: Encounter specialist Vikram and notorious gangster Vedha are playing a cat-and-mouse game. An encounter operation turns the professional into personal.
: Generally, the term well-crafted film is used to describe a film that has been made well, but with Vikram Vedha, it applies to not just the filmmaking, but the script, too. Directors Pushkar and Gayatri have borrowed the conceit of King Vikramadityan and the Vedhalam, and constructed an elaborate puzzle, setting their story in the cops and gangsters genre.
The plot unfolds as a cat-and-mouse game between hard-nosed cop Vikram (Madhavan, stylish and serious) and notorious gangster Vedha (Vijay Sethupathi, who is all swag and gets a kickass introduction scene). The film begins with an encounter operation that ends in some of Vedha’s men getting killed. And even as the team plots another encounter to finish off Vedha, the criminal surrenders — and, narrates a story from his life to Vikram before managing his ‘escape’! This happens two more times, but his stories are actually riddles that Vedha wants Vikram to solve, and lead him on to something that the two of them want.
There are about a dozen supporting players involved in this game between Vikram and Vedha. Vikram’s wife Priya (Shraddha Srinath), who is also Vedha’s lawyer; Vikram’s team, which includes SP Surendar (Achyutha Kumar), who has become disabled in the line of duty, and Simon (Prem), Vikram’s friend; Vedha’s brother Pulli (Kathir) and his girlfriend Chandra (Varalaxmi), who are pawns in a more dangerous game; Chetta (Haresh Peradi), a rival gangster whom Vedha is warring against; and also Vedha’s men, one of whom has been colluding with the cops.
Some might find this structure of Vikram Vedha tiresome, and it is, in fact, one of the reasons why the film seems laidback. But it is with the climax that we realise what the directors were going for all along — a playful action film with more intrigue and less intensity. Until then, the film feels like a confidently narrated genre film that is limited by its genre constraints. But once things click, for us, in the climax, we realise that the clues are there right from the start — from the directors’ filmography to the title design, the opening credits (an animated version of the Vikramadityan-Vedhalam story, voiced by Nasser), and even the studied framing of both the visuals and the plot. Even the casual conversations that Vikram has with his team in the beginning, which feel like mere efforts at world-building, are carefully assembled puzzle pieces.
This is also why we do not fall in love entirely with the film. Even as we admire how cool the actors look and perform, how elegant PS Vinod's visuals are, how poetic the concept of Yaanji, the romantic track involving Vikram and Priya is (their story unfolds even as they are unpacking their stuff) and how electric Sam Cs's score is, something seems amiss. And that something is lack of gravitas. The reason why Vikram is so obsessed over Vedha is never convincingly established — we get the routine similar men on different sides of a line explanation, but in a film that is so well thought-out, this angle doesn’t feel that compelling.