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Vikram Vedha

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Vikram Vedha
Vikram Vedha poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Pushkar–Gayathri
Produced by S. Sashikanth
Written by Pushkar–Gayathri
Manikandan
Starring R. Madhavan
Vijay Sethupathi
Shraddha Srinath
Kathir
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
Music by Sam C. S.
Cinematography P. S. Vinod
Edited by Richard Kevin
Production
company
Distributed by Trident Arts
Release date
  • 21 July 2017 (2017-07-21)[1]
Running time
147 minutes[1]
Country India
Language Tamil
Budget 110 million[2]
Box office 600 million[3]

Vikram Vedha is a 2017 Indian Tamil-language neo-noir action thriller[4] film written and directed by Pushkar–Gayathri and produced by S. Sashikanth under his banner Y NOT Studios. The film features R. Madhavan, Vijay Sethupathi, Shraddha Srinath, Kathir and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar in the lead roles. Prem, Achyuth Kumar, Hareesh Peradi and Vivek Prasanna play supporting roles. Sam C. S. composed the soundtrack and score, while P. S. Vinod handled the cinematography. Inspired by the Indian folktale Baital Pachisi, the film tells the story of Vikram, a police inspector who sets out to track down and kill Vedha, a gangster. After Vedha voluntarily surrenders himself, he tells Vikram three stories which change his perceptions of good and evil.

In January 2015, Sashikanth revealed that he would be producing a film directed by the husband and wife duo, Pushkar and Gayathri. Following a year of development on the script throughout 2015, Madhavan and Sethupathi were selected to play the lead roles in February 2016. Principal photography started in November of the same year and was completed by January 2017. The film was shot mainly in North Chennai, with the area being used as its backdrop.

Vikram Vedha was released on 21 July 2017 and received positive feedback, with critics praising all major aspects of the production. Made on a budget of 110 million (about US$1,661,631 in 2017), the film performed well at the box office, grossing 600 million (about US$9,063,444 in 2017) worldwide despite experiencing difficulties due to the changes resulting from the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. Vikram Vedha won four Filmfare, Vijay and Norway Tamil Film Festival awards each. Additionally, it received three Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards, two Techofes Awards and an Edison Award. The film was dubbed into Hindi with the same title.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with an animated interpretation of the Indian folktale Baital Pachisi where the Vetala asks King Vikramaditya if he can tell a story. The tale of the Vetala correlates with the modern-day lives of Vikram, a brave, honest police inspector who is decisive about right and wrong, and Vedha, a criminal who understands the grey shades between good and evil. Vikram leads an encounter unit formed to eliminate Vedha. In one encounter, the squad kills some of Vedha's henchmen, framing the death of a criminal killed by Vikram to avoid further inquiry. When Santhanam, one of the members, is nervous about this, Vikram calms him by saying that he sleeps peacefully knowing the men he shot were criminals. As the unit plans another encounter, Vedha enters the police station and surrenders. When Vikram interrogates Vedha, he offers to tell him a story.

The first story relates how Vedha became a gangster and drug smuggler. Vedha warns his younger brother Vignesh, called Puli due to his arithmetic skills, to stay away from crime, but Puli is forced by a rival gangster, Ravi, to carry drugs. When Puli is caught by the police, he confesses and Ravi is arrested. On his boss Sangu's orders, Ravi assaults Puli, leaving a permanent mark on his hand. Vedha asks Vikram if he should kill Ravi or Sangu. Vikram replies that Ravi was an instrument; Sangu was the real culprit. Vedha says the answer is correct implying he killed Sangu. Vedha's lawyer, who turns out to be Vikram's wife Priya, intervenes and bails him out.

Vikram realises the unarmed person he shot was Puli, based on the mark in his hand. Worried Vedha might try to kill his colleague Simon, Vikram rushes to save him. He finds him and Chandra, Puli's girlfriend, shot dead. Surendhar, the superintendent of police, dismisses it as a failed encounter. Priya refuses to divulge Vedha's whereabouts to Vikram, testing their marriage. Angered by this, Vikram raids Vedha's tenements and manages to capture him. Vedha requests Vikram to listen to another story.

