When Vikram Vedha released in Tamil in 2017, the Indian neo-noir genre saw a revival. Using the Vikram-Betaal folktales as a metaphorical allegory to depict a righteous cop and a morally grey criminal was another element that stood out.
So, when the director and husband-wife duo of Pushkar-Gayathri decided to make Vikram Vedha Redux in Hindi, doubts were bound to arise. Right from the first teaser, one could wonder if Hrithik Roshan’s Vedha can match the antiheroic brilliance of Vijay Sethupathi in the original.
Same plot, higher budget: While it was obvious, some scenes would be frame-to-frame copies, the teaser also showcased new large-scale action scenes, explaining the budget of Rs 175 crore (Rs 164 crore more than the original’s meagre budget of Rs 11 crore). Was this budget to cover up the acting limitations of Hrithik Roshan and his co-star Saif Ali Khan?
However, Vikram Vedha would manage to prove the cynics wrong as Pushkar-Gayathri do succeed in breathing new life to their Tamil magnum opus. The remake will always be overshadowed by the original; that’s an undeniable fact. But once we get that out of the way, the 2022 Hindi remake can still be enjoyed as a gripping thriller that is worth your time.
The plot is virtually the same, with Saif Ali Khan taking the reins of Vikram’s character from R Madhavan. Vikram is an encounter specialist in UP Police whose violent brand of vigilante policing might not always be within legal boundaries. Still, Vikram can peacefully sleep at night as he’s confident that everyone in front of his gun is a criminal.
Then comes Hrithik’s Vedha, a ruthless murderer who has a knack of telling stories. Whenever Vikram and Vedha cross paths, the latter ends up telling him an autobiographical anecdote or two that prompts the so-called “good cop” to question his own sense of justice. As Vikram explores the grey areas of policing and crime, the audiences are also made to question whose side they should be on.
The action is the remake's best part: For the ones who have already watched the original, the plot twists might not be that shocking. Still, Pushkar-Gayathri makes up for the lack of shock value with enough stylistic direction. As expected from the trailers, this version of Vikram Vedha amps up the violence and mayhem but this comes on a more realistically believable level (instead of following the Rohit Shetty style of “boom bam” action).
Action director Pervez Shaikh and assistant stunt coordinator Anis Mirza definitely deserve praise for the hand-to-hand combat scenes, especially in Vedha’s flashback sequences. Even if Hrithik cannot match Vijay Sethupathi’s acting prowess, he can at least be a good action star and Vikram Vedha bears testimony to this.
One of his introductory scenes finds him bashing up goons in a field, each of them flying in slow-motion while Anari’s Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe Ho Nisar plays in the background. The scene is your typical “hero ki entry” moment but it is stylish enough to add some nuance to the film. Vikram and Vedha’s hand-to-hand duels are similar enough to fuel the adrenaline of viewers who were desperate for a good Hindi actioner in recent times.
As the narrative progresses, Vedha gets to strangulate Vikram with handcuffs, slit a man’s throat with a broken car window, slice up a politician with a katana, and just fire endless AK-47 rounds at everyone surrounding him.
All of this extravagant violence (a notably high level of bloodshed for an Indian U/A-rated film) and still, Hrithik’s Vedha is thankfully not elevated to “Sallu Bhai” god-like or physics-defying Rajnikanth levels.
Hrithik is entertaining but clearly no Vijay Sethupathi: Hrithik’s acting however can be one of the weaker aspects of Vikram Vedha even though the actor deserves a consolation prize for a good attempt. He tries to capture Vedha’s insanity with his wide-toothed grins but his attempts at mimicking a UP accent might not always stick the landing. His beard is charmingly distracting but a bigger (and more annoying) distraction is the excessive amount of brownface caked on his face which is bound to remind viewers of his polarising role in Super 30.
Still, Hrithik’s (slight) overacting serves as a good contrast to Saif’s uptight nature as Vikram. The film would have otherwise been pretty boring if Hrithik brought his brooding and emotionally inept Agneepath energy. While Vijay Sethupathi could turn into a menacing yet sarcastic villain with a straight face in the Tamil version, Hrithik’s overtly animated expressions still manage to add a good-enough spin on the character.
Saif Ali Khan nails his "tough cop role" with a few limitations: Saif, on the other hand, retains most of Madhavan’s seriousness, his jaw clenched as tight as the polo t-shirts he wears throughout the film. His frustration at getting outwitted by Vedha is on point. His characterisation is interesting in the sense that he does seem scary when he’s busy shooting down criminals (even a few unarmed ones) but he’s still not a corrupt cop at the end of the day. Vikram does what he does because of his strong ideals, believing that he’s the only one who’s morally just.
That being said, the role of Vikram is bogged down at times by Benazir Ali Fida and Manoj Muntashir’s dialogues that might come off as too “filmy” at times. Otherwise, Saif still tries his best to emulate his Sartaj Singh persona from Sacred Games, a comparatively better-written role. His interactions with his criminal lawyer wife (played by Radhika Apte in a role that seems more like an extended cameo) also work as light-hearted segues.
Sam C.S's score stands out: There are a couple of unnecessary songs here and there but musically, the standout feature is the rousing main theme by Sam C.S. (the “Na Na Na” score that you hear in the trailer). One of the shining musical stars of Tamil and Telugu action flicks, Vikram Vedha will introduce him to even Hindi audiences now. The theme music is reminiscent of Ram Gopal Varma’s noirs, particularly the 'Govinda Govinda’ music of Sarkar, and plays a significant part in making Vikram Vedha a worthy theatrical experience.
If this weren’t enough, CS’s theme is elevated to another level with the song Bande, a reinterpretation of the song Karuppu Vellai from the original. In both cases, singer Sivam (known for his work in the South industries) provides the vocals. If you don’t check the credits, you might very well assume that the song was sung by Indian Ocean's Rahul Ram as the two sound very similar. In any case, Sivam’s throaty, screaming vocals add a sense of rawness to the film.
This year has found Bollywood hitting an all-time low as an industry. With even big-budget movies like Brahmastra and Laal Singh Chaddha not being critical darlings, nad Akshay Kumar not faring any better with even his one film every two months game, the bar for a good masala watch has become very low. But even with this low bar, Vikram Vedha proves to be more than a mediocre remake and better than expected.
We're going with 3.5 out of 5 for Vikram Vedha.