Movie Review: Vikram Vedha (Tamil)

Watching director duo Pushkar-Gayathri's Vikram Vedha left me with mixed feelings. Oh I assure you, there's a lot to like about this film. Right from the makers' attention to detailing (like the scene where Vikram, a honest, upright encounter cop, meets his future wife at a bar as they order a shot of whiskey or the scene where the couple, now married, just want to sleep away the 'first night' after their wedding) to the characters' clothing (mostly in whites, blacks and greys) to the arresting camerawork by P. S. Vinod to the gripping-if-overbearing background score by Sam C. S. to the clever narrative trope that's employed to portray the cat-and-mouse game between the cop in question and his nemesis, a dreaded gangster, the movie has it all. And it all comes together very well, almost.

The crux of the story is a black and white rendering of the world we live in and the greys that lie in between, choosing the side you want to be on and the thin line that separates them. It's about a righteous man who finds himself at the crossroads, struggling to come to terms with his other side, it's also about a scheming criminal who has a benevolent side. Vikram Vedha is an exploration of this duality of good and evil, an attempt to seek answers to the eternal moral conundrum. Not so new a theme in neo-noir crime thrillers perhaps, but Pushkar and Gayathri give it a refreshing spin by pitting the two characters against one another in a story that's a contemporary retelling of Baital Pachisi (hence the title).

Not only are the parallels evident, be it in the way the characters are drawn or the big reveal in the climax, even the visual nods are intact. Yet I wish the central conceit, borrowed from the folklore, had been more convincing. Because every time Vikram is forced to hear one of Vedha's stories (although they are relevant to the murder investigation that takes up the bulk of the second half, forcing Vikram to rethink the entire case in a whole new light), the duo fail to convincingly answer the why's, giving no real reason as to why he should listen to them in the first place. And for a very long time, the movie wallows in tiresome groan-inducing clichés (a needless drunken bacchanal of a song, predictable gang wars, a loved one who wants the gangster to give up his job and do something else) before getting back on track. Still, like I said, it's hard not to be impressed by Vikram Vedha. The devil is in the details, you see?