The second story starts with Puli, now an adult, offering to launder Vedha's income investing it in shares. Vedha's boss Cheta invests five million rupees in this venture. Chandra is supposedly kidnapped and the money is missing. Chandra returns and reveals she stole the money to start a new life but came back because she loves Puli. Vedha returns the money to Cheta who orders him to kill Chandra. Vedha asks Vikram if he should respect Cheta and carry out the order or disobey him and support Puli, resulting in a gang war. Vikram replies that he should support Puli, to which Vedha agrees. Realising Puli's innocence causes Vikram to stumble momentairly. Vedha attacks and subdues Vikram, telling him to investigate Simon and Puli's deaths.

Vikram begins his investigation, finally discovering that Ravi was the mastermind behind Puli's death and informs Vedha, who brings Ravi to an abandoned factory. Vikram arrives to find Ravi beaten up by Vedha, who then tells Vikram the third and final story.

Vedha had sent Puli and Chandra to Mumbai. He noticed only his men not Cheta's are being targeted and eliminated by the police. Based on Ravi's confession, Vedha says Simon was paid by Ravi to kill his men. Vedha asks Vikram if Simon was right since he became corrupt to pay for his critically ill son's medical procedure. Vedha kills Ravi and escapes before Vikram can answer.

Surendhar and the unit arrive. He castigates Vikram for letting Vedha escape again. Vikram slowly realises the entire unit had also been paid by Ravi. Surendhar reveals that Ravi paid them to kill Vedha and Chandra's abduction was intended to get Puli out of Mumbai, which would lure Vedha out of hiding. The guilt-ridden Simon had gone to save Chandra but the unit killed both of them. As the unit prepares to kill Vikram, Vedha reappears and saves him. A gunfight ensues and Vikram disables his colleagues, who were mere pawns, but kills Surendhar. Vikram asks Vedha if he should let him go for saving his life or kill him since he is a criminal. The film ends with the standoff between them.

Cast[edit]

The Cops
The Gangsters
The Families

Production[edit]

Development and crew[edit]

After the release of Va (2010), the husband and wife director duo Pushkar and Gayathri took a break from filmmaking during which they decided to explore other genres. Their earlier films, Oram Po (2007) and Va, were comedies.[5] They planned to make their next project with a more serious tone where emotions like anger, hatred and pain drive the characters' motives.[5] This led to their decision to develop characters whose actions are not entirely good or evil.[6]

The duo initially considered setting the film either in politics, business or journalism before finally deciding on a police-gangster background.[7] The Indian folktale Baital Pachisi inspired the development of the story. The ghost-like being Vetala who posed morally ambiguous questions to King Vikramaditya, each of which could result in more than one answer, attracted them.[6] The film's title and its characterisation of Vikram (Vikramaditya) and Vedha (Vetala) were also derived from the tale.[8]

In a January 2015 interview with journalist and film critic Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu, S. Sashikanth, the owner of production house Y NOT Studios, confirmed that he would produce the project.[9] Pushkar and Gayathri continued to develop the script throughout 2015, completing it in April 2016.[10] Dhilip Subbarayan and P. S. Vinod were selected to be the stunt choreographer and cinematographer respectively.[7][11] Richard Kevin also worked as an assistant director in addition to handling the film's editing.[7] Manikandan was selected to write the dialogues after initially auditioning for and then playing the role of Santhanam.[12]

Casting[edit]

We were sure that Vedha would be perfect for Vijay Sethupathi. The way we had imagined Vedha, the way Vijay talks, the way he even draws analogy or shares anecdotes is very similar to Vedha. We, in fact, noticed this only after we had narrated the script. Vikram was more suited for Madhavan because he had to play Vikram who is kind of straight forward. Maddy was perfect to play something like that. Vedha, on the other hand, does everything in a roundabout manner.[13]

— Pushkar and Gayathri on why they chose Madhavan and Sethupathi for the lead characters

Pushkar and Gayathri met R. Madhavan while working on the post-production phase of Sudha Kongara's sports drama Irudhi Suttru (2016).[10] It was confirmed in February 2016 that Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi would play the respective roles of an encounter specialist and a gangster.[10] They agreed to do the project as both were intrigued by the idea of a film based on the Baital Pachisi tale.[14][15] In addition to growing a beard for his role, Madhavan did not workout to lose weight. Instead, he followed a strict diet, including not eating anything after 6:00 pm and keeping a gap of five and a half hours after each meal.[16] Sethupathi sported a salt and pepper beard for the role of Vedha.[17]

