Cast: Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Suriya
Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj
Transcript of Hariharan Krishnan’s video review
Vikram marks the release of a Kamal Haasan film, especially after such a long gap, it must be an overwhelming experience for the audience. For most of us, his 250-plus films have set certain benchmarks of what could be certainly called good value entertainment. We are also seeing him after he has actively entered the political arena, and where our memories are still enveloped in his fiery speeches criticizing the government on various issues of mishandling and betraying the electoral promises.
In Vikram, the sequel to his earlier film, the focus is strongly on drug cartels amassing millions by making it with the complete connivance of the police force. As expected, the police are shown in the beginning as sincere and trustworthy, and then, later on, the story exposes them as partners with an obnoxious criminal underworld gang. Vijay Sethupathi plays Sandhanam the gang lord with the golden teeth, while Fahadh Fassil plays the undercover cop who is set on the trail to trace the hidden cache of drugs stored in containers of a shipyard.
What is surprising is the way Kamal Haasan has chosen to reinvent himself and the image of Raaj Kamal Film International with this film. Firstly, he has chosen to be part of a multi-starrer cast which in turn directs the screenplay to ensure that Sethupathi and Faasil have sufficient screen time and character dealing. This results in the first 80 minutes of the film after the titles are devoted almost exclusively to Sethupathi and Faasil. This means that it is only post-intermission that Kamal Haasan as Karnan also known as Vikram gets himself some presence on the screen.
Secondly, one has never seen Kamal Haasan in a film that is loaded with brutal scenes of violence, involving an array of pyrotechnics and fireworks which one is used to seeing in the old films of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am sure the stunt director must have been the most busy person on the set, needing enormous support from a variety of guns, knives, automobile chases, and other gizmos. Thirdly in most films of Kamal Haasan, the women get a reasonably good characterization and get integrated with the story plot. Strangely the women in this film are mere decorations, vulnerable and extremely under the shadow of the male protagonist. Sethupathi is even shown as having to manage three wives all wanting equal attention in the two scenes that they get.
Fourthly, in the films of this genre where Kamal Haasan usually features earlier, there would always be an international connection somewhere. Drug tales of this nature cannot obviously be an all-Indian business enterprise. The way Kamal’s earlier films and scripts brought such a dimension is certainly missing in this film and if included, would have made this film far more valuable.
Finally, the films of Kamal Hassan so far have completely avoided showing him as an alcoholic or as someone smoking cigarettes although it is revealed much later that this is part of a disguise typical fans of Kamal will certainly be feeling a bit squeamish when they watch him. Lokesh Kanagaraj has done his best to bring the film to the level of the mayhem and excessive violence which has become the trend of the day, especially with the big-budget action dramas we watch today. It seems to be coming to believe that audiences will watch films only if they are given such expensive fireworks on the big screen.
Kanagaraj’s screenplay is overloaded with dozens of characters in multiple situations. The rapid editing pace by Philomin Raj does not allow us even to find out whose point of view this film is. The first 90 minutes end up being a series of montages stringing together a series of causes and effects all under the surmise that the main hero is actually presumed dead. Come on can we really believe that the main hero is dead at the opening of the film? Anyway, with such a loaded shooting script, the film keeps flashing the date and year on the screen side hoping that we are going to keep track of that, and happily some scenes later, those ideas have also been abandoned.
In all this frenetic pace of storytelling, Kamal Haasan chooses to take a pause just before the climax to give a sermon on why it is important to join the mission against drugs. Kamal Haasan takes some good four minutes to explain how this war against such ganglords is not a personal act of revenge, it is driven by an ideology, by a concern for how the nation is being destroyed, by a belief that it is in the spirit of doing good for the citizens that will ensure that such strategies will become eternal and immortal. He ends the scene exhorting his friends not to see it as a lecture but as a statement to be courageous and brave.
Anirudh’s music is as usual standard, treading the well-proven path of providing emotional noise as the best way to keep audiences awake. The cinematographer Girish Gangadharan must have spent most of his time color correcting because of the variety of scenes that keep being edited into the film. But there is hardly a moment in which the scene settles down to let us observe the locations and the world. The highlight will be for me the ‘Kuthu song’ at the beginning where Kamal Haasan displays his nonchalance, blending comic postures and becoming the center of attraction in the choreography involving scores of dancers. Fortunately, there are no more big set songs after that opening piece. Although a bit too long-running for around three hours, Kamal fans will still want to go and see it.