Vikram Vedha is a film that begins even before its first scene. Even the anti-smoking/drinking disclaimer is cheeky, with Madhavan reading out the warning in English while Vijay Sethupathi does the honours in Tamil. It’s perhaps the actors speaking to their respective audiences, yet in a film about how easily a person labels another, it means much more.
The film really begins with a long, single-take shot where police officer Vikram (Madhavan), almost casually, gets ready for an encounter in an old abandoned warehouse. The encounter itself is executed without any fuss or drama, and even as Vikram and his team plants evidence to build a case of self defence, the mood is still that of colleagues chilling.
As Vikram sees it, it’s ‘just’ work and a policeman’s job is to kill the guilty. That’s why he’s able to sleep like a baby… even on nights when he’s killed someone, he explains.
Through his eyes, we see a world where everything's either white or black. As a police officer, he believes he stands on the side of righteousness. He even reassures a fellow police officer that what they do doesn't rob them of their place in heaven.
But when Vedha (Vijay Sethupathi), a criminal, arrives (in the best ‘hero’ introduction scene in years) later, Vikram’s idea of truth and justice doesn't look as simple anymore. In comparison, Vedha has killed fewer people, but Vikram believes it’s his job to send Vedha to hell.
In a wonderful interrogation scene, Vikram (dressed in white) sits across Vedha (dressed in black) and draws a line between good and evil. Vedha begins narrating his side to Vikram in the form of the three incidents that shaped his life. That thin line Vikram drew blurs, to a point where it’s impossible to see it any longer. Even their shirts change colour to a more similar shade as the film progresses.
Yet one wishes the film had never deviated from this existential crisis at its core. A small part of the second half starts taking the shape of a investigative thriller and in a film with such ambitions, these seem excessive, slowing down the film.
That aside, Vikram Vedha is a treat for the most parts, enjoyable not just for it's wonderful ‘who to root for’ conflict, but for the incredible acting of the leads and the spellbinding soundtrack. There’s a thin line that separates a good movie and great movie. On which side does this film fall? That’s the conflict I’m wrestling with.