Kathir was cast in the role of Vedha's brother Puli because Pushkar and Gayathri were impressed by his performance in Kirumi (2015).[18][19] In October 2016, Shraddha Srinath was cast as Vikram's wife after her performance in U Turn (2016) made an impression on Pushkar and Gayathri. This was then officially finalised after her screen test.[7][20] The same month, John Vijay was signed to play a gangster but later opted out due to scheduling conflicts with the Malayalam film Comrade in America (2017).[21][22]

Filming[edit]

Vikram Vedha was made on a budget of 110 million (about US$1,661,631 in 2017).[2][23] Principal photography began on 16 November 2016 in Kasimedu, North Chennai with Varalaxmi Sarathkumar joining the team as the second female lead.[24] The first schedule consisted of filming scenes featuring Sethupathi, Kathir and Varalaxmi for five days.[25] The second schedule commenced on 28 November 2016 with additional scenes involving Sethupathi shot at Vyasarpadi.[26][27]

On 15 December 2016, Madhavan began shooting for his solo sequences and the portions where he appears alongside Sethupathi in the middle of the second schedule.[28] The climax sequence was filmed over four days at Binny Mills.[29] Production continued throughout December 2016, with Sethupathi finishing his work in early January 2017.[30][31] Principal photography concluded later that month after sequences featuring Madhavan and Srinath were shot.[32][33] The entire film was completed over a period of 53 days.[7]

Opening sequence[edit]

Sandhya Prabhat and Jemma Jose designed the opening animation sequence which Nassar narrated.[7][34] In an interview with S Naagarajan of The New Indian Express, Prabhat said that Pushkar and Gayathri wanted her "to adapt the theme of the [Baital Pachisi] for the opening credits". After drafting the initial sketches of the animated characters, the duo then gave Prabhat "a scene-by-scene picturisation" of their perspective of the tale in addition to requesting she make the entire sequence "look aesthetic". Prabhat and Jose designed the sequence to synchronise with the track "Karuppu Vellai".[34]

According to Jose, the colouring for the sequence was mainly grey, black and white and shades of red for Vetala's eyes, in keeping with the film's theme.[34][35] Pushkar and Gayathri wanted Prabhat and Jose to use a "desaturated" palette with "strong and powerful" tones. The sequence was traditionally animated as Prabhat and Jose believed that "complex graphics and multi-layered effects" would distract the audience from understanding the film's main plot. The entire animation sequence, from storyboarding to animation took one and a half months to complete.[35]

Music[edit]

Vikram Vedha (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Sam C. S.
Released 18 June 2017
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 28:09
Language Tamil
Label Think Music India
Producer Sam C. S.
Sam C. S. chronology
Kadalai
(2016)Kadalai2016
Vikram Vedha
(2017)
Diya
(2018)Diya2018

Sam C. S. composed the film's soundtrack and score and wrote the lyrics for the track "Pogatha Yennavittu". Mohan Rajan, Muthamil and Vignesh Shivan provided the lyrics for the songs "Yaanji", "Tasakku Tasakku" and "Karuppu Vellai" respectively.[36] Sam had worked previously for Pushkar and Gayathri on television commercials. They decided to recruit him after being impressed with his work on Puriyatha Puthir (2017).[37]

Sam composed the score based on the script instead of doing it after watching the film's final version. He used the same approach for Puriyatha Puthir. He believed this would give him more creative freedom while also helping the actors and directors understand how to depict the emotions the characters portray in a particular sequence.[38][39] In an interview with Kaushik LM of The Hindu, Sam said he "used ethnic Indian instruments, and live orchestra" to compose the score.[40] He completed 80 percent of the score before the commencement of principal photography, leading Pushkar and Gayathri to shoot the scenes according to the music he composed. After shooting for the film ended, Sam fine-tuned the score to achieve better results.[38][41]

Pushkar and Gayathri had initially opted against including songs in the film, but then thought lyrics might work better than music alone and changed their decision.[39] Sam employed the vocal percussion technique of beatboxing for the track "Tasakku Tasakku" as he felt it would be better to use "real sounds" to depict the atmosphere in a bar.[40] At Sethupathi's insistence, Vignesh Shivan was hired to write the lyrics for "Karuppu Vellai".[7]

