We have grown up with the stories of Vikram-Betaal, a popular folktale in which King Vikram sets on a journey to capture Betaal, a witty spirit. On this quest, every time King Vikram gets hold of Betaal, Betaal decides to tell Vikram a story at the end of which he poses a question of moral judgement. According to the legend, if the King knew the answer, he was bound to respond lest he would break his head into a thousand pieces. But if he does speak out, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal would fly back to the treetop, leaving the king inches short of his destination! Based on the same folklore of Betaal Pachisi is the new ‘Vikram Vedha’. This Pushkar-Gayatri directorial is a remake of their own Tamil blockbuster with the same name. The two directors have reshaped this film and presented the audience with a new experience of the same tale.
Working with two of the greatest actors of Bollywood and banking on their stardom and talent alike, ‘Vikram Vedha’ stars Saif Ali Khan as Vikram, a self-righteous man and cop, and Hrithik as Vedha, the gangster who lords over the city of Lucknow. The film is based on Vikram, a police officer and encounter specialist, hunting Vedha, a gangster. Finally, when he crosses paths with Vedha, Vedha (like Betaal) begins telling him short stories from his life –taking the audience to multiple flashbacks into Vedha’s life. Vikram poses as righteous and unadulterated, a man that stands high on ethics. The film keeps reminding us that Vikram only believes in black and white, right and wrong, guilty and innocent. This is where Vedha’s stories break the myths of the hypocrite cop and show him how the world can also be grey. In the middle of the film, Vedha says a powerful dialogue explaining that maybe this line that defines right and wrong isn’t even a line. Perhaps, it is a circle and we are all going round and round in the circle. Every time Vedha finishes telling his story, he poses a question of ethics and lets loose one way or another –like the folktale.
Pushkar-Gayathri as directors worked on this remake to make it good enough to stand out on its own. The cinematography of P. S. Vinod is very smooth and settles very well in the dust as well as the beauty of Lucknow. The slow-motion sequences are exquisite, especially those that use the strength of Hrithik’s character. Even the action combined with Sam C. S’ background score brings the masala to this entertainer. The previous film starred Vijay Sethupathi and R Madhavan making big shoes for both, Saif and Hrithik, to fill but they pass on every front and deliver beyond expectations. This film is retold with the swag of Hrithik and Saif. To their credit, they are good enough for the audience to not miss Sethupathi and Madhvan.
The first twenty minutes of the film is what makes it fall short of excellence. This includes the character building of Vikram, his relationship with his wife, played by Radhika Apte, and also his relationship with his work-partner and best friend, Abbas, played by Satyadeep Misra. Even Radhika Apte doesn’t add much to the organised chaos and acts just as a filler. Vikram’s bonds with the people in his life do not spark enough emotion for the audience to understand his side of righteousness. In contrast to his life, when we are met with Vedha and his relationships with other gangsters, his own brother, played by Rohit Saraf, and friends later in the film, they seem well balanced, real and impactful.
It is when Vikram and Vedha encounter each other that the story takes a jump and becomes interesting. Saif and Hrithik’s dynamic and on-screen chemistry is powerful to say no less. They bring a balance and not only uplift the story together but also add in their own swag and originality. They seem very comfortable in their roles and prove to be the OGs that they are of Bollywood. It is though a Hrithik Roshan show all the way. The entry shot and direction of Hrithik’s Vedha are executed with perfection. The vulnerability of Hrithik’s Vedha shines throughout. He pours out emotions with such ease and grace that it reeks of class and talent all the way. Even the dance number on the underwhelming ‘Alcoholiya’ is a delight to watch because afterall it is Hrithik Roshan’s talented dance moves that will win you over.
The characters’ accents occasionally seem a little out of place. Hrithik’s UP dialect though is way more consistent than ever seen before. The supporting cast is heavily bland and does nothing to uplift the film. The action sequences are good and well edited but could have been more intense. It is also short of some bits from the original film. Although, this loss is filled in by the talented cinematography and sound. As a mass action thriller, the film will pass due to the on-screen talent of only Hrithik and Saif. If you have seen the original, you may end up comparing the two too often to enjoy, but if you haven’t, you may even love the film. ‘Vikram Vedha’ works as both a thriller and a masala action film. It is enjoyable even with a few flaws.
‘Vikram Vedha’ is now screening at a cinema near you.