The most beautiful things about childhood are bedtime stories. As we would prepare ourselves to sleep, our mom or dad would tuck us in, reciting legendary fables every other day. From taking us into a new mythical world to offering some values about the way of life, all these stories did one thing: they made us think and reflect. But Vikram-Betaal went one step further: it made us participate in the story. At the end of each story, our parents would pose a question to us, similar to the one King Vikramaditya had to answer. And in this process, it gave us a clear understanding of justice in modern society.
But what we never knew when we were young is that justice is not black or white. It is all shades of grey. So when I came to know that there was a modern-day version of Betaal Pachisi in the realm of a neo-noir action thriller, I was salivating at the thought.
Directed by the husband-wife duo of Pushkar-Gayathri, starring R Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi, Vikram Vedha is a smartly written thriller with well-developed characters. The film explores the good, the evil, and everything that lies in between, succeeding in piquing the intellect of audiences. And as soon as the background score by Sam C.S. hits, we know we're in for a treat. The film hooks the audience right from the interrogation scene and has them chomping at the bit for the remainder of the movie—the film zags when one expects it to zig.
The film is a perfect mix of terrific performances by the lead actors, strong characterisation and intelligent writing. Both Madhavan and Sethupathi beautifully compliment each other to give us performances of tremendous conviction and intensity.
While Madhavan's performance is a deadly interpretation of the stylish but serious good cop, Vijay Sethupathi brings swag to Vedha as only he can, dripping charisma throughout this film. The film does an excellent job of making the audience immerse themselves in the story. It becomes a good puzzle for the audience to solve, as they are left unscrambling and finding the right pieces to fit. The film lags slightly in the second half, but it more than makes up for it through engaging and enthralling twists and turns. The female characters are not fodder for the lead actors but characters with journeys and tribulations of their own. Both Shraddha Srinath and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar bring warmth to the film while offering a realistic portrayal of their characters.
For those watching with eagle eyes, one can notice the colour of the shirts worn by Vikram and Vedha respectively changing from white and black to similar shades of grey as the film progresses. It is this kind of subtlety I crave in my cinema. I can talk all day about how great a movie Vikram Vedha is, but to put it succinctly, it is a must-see film because it is as entertaining as it is thrilling.