Before the release of the album on 18 June,[42] the tracks "Tasakku Tasakku" and "Yaanji" were released as singles on 4 June and 12 June respectively.[43][44] Sharanya CR from The Times of India noted in her review that Sam "brings out the essence of the film’s plot" with "Karuppu Vellai", and used the term "stylish, yet flawless" to describe Anirudh's and Shakthisree Gopalan's rendition of "Yaanji". She felt "Pogatha Yennavittu" was "an impressive composition" and appreciated the "very peppy" beats in "Tasakku Tasakku", adding that it "can be reserved for parties". Sharanya concluded her review by stating that "the composer hits the high-note" with Vikram Vedha, writing further that "the film's narrative is sure to up the experience through music" with the instrumental tracks.[45]

Original tracklist[46]
No.TitleLyricsSinger(s)Length
1."Karuppu Vellai"Vignesh ShivanSivam, Sam C. S.03:16
2."Yaanji"Mohan RajanAnirudh Ravichander, Shakthisree Gopalan, Sathyaprakash04:30
3."Tasakku Tasakku"MuthamilMukesh, M. L. R. Karthikeyan, Guna04:00
4."Yethu Dharmam" —Chennai Orchestra01:37
5."Pogatha Yennavittu"Sam C. S.Pradeep Kumar, Neha Venugopal04:41
6."Ghetto Chase" —Meghavarshini, Avantika, Monisha, Chennai Orchestra03:04
7."Idhu Emosion" —Chennai Orchestra01:41
8."Yethu Nyayam?" —Sam C. S., Chennai Orchestra02:57
9."Sangu Sattham" —Sethu Thankachan, Kannan M, Ravikumar, Chennai Orchestra00:58
10."Oru Katha Sollatta?" —Sam C. S., Sethu Thankachan, Kannan M, Ravikumar, Chennai Orchestra01:25
Total length:28:09

Release[edit]

Vikram Vedha was initially given an "A" certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification due to the amount of violence present. The producers, however, successfully approached the censor board again to get a "U/A" certificate so it would have more appeal to family audiences.[47][48] Vikram Vedha was dubbed into Hindi under the same title and released on 10 June 2018 by Goldmines Telefilms.[49]

The film was scheduled to release on 7 July 2017, but was postponed due to the strike by the Tamil Film Producers Council over the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in India and the removal of the Local Body Tax imposed by the Government of Tamil Nadu on the Council.[50][51] After the state government reached an agreement with the Producer's Council to set up a committee to look into the issue, screening of films at theatres resumed on 6 July.[52][53] Vikram Vedha, along with Hiphop Tamizha's Meesaya Murukku, was subsequently released worldwide on 21 July 2017.[1][54] Trident Arts distributed the film in Tamil Nadu and released it to 350 screens across the state.[55][56] ATMUS Entertainment handled distribution in the United States.[57]

Critical response[edit]

Madhavan promoting his 2016 film, Irudhi Suttru.
Vijay Sethupathi at the audio launch of his 2016 film, Dharmadurai.
The performances of Madhavan and Sethupathi, particularly the latter, were praised by critics.[55][58]

Vikram Vedha opened to positive critical reviews with praise for all major aspects of the production.[55][58][59] Writing for The Indian Express, Manoj Kumar R called it "the best film to release in Tamil this year". He felt that though both Madhavan and Sethupathi "have competed with each other" in providing performances that were "intense and convincing", it was Sethupathi who "manages to draw the applause and whistles from the audience for his natural performance".[60] Karthik Kumar of the Hindustan Times labelled Madhavan's performance "good" and believed Sethupathi played Vedha with "unmatchable swag", adding he was "unarguably the best thing to have happened to the film".[61] Srivatsan of India Today compared the interactions and mind games between Vikram and Vedha favourably to those of Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008); he termed the film a "smartly-written thriller, which has a texture, well-developed character arcs and filmmaking gimmickry".[62]

M Suganth, in his review for The Times of India, found Madhavan to be "stylish and serious" and Sethupathi as "all swag".[1] Anupama Subramaniam of the Deccan Chronicle said that Sethupathi "oozes of charisma" and Madhavan gave "a whole-hearted" effort while making the audience relate to the character's emotions.[63] Ragesh Gopinathan from Malayala Manorama thought the film "a work of sheer brilliance" with "the perfect blend of style and substance". Gopinathan also believed that Srinath, Varalaxmi and Peradi "offer a realistic portrayal of their characters."[64] In his review for Firstpost, Sreedhar Pillai described the film as "a triumph of smart writing, superb characterisation and terrific performances by the lead actors Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi who make it crackle". He also commended Varalaxmi's performance as Chandra, saying that she "lends the film some warmth" despite being cast in "an insignificant role".[65] Film critic and journalist Baradwaj Rangan noted in his review for Film Companion that Sethupathi was "fantastic" and spoke "crowd-pleasing lines in the most casual fashion". He also found Chandra "the most convincingly written character".[66] A reviewer from Sify pointed out that Madhavan's "subtle" and Sethupathi "inimitable" performances were the "real strength" of the film, adding that Srinath was "brilliant" and Varalaxmi appeared "audacious and innocent" throughout.[67] The Quint's Vikram Venkateswaran called Madhavan's performance "flawless" adding that the actor "simply eats up the screen" with his presence. He however criticised Sethupathi, opining that he "has played himself for far too long" saying there is "so much more to him than just the fact that he’s as relatable as a friendly neighbourhood smart alec".[68]

