Vikram Vedha is crackling, high-voltage entertainment

Hrithik Roshan in Vikram Vedha Photo: Spice PR

So what constitutes entertainment in cinema? Is it romance? action? comedy? emotions? music?

Or a perfect blend of some or all of these?

That one element or two can be removed without diluting the slightest impact is clear from the latest South remake, Vikram Vedha, which eschews focus on romance, infuses humor only in the correct situations and proportions, and gives short shrift to music (but for the transiently catchy Alcoholia). This is a film whose general ambience, grit and heavy surprise quotient throughout reminds me of another South remake, the 2009 Wanted, except that in the older film, in a different era, good music had also been blended.

However, in that film, it was a clear case of good versus bad, with a couple of whopper twists. Here, the more intelligent and slightly darker script chooses to highlight that most human beings are gray, and that there is nothing like black and white so far as we people are concerned!

Very intelligently, the scriptwriters and directors Pushkar-Gayatri concoct a tale, inspired by the legendary story of Vikram-Betaal, wherein the twists keep coming repeatedly, intelligently, in the seemingly most predictable of situations, many of which are also turned on their heads!

Vikram (Saif Ali Khan) is a diligent and honest cop, a part of the STF (Special Task Force) team commissioned to arrest or exterminate Vedha (Hrithik Roshan), a dreaded criminal wanted for 16 murders. After a tip-off, the squad manages to kill most members of his gang in an abandoned hideout, but Vedha has gone underground.

Soon, they receive a tip that Vedha has resurfaced and will be seen at a specific place. When the squad assembles there to get him, to their great surprise, Vedha surrenders. When Vikram interrogates him, Vedha tells him that he wants him to hear a story. That story is of the first murder Vedha committed.

Vikram realizes that Vedha had his reasons, but just when more is coming, Vedha is bailed out by a counsel representing him (It is strange that a criminal who has committed 16 murders gets bail so easily. But this is the only major ‘gray’ area in the script that could have been worked upon. And yet, in the overall momentum, we can ignore it!).

And here’s the surprise—the lady counsel is Vikram’s wife Priya (Radhika Apte)! Soon after that, Vikram’s best friend and colleague, Abbas (Satyadeep Mishra) is murdered in cold blood as retribution for the killing of Vedha’s brother Shatak (Rohit Saraf). Abbas has been summoned by a call from Shatak’s beloved Chanda (Yogita Bihani), and Vikram senses it is Vedha’s work.

It is also clear that Priya and Vedha are in contact. Vikram taps Priya’s phone and there is a second confrontation. Every time Vikram and Vedha meet, Vedha tells him a new story that shows that life is all about morally ambiguous choices. And the interesting developments continue until the bloodied climax that is a gem of a surprise! Vikram realizes the truth of what Vedha has kept illustrating in his stories. But can he then let Vedha go free and unpunished?

On-screen, Hrithik Roshan (incredibly in sync with a Lucknow-based, uneducated gangster) is nothing less than phenomenal as Vedha. His smiles and expressions (and that includes in the Alcoholia song) can be best described by the clichéd term “mind-blowing”.

Saif Ali Khan is in top form in a serious rather than light role. Gritty and determined, he is excellent in a character that is the perfect contrast to that of the light characters he is mostly made to play. The coterie of cops he is associated with all make a mark, led by Satyadeep Mishra as Abbas, Sudhanva Deshpande as the inspector-general,  Manuj Sharma  as rookie constable Dubey,  Dev Chauhan as inspector Prabhakar, Vijay Sanap as sub-inspector Ranjan and Saurabh Sharma as sub-inspector Ansari.

Radhika Apte has a relatively brief role but scores as the feisty wife and counsel. Govind Pandey makes a mark as Parshuram, and Sharib Hashmi is good as Babloo. As Shatak and Chanda, Rohit and Yogita are impressive too, as are the children who enact their childhood.

Cinematographer P.S. Vinod, editor Richard Kevin and action composer Parvez Sheikh score high and Pushkar-Gayatri achieve a splendid command over the script, cast and crew. Minor loopholes (no spoilers please!) are all of the easily overlooked quality in the overall grip the film has on the viewer from the beginning to the end of the 159-minute narration.

Not having watched the original, I can judge this as a standalone film and it gets high marks in almost all departments, as mentioned earlier. The Hindi dialogues by Manoj Muntashir and B.A. Fida are brilliant, full of subtle rather than brazen one-liners, and Vedha’s storytelling and the way he respectfully talks to Vikram are superbly conceived.

Sam C.S.’s background score is one of the biggest aces in the film, and Hrithik’s entry scene, in particular, is the crème-de-la-crème of this composer’s fantastic work. Suffice to say that the music augments the sequences and the atmosphere like very few background scores manage to do in Hindi cinema.

This is a film that is intelligent, innovative and highly thought-provoking in the way it presents its case. I would highly recommend it.

Rating: ****

T-Series Films, Reliance Entertainment, Friday Filmworks, Y Not Studios & Jio Studios present Vikram Vedha  Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar 7 S. Sashikanth  Directed by: Pushkar-Gayatri Written by: Pushkar-Gayatri, B.A. Fida & Manoj Muntashir Music: Vishal-Sheykhar & Sam C.S. Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, Yogita Bihani, Sharib Hashmi, Rohit Saraf, Satyadeep Mishra, Sudhanva Deshpande, Govind Pandey, Manuj Sharma, Dev Chauhan, Vijay Sanap, Saurabh Sharma  & others







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