Director: Anup Bhandari
Writer: Anup Bhandari
Cast: Kichha Sudeep, Jaqueline Fernandez, Nirup Bhandari, Neetha Ashok
Somewhere inside Vikrant Rona is a surprising, spooky saga about a daredevil cop with a tragic backstory. But before you get there – roughly in the last half an hour or so – you have to endure an incredibly convoluted story about a remote village where murder seems routine. Children are found hanging from a tree. A decapitated inspector is found hanging in a well. There is a one-eyed smuggler who carries stuff across the border, but I never managed to unravel his connection to the plot. There's also an old woman who appears at regular intervals to provide scares. Is she real? Is she imagined? I have no clue. Phantom Comics play a key role. There are lines about Brahmrakshas, khoon ki Holi [a bloody Holi], Bhoothnath ka mandir [a Bhootnath temple] and shaitano ke bhagwan [a god of demons]… it's a lot.
Vikrant Rona is an ambitious attempt at creating a fantastical world with a homegrown superhero. Vikrant is a cop but there is little he can't do. Writer-director Anup Bhandari expends an inordinate amount of time building up his star, Kichha Sudeep. His muscles are showcased at every opportunity – he mostly wears capped-sleeve shirts that allow us to admire them. Vikrant strides rather than walks. He smokes cigars, which add to the swag. And he doesn't hesitate to put his life on the line. Like Indiana Jones, Vikrant wields a whip expertly. For one action sequence, he wears a black leather trench coat – the fight takes place in pouring rain and I couldn't help wondering how the weight of wet leather wasn't holding him back. When the situation demands, Vikrant can also do a nimble hook step with the local bartender, played by Jacqueline Fernandez. She runs the joint, but also occasionally breaks into dance to entertain her many customers.
Where is this village? We don't know. What is the time period? It's irrelevant because here time stands still. It's constantly raining. There is a thick jungle and mist. Art director Shivkumar who also did KGF: Chapter 2 (2022) and cinematographer William David create a rich, atmospheric world. Vikrant Rona isn't attempting realism. More than anything, Bhandari wants to spin a yarn that touches on injustice, revenge, loss and what grief can do to people. There are some impressive visuals and action sequences. But the painstaking effort, apparent throughout, is dissipated by the clumsy storytelling – Vikrant Rona has too much plot and the characters are wafer-thin. The backstories are muddled and too many threads are left hanging. One about a boy named Sanju who ran away from the village is particularly bizarre – Bhandari's brother Nirup plays the role. Sanju has a fleeting romance with Panna who is visiting. But in her childhood, Panna was engaged to another man. When you discover who Sanju really is, this sub-plot makes even less sense. Even within its own logic, the narrative doesn't hold.
Through this narrative clutter, Sudeep stands tall. The actor's rock-solid screen presence helps to anchor the film to some extent. But for much of the film, Bhandari requires Sudeep to swagger rather than act. The 3D is done well but the best thing in Vikrant Rona is the 'Ra Ra Rakkamma' song, composed by B. Ajaneesh Loknath, sung by Nakash Aziz and Sunidhi Chauhan and choreographed by Jani. Ajaneesh has also composed the high-decibel background score.
Bhandari clearly has the talent for world building, but it feels like in this film, he became so enamored of the hyper-stylised telling that the tale became unnecessarily contorted. Honestly, I'm still trying to connect some of the dots.