Vikram Vedha (2022), directed by the Pushkar-Gayathri duo, is a Hindi remake of their 2017 Tamil film of the same name. The film deals with the cat-and-mouse game played out between an encounter specialist police officer, Vikram (Saif Ali Khan), and a dreaded gangster, Vedha (Hrithik Roshan). By utilizing the mythological tale of ‘Baital Pachisi’ as a kind of allegory, the film puts the protagonists of the film through moral dilemmas that would challenge their personal moral borders in a society that has none. Fortunately, the remake, too, largely hits the bullseye, making for an engrossing entertainer.
The Hindi remake, just like the Tamil original, also begins with a fake encounter operation conducted by the members of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Special Task Force (STF) headed by Vikram. They are hunting for the dreaded criminal, Vedha, who has gone underground. After killing all the members of Vedha’s gang, the team stages the encounter as an incident of self-defence. To their utter surprise, Vedha resurfaces and surrenders himself by walking straight into the police station. During the interrogation, Vedha narrates a key incident of his life, that makes Vikram realises that he is up against a clever criminal, who wants to seek revenge. Vedha is immediately bailed out by his lawyer, Priya (Radhika Apte), who also happens to be Vikram’s wife. Naturally, tension erupt between the husband and wife at home. Soon, Vikram also realizes that one of the men killed in the encounter was Vedha’s brother, Satak (Rohit Saraf), who was accidentally present at the spot. What happens next is a series of confrontations between Vikram and Vedha, where both are compelled to question themselves whether there is a clear demarcation between black and white when it comes to making ethical choices.
The smartest decision by the directors is to keep the Hindi version of the film as close to the Tamil original, sometimes even to the the extent of duplicating the scene constructions and some of the key dialogues. However, the parotta with mutton chops gets replaced with the not-as-interesting kulcha and nihari while the Hindi remake also adds an extra layer exploring the nexus between criminals and politicians in UP. It is also to the makers’ credit that they know exactly when to scale up the mounting. The action sequences have an high octane energy level and are filled with more thrilling moments than in the Tamil version. The Hindi dialogues, written by Benazir Ali Fida and Manoj Muntashir, help the film to retain its North Indian flavor rather than merely transferring them from Tamil. Such creative choices help the Hindi version to retain the soul of the Tamil film without diluting the narrative structure by shifting the film’s setting.
The ethical quandary that Vedha plants in the mind of Vikram through his stories, narrated through flashbacks, creates enough conflicting situations for the viewers to decide whom to empathize with. The interrogation scene between the two symbolically represent one being the reflection of the other. Vikram is dressed in white while Vedha is in dark apparel, resembling a sharp contrast between someone, who thinks he is righteous versus someone who acknowledges himself as wicked. But by the climax of the film as Vikram unearths the bitter reality and finds himself culpable, he realizes that he, too, is wearing shades of black just like Vedha.
While the film has enough going for it, what brings the film down a notch is the casting of most of the secondary characters. In the Tamil version, the camaraderie between Vikrams and his colleagues, and Vedha’s relationship with his henchmen gave a level of depth to their characterizations. In the Hindi version, this is missing. Most importantly, the romantic relationship between Pulli (Kathir) and Chandra (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) had solid chemistry and their romance appeared genuine. But in the remake, the same roles, played by Rohit Saraf and Yogita Bihani respectively, lack the spark as their romantic track is weak. Even the song, Alcoholia, seems out of place as it appears more like a promotional song that should have played during the final credits of the film. It lacks the authenticity of the Tasakku Tasakku dance sequence of the original. Moreover, the opening animation scene in the Tamil version is much more detailed and coherent than in its Hindi counterpart.
If Vijay Sethupathi gave Vedha a restrained yet ominous appearance, Hrithik with his long unkempt hair and bearded look, scores in his own interpretation of the character. There is an endearing mix of innocence in his face along with the menace in his eyes. Each time he asks Saif if he could tell him a story, we are fully attentive to listen keenly to what he has to say. Whether it is the action sequences, the dramatic face-offs or the emotional moments, Hrithik creates a memorable character. His dancing to the Alcoholia song is simply superb, thereby reaffirming his tremendous dancing skills. Strangely, Saif Ali Khan disappoints in playing the perfect foil to Hrithik. This results in their scenes together just falling short of being there as compared to the intensity between Sethupathi and R Madhavan in the 2017 film. Sharib Hashmi as Vedha’s gang member and Radhika Apte as the lawyer Priya competently delivers their role within their limited screen time.
PS Vinod shoots the film in warm and saturated colour tones and effectively creates the balance between the bright and dark moods of the film. Richard Kevin edits the film perfectly, deftly balancing the drama and action. The background score by Sam CS raises the level of excitement in each of the scenes and keeps us invested in the film while the film’s thematic tune keeps resonating in our minds even after the end credits. However, the songs composed by the talented Vishal-Shekhar team do not make much of an impact in the film.
Though comparisons to its Tamil counterpart are inevitable, Vikram Vedha, aided by a fine central performance by Hrithik Roshan, is a satisfying and accomplished thriller that stands well on its own feet. It is that rare remake that holds its own even in Hindi and is well worth a watch even if you have seen the original.
Hindi, Thriller, Drama, Color