Written and directed by: Pushkar & Gayatri
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Radhika Apte
Released in cinemas.
I haven’t watched the original Tamil Vikram Vedha by the same writer-director duo starring R. Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathy. And these days, when a Hindi remake of a southern film is announced, I avoid watching the original before the remake – for two reasons – 1. Remakes seldom deliver goods for a viewer who has already watched the original. 2. It kills the movie-watching experience when you’re constantly comparing both films. I, sometimes, like to watch the original if I’ve enjoyed the remake.
So, Vikram Vedha is a modern-day take on the Indian folklore of Vikram and Betaal. Some of you might recall Ramanand Sagar’s TV series of the late 80s of the same name starring Arun Govil (popularly known for playing Lord Ram in Sagar’s Ramayan) as King Vikramaditya. In the folklore, Betaal, the ghost hops on King Vikramaditya’s back and tells him stories about good and evil, which often confuse Vikramaditya. What is morally right or wrong?
The Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha has Saif Ali Khan playing SSP Vikram, a cop who is on duty to eradicate crime and criminals in the region i.e. Uttar Pradesh. The main guy he has to find is Vedha Betaal (Hrithik Roshan) who has murdered 16 people so far. But to everyone’s surprise, Vedha surrenders himself at the police headquarters. There must be a catch. Vikram is smart enough to know that. Thus, begins a tale of telling tales, by Vedha to Vikram.
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There are plenty of good things about this flick designed for a theatrical experience. There are the slow-motion (high-speed in camera terms) shots of hero’s or villain’s entry. Who’s who? You might ask. That’s the fun to watch and not be told. Hrithik Roshan speaking Bhojpuri is one of the most delightful experiments for a superstar film in the recent few years. Although it was difficult for me to suspend my disbelief on a Mumbai boy with Greek God looks playing a teacher from Bihar, I thoroughly enjoyed his command over Bhojpuri. He continues to have fun as Vedha, his swag during the interrogation scenes reminded me of Amitabh Bachchan from Agneepath. Hrithik starred in the remake of that film as well and did well.
Saif Ali Khan is probably the only star actor of his generation to have actually done a variety of roles – black-white-grey. He portrays the moral confusion of Vedha quite well for the most part. The hangover of Sartaj from Sacred Games doesn’t show. So, that’s good. Both the actors get some quirky lines of dialogue and their jugalbandi generates fun moments. They also get to flaunt their persona in skilfully designed action sequences. The background score ticks the boxes of getting the theme “Dha-dha-dha-dha-dha” right.
Music otherwise in the film seems unnecessary. You know why the song Alcoholia is there in the film – to add some masala and make it more accessible to the masses. But the song doesn’t move the story forward. There are a couple of other songs that play out as montages. Radhika Apte as Vikram’s wife Priya does well in whatever she gets to play with. Sharib Hashmi (The Family Man, Filmistaan) is more convincing with his Bhojpuri dialect as the matured Babloo Bhaiya than he is when playing Babloo’s younger version. Rohit Saraf and Satyadeep Mishra appear in extended cameos.
Food in films is a personal delight. Nobody uses food as a storytelling tool better than Tarantino, of course. The two scenes featuring Kulcha-Nihari (bread and a mutton gravy) in Vikram Vedha left me salivating. The cinematography and production design are top-notch barring a few scenes, which I presume were shot in chroma because of the restrictions during the pandemic.
In spite of having all these good elements, Vikram Vedha struggles to maintain momentum. The film is burdened by the task of making a noir film in the mainstream masala movie place. I believe that most people call a film ‘slow’ when they don’t understand what the film is trying to say with its pace. Of course, editing could be shoddy too. I like films that have a slow-burn effect. It is difficult to pull off that effect in a 2-hour film. Most audience doesn’t have patience for it too. But strangely enough, people are willing to watch the same effect in a 10-hour web series. Anyway. The slow-burn effect in Vikram Vedha struggles to keep you hooked. And I found some turns of events predictable. So, in that regard, the film felt a little tiresome at times. Lade Vikram aur Vedha, thake thode hum bhi. I might still want to watch the original Tamil film – to see what Vijay Sethupathy did with Vedha.