Sep 12, 2017

Zombie on the back

[Img Src: Sify]
Thoroughly enjoyed the movie 'Vikram Vedha.' I love movies that work on many levels, that are well polished indicative of the hard work that has gone in, and lastly, that are sheer fun.  VV was one such movie. I didn't care too much for the opening animation, but other than that minor peeve, I was so charmed that I came away thinking the movie was near flawless.

It's a straight up shoot-em-up that in the beginning seems almost uncaring about the body count. But the intelligent screenplay slowly and surely unravels the many threads that bind the protagonists, leaving the viewer with a very satisfactory ending.

Movies that deal with shades of gray, that portray the human side of the 'villains' and the not so human side of 'heroes' are not novel. Starting in the eighties, we have had many movies that make heroes out of gangsters, stalkers, con-men and so on. Clearly, VV is at one level inspired by many of the classics in the genre. I could easily spot the 'Blacklist' influence not just in the scene that introduces Vedha to us, but also in the way the character influences Vikram.  What elevates this movie though, in my opinion, is the brilliant reinterpretation of the age-old Vikram and Betal encounter.

The familiar beginning of each installment of the Vikram series that I read is so etched in my brain. 'Vikram not losing heart, brought the Betal down from the tree and started yet again.' The series can primarily be viewed as a set of puzzles that clever Vikram solves, and through the solutions, gives some sort of a moral guidance. The last story, which Vikram purportedly fails to solve is not necessarily perplexing in the context of human behavior and seems more about semantics.

This movie uses a different prism to view the series. Vikram, the King, through the series is sure of his answers; he is not just clever, he also has an uncanny clarity of what is right and wrong. In the movie too, when the first 'story' is told by Vedha, Vikram, the cop, is not particularly confounded. He answers quickly and quite reasonably about what he believes is right. Unlike the original Betal, this Vedha ups the ante as the movie progresses, bringing more complex problems to Vikram where ultimately he is transformed. I think the original Vikram might have felt cheated, that the Betal tricked him with a not so complex moral problem. And with that, he could have still been unshaken in his core stance, a black and white stance where he continues to be able to pronounce judgments without dilemma. Where there is ultimately one right answer, where he didn't have to agonize or regret a decision. But the modern Vikram, who starts off determinative, is exposed to stories and questions and ultimately betrayal that presents him with a problem where judgment is not so easy. I loved the ending. One more shot and it'd have ruined the movie for me. The two protagonists laugh in the end and in their laughter is unease, an acknowledgment, and growth.

I must also mention the camera. With its aerial shots, the camera loves the housing colonies, making the metropolis part of the puzzle. Also effectively countering the claustrophobic actions that happen mostly inside houses and warehouses. The camera angles pull you into the narrative by pausing on seemingly unsuspecting bystanders, by rushing along with the children, and by being still in dramatic moments.

Full marks for not reducing the women to complete cardboard figures in what is ultimately Vikram and Vedha's story. Also, for not overdoing it.

Both Madhavan and (unsurprisingly) Vijay Sethupathi have done commendable jobs with their subtle performances. There are several scenes where they have to give clues to the audience of what's coming, without necessarily doing so to the other characters on-screen. The opening sequence when Madhavan notices the trembling hand of his friend and the scene where Vijay Sethupathi swallows his sorrow before asking why Madhavan shot that man are cases in point. Vijay Sethupathi portrays his love for his brother in a mellow, subtle manner that is as always impressive.

I would have been happier if the songs had ended in the editing table. All in all, absolutely worth watching.

I also watched Bahubali. After doing some prep in terms of dismantling some parts of my brain I enjoyed part II. Part I required complete disassembly.

September 12, 2017