Vikram poster

Vikram

Following a habit of acknowledging Kamal Haasan films as “Filmography” in the closing credits of his films, Lokesh Kanagaraj has gotten to make a film with his idol where that filmography is in the title itself. One might think he’d make a Kamal-Haasan-all-hits-collection with such an opportunity, much like what Subbaraj did with his Petta, but the man’s gone all-guns-blazing (quite literally) in expanding his own fictional universe, the seeds of which he’s sown in Kaithi. This is a pretty bold move, and there’s visible effort gone into the same.

The first half reads as a mystery with consistent elements of thrill and dense world-building. The pacing is relentless, thanks to neat exposition and a brisk investigation plot. The reveal at the interval block is predictable, but the scale built towards it makes for a kicker of a setup, with a banger of a mask-off moment. The film functions on a frenzy up until here, with plot being at the forefront over story. With how there’s not a moment to breathe, the Pathala Pathala track sticks out as an obvious marketing ploy, even though it gets a recall as an event later in the film.

Fahadh Faasil leads the first half, and towers over throughout the film. He owns the screen with his self-reliant attitude. He’s simply too cool to watch even with a stiff, measured demeanour. He’s also probably the only person to get a semblance of an arc in this Lokesh Cinematic Universe (LCU). This arc is well realised, with a haunting dialogue that looms over Amar’s journey from a by-the-books special agent to a purpose-driven one.

Vijay Sethupathi’s Santhanam is a commendable departure from the actor’s usual persona. The character talks like he’s perpetually breathing through a mask, and it makes sense too, given his history with chemistry. The aesthetic of this character is great, modeled like a Tamizh Pablo Escobar, and Lokesh sculpts him out with extreme care. In fact, he gets the most anticipatory intro scene among the other two primary stars in the film. But the problem in the writing is that Santhanam is a reactionary character. There’s barely any moment that he owns unto himself. His psyche isn’t explored beyond him fearing for his family. This is a classic case of the actor doing more for the role than the role does for him.

Coming to my primary issue with the “emotional” angle of the story – it’s a little too dated for its stakes to come through as well as intended. Why is the grandson the only possible “heir” or confidante to Vikram’s secret agent legacy? Why can’t the woman (the kid’s mother) be privy to this information or legacy that seems to be the designated purpose of her own son’s life? Why does she have to wait for him to grow up to hear about the world from him? This is a contrivance that jerked me out of the narrative, and as a result I could never feel the tension surrounding the kid’s survival in any of the action scenes.

Lokesh’s assignment to Anirudh seems to have read something like “DC, not Marvel”, and I’m assuming this signifies dark and grounded, as opposed to colourful and loud. While the film is unflinchingly DC in the first half, it shifts mood and tone into that light-hearted Marvel zone for most of its setpieces in the second half. There’s a terrific indoor action sequence involving a surprise agent – this was nicely foreshadowed too – but right while we’re admiring its existence, we get a loud graphic callout to ID the character. The design of using such callouts felt very Marvel-like too, calling too much attention to itself.

This film is a rank improvement for the Lokesh-Philomin Raj-Anbariv trio in terms of presenting action. They’ve come quite a long way from Kaithi and the stunts are far more lucid in here. The Moco Bolt has been put to good use in key setpieces, making for some dynamic moments of stunt-making. Girish Gangadharan is another pillar to Lokesh’s vision, for how well he has seamlessly furthered the latter’s world, while enabling even a similar colour grade as in Kaithi. Anirudh’s work is neat, and not as euphoric as many of his previous endeavours, but he does display some interesting bits of sound mixing in his score. I also finally feel like questioning his choice of singing every track in the soundtrack – sorely missed Ravi G’s vocals for the Porkanda Singam track used in the film.

While the idea of Black Squad agents who are living-in-the-shadows is interesting, I wish we could’ve gotten Vikram’s stakes in a more pronounced manner. The true weight of the loss of a son isn’t felt, for how it’s been stuffed deep inside thick plotting. Their equation and bond could’ve been given its own time. Maybe in the sequels, I’m guessing? But since it’s not here, there sure is an indifference to that emotion.

It’s clear that Kamal’s having fun being in this film, and it also makes sense why he has submitted to Lokesh as an actor, given the expansive design of his world. My favourite moment of his performance is when he rants about how this is more than just a revenge story. It’s a very on-the-nose monologue of sorts, but its a treat watching him sell it with his passion and baritone. The references to his yesteryear classics offer quite a few smiles as well, with my pick being the bit where this Vikram quotes lyrics of the 1986 Vikram‘s title track.

Speaking of the much-hyped cameo, Rolex comes across as just another villain for a bigger boss-fight. It’s also as generic a villain introduction can get – a random hacking, a sinister laugh, call me “Sir”, etc. That’s where it stands at the moment, but the idea of a Dilli-Rolex clash is certainly juicy on paper. More multi-starrers, sure, but more emotions to back them, please.

For all the thickening and widening of the plot, the film feels a tad unsentimental, as if there’s energy missing even in its highs. Lokesh has put together so much talent, right from the actors to the crew (to even the people making his on-screen Biriyani), but there’s a rather dull undercurrent to his film due to the lack of substantial emotional tissue underneath the filmmaking. It makes one wonder if he was satisfied a little too much with exploring the mechanics of his own universe. He seems to have preferred a plot with sprawling connections over a story with affecting sentiments. It’s certainly not a bad film, but… pathala, for sure.

Akilan

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Rajkumar Paramasivam
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Rajkumar Paramasivam
1 year ago

Hi bro, I just came across your review in FC and traked down to this website – the review about Vikram is so precise and to the point, and also very unbiased.
I saw your take on Super deluxe in one of the pages, but it only explores the Gaaji character – have you written a full review also and if so can you share the link of the same. I consider Super deluxe as my most favorite film in the recent past and have read tons of reviews about Super deluxe.
Would like to see more of your work

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8 months ago

[…] almost uses the promise of the LCU connect as a crutch to sustain interest in the events of the film. You take that away from this […]

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