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Review of Vikram Vedha - The "Kahani" lets the film down

If there is one movie that is perhaps the Godfather of all dirty-cops-and-gangsters movies, it's gotta be The Departed by Martin Scorsese. Interestingly, it was an adaptation of the hit Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. While the latter was itself a very popular film, it may not be wrong to say that The Departed has surpassed it by acquiring near cult status.

 

So, it was with this in mind I wanted to watch Vikram Vedha which is a remake of the Tamil film of the same name. The original film starring Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi was a huge blockbuster and it was no wonder that the filmmakers were keen to remake it in Hindi with Saif Khan and Hrithik Roshan in the roles of Vikram and Vedha. However, the Hindi remake failed to recreate the magic of the original. Even though the film is supposedly an exact copy, made by the very same filmmakers who directed the original. 


While there has been a bunch of theories about why the Hindi version failed, the consensus has been that "miscasting" is to blame for the film's below par performance at the box-office. That Hrithik Roshan was a bit too glamorous for the role of Vedha and didn't have the gritty, no-nonsense appeal of Sethupathi.


After watching the film (belatedly) on OTT, my take is a bit different. Roshan sure brings a lot of swag to the role of gangster and perhaps even outshines the staid and straight cop played by Saif  Khan. In fact, an extra song was added to the film (Alcoholia)  to cater to Roshan's incredible dancing chops. Sure that does take away a lot from the 'gritty realism' that a dirty-cops-gangster movie needs. But given the stylistic tone of the film, the glamorized gangster is not such a misfit.

 

The flaw in the movie is its weak storyline. Take for instance  the romantic angle (with Radhika Apte in the role of the cop's wife who is also a lawyer) is an unnecessary add-on and the writers fail to amp up the tension that the situation could have provided.  In fact at one point she even asks her husband if her only role is to be a courier between the cop and the gangster. That in itself is a dead giveaway for the convenient characterization! 

 

Ironically, the  Vikram Vedha trailer focuses on the "moral dilemmas" (Is every bad act really bad/Is every good deed really good?)  but this does not play out in the movie as powerfully as it should have. The metaphor of Betaal, which is reprised in the form of Vedha raising morality questions, at best adds a bit of frill to the storytelling structure.


Instead what we get is yet another permutation and combination of the dirty-cop-gangster trope with lots of booming action, an even more bombastic background score that's an auditory assault, and an ending that is ambivalent. And the moral issue is happily buried under the gunfire and dead bodies. 

 

Ultimately, the "kahani" is what lets the film down despite Vedha's  undeniable swag when he asks: "Ek Kahani sunaye Sir?"

 




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