Jul 27 2017

Vikram Vedha

Published by at 10:39 pm under Review,Tamil Cinema


Cops and gangsters have long been two of the most popular and dependable roles for our heroes to play because these roles offer an easy way to package all the necessary ingredients – heroism, action, romance, sentiments, comedy – needed for a well-rounded masala movie. You can pick any  of our leading stars and they will have played at least one cop or gangster in their last few roles (Rajni and Ajith played gangsters in Kabali and Vedhalam while Vijay, Suriya and Vikram were cops in Theri, Singam 3 and Irumugan respectively). But because of their star wattage, these actors played straightforward characters with no shades of grey, they were pitted against one-dimensional villains and the movies left us in no doubt about who to root for in the battle between them.

Vikram Vedha pits a cop and gangster against each other. Madhavan plays the cop Vikram. He is honest but at the same time, not averse to fudging things as long as he gets the bad guys. Vijay Sethupathi is Vedha, a gangster with a string of murders to his name. While the roles are familiar, the characters are interesting enough to avoid the pitfalls of the genre movies that feature either of those characters. That, along with perfect casting(both Madhavan and VS do a fantastic job though VS steals the whistles and claps with several crowd-pleasing lines delivered in a nonchalant way. He also gets a fantastic bgm score), an intelligent script and a smart screenplay, makes the battle between them feel fresh and entertaining.

The film begins with the famous King Vikram-Vedhalam folklore which has the king seek and find the spirit only to have it climb onto his back. We know the rest of the story – the spirit narrates stories with questions at the end and would fly back to the tree if the wrong answer was given by the king. That tale is is ingeniously used to structure the film. So Vedha surrenders to Vikram, narrates incidents in his life and poses questions that make Vikram think. The questions are clever and not letdowns. While the answer to the first tells Vikram how similar he and Vedha think, the second leads to a particularly potent moment as Vikram blurts out a key piece of information.

When the film begins, Vikram and Vedha are completely different. Vikram is educated, married and on the right side of the law while Vedha is uneducated, single and pursued by the cops (in a way, the difference is announced even before the movie starts. The anti-smoking and drinking slide has Madhavan reading the English warning while Vijay Sethupathi reads the Tamil translation). But by the time the movie ends, they have both changed in each other’s – and our – eyes. In this the film is a little bit like Raavanan. The transformations the characters go through aren’t that drastic and the underlying mythical story isn’t interleaved as cleverly but the 2 primary characters do undergo a similar journey that changes them, their view of the world and our view of  them.

The film is careful not to undermine other relationships while depicting the fight between the protagonists. Vikram’s relationship with his wife Priya(Shraddha Srinath), a lawyer, is an example of this. Initially its all fun and games as they are a young couple in love. But once she is pulled into the game(Vedha hires her as his lawyer), the husband-wife relationship undergoes a change because of the cop-lawyer dynamics. Brought out nicely in a scene where she alternates between taking care of his wound and fighting with him for the way he used her, it adds another layer to the main conflict between Vikram and Vedha. On Vedha’s side, the care and affection he has for his brother Pulli(Kathir) and the relationship between Pulli and his lover Chandra(Varu Sarathkumar) are both depicted well.

Though the film is character-driven, it functions well as a thriller too. The reason behind Vedha surrendering, which Vikram is tasked with finding out, drives the plot forward. As Vedha’s flashbacks fill in the story, the screenplay flows smoothly towards this answer. There are the requisite twists, some of which are good surprises. Particularly clever are the way many casual events and conversations from the past, both in Vedha’s stories and Vikram’s daily life, have a direct bearing on how the story proceeds. The climax is one place where Vedha’s casual tone feels somewhat overdone but the final shot is perfect.

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Vikram Vedha”

  1. Preethi says:

    Nice review Balaji. It seems like you enjoyed the movie as much as I did. Loved VS performance. He is a natural. Of course, Maddy was his usual charming self. All in all, felt thoroughly entertained by a Tamil movie after a long time.

  2. KXS says:

    Probably the best Tamil movie I’ve seen in ages. Everything clicks – whether its the screenplay, direction, casting or BGM.

    Vijay Sethupathi’s introduction scene…..this man redefines what it is to be a “mass” hero in Tamil cinema.

