Genre: Crime thriller
Cast: R. Madhavan, Vijay Sethupathi, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar & Shraddha Srinath
Let me begin this film review by declaring two things – one more shameless than the other. Firstly, Vikram Vedha is one of the best Tamil films that I have watched in recent times. Secondly, Madhavan continues causing butterflies to flutter in my stomach.
Now for the plot. Vikram Vedha is focused on the ‘conflict’ between its two main characters; Vikram played by the dashing Madhavan and Vedha essayed by the underrated Vijay Sethupathi. Vikram is an upright police officer while Vedha is a dreaded don. They are essentially portrayed as two sides of the same coin and their battle to come out on top in a fate-induced toss is what forms the crux of the film’s plot.
A movie about betrayal, family, friendship, loyalty and ethics, Vikram Vedha had my undivided attention from the very begining. The engagement of excellent storytelling mechanisms such as drawing parallels to mythological characters and the manipulation of time through well placed flashbacks were brilliant touches from directors Pushkar-Gayathri. However, what really makes this story gripping is the delicate dance that Vikram and Vedha are engaged in throughout the film. They appear to be evenly matched in brain, brawn and drive (not something we commonly see in Tamil films).
Very early on in the film, we are exposed to the idea that Vikram and Vedha are waltzing around each other, each trying to push the other off the edge whilst ironically also trying to prove their humanity to the other (in parts, it almost appears that they are longing for each other’s approval). What ensues is crackling chemistry between the lead actors whose initial antagonism towards each other slowly morphs into grudging admiration. At times, the audience does get the feeling that we are about to be privy to the start of an ‘illicit affair’ (can black and white coexist without being tainted by the other?) between the two lead characters.
Madhavan’s and Vijay Sethupathi’s acting is top-notch. Watch out for the scene where Vikram and Vedha lock horns and bear witness to their chemistry exploding into fireworks. The brilliant scriptwriting meant that the characters themselves were very well etched out to begin with but both these actors elevated the film with their superior acting skills. Here, I will concede that I have never been a fan of Vijay Sethupathi. But Vikram Vedha has changed my opinion about him. Vijay Sethupathi steals the thunder with his portrayal of the “tough on the outside, soft on the inside” marshmallow-type gangster.
Vijay’s success lies in the fact that despite playing the antagonist in the film, on more than one occasion, you find yourself rooting for him hard enough to make you feel uncomfortable (surely, we cannot support the ‘wrongdoer’ but we desire to). There is also no doubt that Madhavan nailed the role of the determined and fearless police officer with his usual finesse. His dialogue delivery, body language and general ability to emote left me wondering why he commits to so few Tamil movies.
Vikram Vedha also features strong (or at least stronger than usual) female characters, who for a change do more than exist to showcase the masculinity of the hero. Both Shraddha Srinath and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar have ample scope in their characterisations to do some actual acting. In particular, keep an eye out for the feisty scene between Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Vedha’s brother.
Perhaps, most significantly, in this day and age, where Tamil movies are becoming increasingly preachy and moralistic, Vikram Vedha was refreshingly non-judgemental. In fact, the writers and directors of the film have worked extra hard to blur the thin line between right and wrong, sometimes alternating the positions of the characters in relation to the line and other times by erasing the line itself before challenging the audience to redraw it. The film reminds the audience that there is more than one side to any narrative and that human memory is fallible and more dangerously, malleable.
At various junctures, the movie cleverly invites you to judge the characters, to analyse the circumstances and to predict the outcomes.
But the beauty and brilliance of Vikram Vedha lies in the fact that you are never quite convinced about the judgements you make.