Suganth noted that all the conversations between the characters, and even the opening sequence, were "carefully assembled puzzle pieces". However, he criticised the convoluted plot structure and the "lack of gravitas", which made the film seem "tiresome" and "laidback".[1] Vishal Menon of The Hindu wrote the film was "a terrific exploration of good, evil and everything in between" but felt the second half took "the shape of an investigative thriller" which slowed down the film's pace.[69] Karthik commended Pushkar and Gayathri's writing which "succeeds in piquing the intellect of audiences like no recent Tamil film".[61] The Sify reviewer praised the directors' handling of human emotions, calling the characters' grey shades "a novel aspect".[67] Furthermore, Priyanka Thirumurthy of The News Minute wrote that the directors' "intelligent screenplay takes you through a rollercoaster of twists and turns".[70] Likewise, Sudhir Srinivasan, writing for The New Indian Express praised Pushkar and Gayathri's "beautifully written, incredibly well-made" contemporary adaptation of the Baital Pachisi.[71] Mythily Ramachandran, in her review for Gulf News, believed the "powerful writing" of Puskhar and Gayathri's screenplay, the "well defined" characters and "flawless performances" from the entire cast, were the film's main highlights.[72]

Several critics found Vinod's past experiences in shooting gangster films such as Thiagarajan Kumararaja's Aaranya Kaandam (2011) a contributing factor towards the success of Vikram Vedha.[73] Pillai and the Sify reviewer found Vinod's cinematography and camera angles helped create the appropriate "tension and mood" and perfectly capture the environment of North Chennai.[65][67] Rangan compared the cinematography positively to the "light and shadow play" seen in film noir, concluding that "there isn't one uninteresting frame" and the film can be watched for the filming techniques alone.[66]

Box office[edit]

Vikram Vedha grossed 170 million worldwide in the first weekend of its theatrical run, earning 100 million in Tamil Nadu alone.[55][74] By the end of its second weekend, the total box office collections for the film in Tamil Nadu were 250 million.[75] Within two weeks of its release, the film earned 400 million worldwide becoming, at the time of its release, the second-highest grossing Tamil film of the year after Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.[2][75]

The film also performed well in the United States, earning more than $150,000 in its first three days. It collected $366,000 by the end of the first week.[55][76] Vikram Vedha completed a theatrical run of 100 days on 28 October.[77] As of December 2017, the film has earned 600 million (about US$9,063,444 in 2017) globally.[3][23]

The content of the film and its commercial success helped revive the box office prospects of the Tamil film industry, leading to many theatre owners and distributors like Abirami Ramanathan, owner of Abhirami Mega Mall, and K Meenakshisundaram, vice-president of Mayajaal, stating that people would come to watch films with good content irrespective of the Goods and Services Tax.[76][78][79]

Awards and nominations[edit]

At the 65th Filmfare Awards South, Vikram Vedha received nominations in seven categories, including Best Film (Sashikanth) and Best Supporting Actress (Varalaxmi), winning four.[80][81] Madhavan and Sethupathi received nominations in the Best Actor category with the latter winning the award; Madhavan in turn won the Critics Award. The other awards it received were for Best Director (Pushkar–Gayathri) and Best Male Playback Singer (Anirudh for "Yaanji").[81] The film won four of its fifteen nominations at the 10th Vijay Awards,[82][83] including Best Director and Best Screenplay Writer (both received by Pushkar–Gayathri), Best Actor (Sethupathi) and Best Background Score (Sam).[84] The film also won four Norway Tamil Film Festival Awards,[85] three Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards,[86] two Techofes Awards and an Edison Award.[87][88]

References[edit]

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