vikram’s wife seems to do a more daunting job than the Shraddha Srinath and makes her presence felt with the little time that she showcases herself on screen. The shot-taking in the film similar to its first version is dynamic and hooking and so is the rhythm and pacing. Comparisons always cloud judgements and restrain one from making objective observations.
Vikram Vedha in its 2022 release offers a set of power packed performances with tad bit alterations in the action sequences and ascends itself as a theatrical experience. Given its semblance to the previous version, it is the actors that offer a fresh perspective to the characters and hence deserve admiration for attempting to take the challenge and make idiosyncratic additions to the already existing standard set by the previous version. The fact that they haven’t succumbed to the original and given the characters an aura of their own as if being read by another reader is in itself an absolutely commendable accomplishment. Review by Subhangi Ray