  3. Prakash says:

    Saving this for India theater viewing. Only a week away! Trying to temper my expectations but man, everyone is raving about it. Hope it lives up …

  4. Jordan says:

    Gonna see this in the theatre. All these awesome reviews make it seem like you’re missing out if you don’t catch it.

  5. Anu says:

    I really liked Vijay sethupathi’s acting. This movie prompted me to watch his other movies and I have been pleasantly surprised at how natural he is.

  6. Harish says:

    VS entry should officially be termed “Mass Entry 2.0” :). While Maddy’s role was more singularly focused (and he did express his emotions really well in the rather narrow scope it allowed and it isn’t a dig but rather a compliment because the role required it),VS was allowed a far greater variance. Be it getting angry, sad, happy or determined. He was fantastic in ITAB but the role did not allow so much scope. As you rightly captured, so many “on-the-go” dialogues that made a lot more sense when reviewed together. Even the ” Oru joke sollu” at the beginning made sense from a later event.

    PG have great potential. It was obvious from OramPo. Can quarter cutting was quirky but definitely different although did not do well. They have really hit bulls eye here (pun intended!).

    All the supporting characters did their parts very well. Especially Simon was an intriguing role given the set of parameters he had to deal with. The conflict between husband and wife came out well and it wasn’t for the sake of it, it actually helped move the movie forward.

  7. Prakash says:

    @Anu, guess you are not a frequent viewer of Tamil movies, at least not lately. It seems like most of the better movies in recent years have been Vijay Sethupathy ones.

    Better late than never :) I still have some school/college friends who still only know of Rajini/Kamal/Vijay/Ajith. I keep telling them that Tam movies have truly evolved in the last few years, but they haven’t made the time to watch others’ movies.

    And happily, though VS is a full fledged star now, he still hasn’t fallen into the predictable masala routine.

  8. Prasad says:

    …and a sequel being planned… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUJge6TtILc now am like little skeptical…

  9. Balaji says:

    Preethi, yes definitely enjoyed it. Every aspect of the film was well thought out and executed and they all came together very well too.

    KXS, its been a pretty weak year for Tamil cinema so far without any real standouts. So yes, VV was a welcome change from the trend.

    Prakash/Jordan, definitely deserves a theater viewing.

    Anu, yes he is a very natural, subtle actor and so far he has mostly chosen roles that highlight this strength of his. Not sure which of his other movies you watched but Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, Pizza, Soodhu Kavvum, Kaadhalum Kadandhu Pogum, Aandavan Kattalai and Naanum Rowdy Dhaan are some where his performances were very enjoyable.

    Harish, the bgm was fantastic and went a long way towards making it a total mass entry. Maddy was at a disadvantage since VS had the crowd-pleasing role with more scope but he had his moments too.
    I loved Oram Po and VV was very different but just as entertaining.

  10. Anu says:

    @Prakash, yes i do not watch that many tamil movies. I was put off by the many crappy masala movies of Vijay and ajith. The last movie i saw was Vikram’s AI which i thought was also crappy.

    Balaji, yes i have watched all the movies you have stated in the last week after watching Vikram Vedha. have been seriously catching up on all my tamil movies! They have all been very enjoyable. i wonder why our ‘big’ heroes do not try these different movies.

    But i m thankful, imagine Vijay taking on Madhavan’s role! The horror!

  11. Prakash Rao says:

    @Anu, haven’t seen VV yet, but can’t imagine Vijay pulling off anything different. At best, he can be in a decent commercial movie like Gilli (at least parts of it) or Thupakki. At worst, he can make intolerable nonsense … too many examples to list :)

    Since you are in catch up mode, here are some other enjoyable movies for you: Thegidi, Vazhakku En 18/9 (my personal favorite), Netru Indru Naalai (go in with slightly lowered expectations), Vaayai Moodi Pesavum. I haven’t seen Kaakka Muttai or Visaranai yet, but they are both supposed to be very good. Jigarthanda starts quite slow and is a bit quirky, but worth a watch. Quite liked Kumki also, Prabhu’s son is the hero. None of these are VS movies, btw.

    Iraivi has VS, but he is one of many characters with equal footage. Moody movie but I enjoyed it.

  12. ig says:

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    share views. Great website, continue the good work!