Vikram Vedha movie review: Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan's chemistry shines through in this masala action thriller
Vikram Vedha movie review: Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan make each other shine bright in an enjoyable--if somewhat sanitised--remake of the Tamil cult classic action thriller.
Disclaimer: How you look at Vikram Vedha and analyse it largely depends on whether you have seen the Tamil original or not. The Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan-starrer is a remake of the 2017 Tamil hit, which had Vijay Sethupathi and R Madhavan in those roles respectively. The shadow of that cult classic looms large on the Hindi remake but to the credit of the directors Pushkar and Gayatri, the film manages to stand well on its own, delivering a taut storyline, impressive action, and some laughs. If you have seen the original, you may end up comparing the two too often to enjoy, but if you haven’t, you may even love the film. (Also read: Vikram Vedha directors Pushkar-Gayathri say film isn't copy of Tamil original)
Vikram Vedha is loosely based on the folktale of Vikram-Betaal. Vikram (Saif Ali Khan), here, is an officer in the Uttar Pradesh Police STF while Vedha (Hrithik Roshan) is a gangster who lords over Lucknow. In their cat-and-mouse game, Vikram comes face to face with Vedha thrice. But each time, a riddle posed by Vedha forces him to re-evaluate what is right and wrong. Each of the answers also helps him solve a case he is working on. Surrounding this beautiful and layered folk-inspired script is an assortment of slick fight scenes and action sequences, and a Hrithik dance number. Quite simply, there is something for everyone here.
The Samurai Jack-inspired animated opening sequence sets the tone quite nicely before transporting us to Lucknow. It is an interesting choice of setting for the story, as far removed from the original’s Chennai as possible and yet desi enough to retain the earthy touch of the script. The film begins on a rather disjointed note with the first 20 minutes or so rather scrappy. But the story kicks into high gear as soon as the two leads face off for the first time. Their chemistry is crackling and the best scenes of the film are always when Vikram and Vedha are talking, not fighting, or shooting, but merely engaged in dialogue.
Maybe there is something to be said about the fact that the best part about a masala action film is its dialogues. That can be a good thing or bad, depending on what expectations you have from this film. But that is the signature of Pushkar and Gayatri. Their previous works (the original Vikram Vedha or that brilliant web series Suzhal) all worked best when the characters spoke and shared stories with each other.
The action does not disappoint though. Hrithik Roshan brings in a different kind of swag and style than Vijay Sethupathi’s Vedha. This one is more fluid, less amateur, but at times, also less imposing. The bottom line is that it is different enough to enjoy on its own, without comparisons. His fight scenes are beautifully choreographed and stylishly executed. The shootouts are cliched with once again the heroes walking around with some insane amount of plot armour. One can shoot at them with Kalashnikovs from a close range but nothing will hit them. That is so 90s.
What Vikram Vedha gets right is how to balance a two-hero film. Invariably, in a cop and gangster film, the latter walks away with the whistles and all the crowd’s love. Bad guys are naturally more enigmatic. But Pushkar and Gayatri’s script makes sure Vikram gets his due too. It gives equal importance to the two, not letting one overshadow the other. Saif Ali Khan makes use of this opportunity well, stamping his authority on the scenes he gets. And in their scenes together, neither actor outshines the other. It’s like a dance, with both leading each other fluidly.
Both actors have said it’s their best work. Both are quite wrong. The performances here are decent and not a shade on what these gents managed in Omkara and Guzaarish. To their credit, they are good enough that you don’t miss Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi too much. The support cast is strong, particularly Radhika Apte and Sharib Hashmi, the latter thankfully cast against type in a role that allows him to showcase his versatility.
The accents of the characters are a bit out of place at times, with many of them merging the Bihari-Maithili accent with the eastern-UP one to create something that isn’t spoken in either region. Saif and Radhika Apte’s prolific use of ‘hum’ and Satyadeep Mishra’s ‘ama yaar’ notwithstanding, the dialogue doesn’t help in transporting one to Lucknow and Kanpur. But the cinematography and script fills in those gaps. PS Vinod’s camera work brilliantly captures the rural-urban amalgamation of UP’s capital and marries it with this story almost seamlessly. Lucknow becomes a character in the film, almost.
Vikram Vedha is a stylised, blown-up, and somewhat sanitised remake of a cult classic. It needs to be all those things given its size and scale, and the star power it carries. The remake is choppy with some bits left out from the original, which may have made the film better. But the makers decided to opt for style over substance in some parts. The good thing is that it is not choppy enough to be noticeable or at least, annoying. Vikram Vedha works as both a thriller and a masala action flick. It is enjoyable and even manages a few whistles and claps in a packed hall. It will get you your money’s worth, even if that worth is not ₹75 anymore.
Directors: Pushkar and Gayatri
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, Yogita Bihani, Rohit Saraf, Satyadeep Mishra, and Sharib Hashmi.