Finally, a happy romance! Well, okay, there were still some kind of dark statements about law and assumptions and the pettiness of those in power. But also, a romance! With two leads who I like, Dulquer and Namitha Pramod!
I was looking back, and it looks like this movie was on my list just because of Namitha Pramod. After I was complaining about Isha Talwar in Thattathin Marayathu, someone suggested that I watch some movies with Namitha, because she can actually act. I’ve now seen her in this, Traffic, and Law Point, and they were right! She can actually act!
Not that she really needs to in this. I mean, it’s nice that she bothers, but really it is all about Dulquer and his mother (Lena) and his nemesis (Anoop Menon). I was just talking about how Socha Na Tha was a great launch movie for Abhay because it let him be the star with the support of some great character actors. Same thing here! It’s not a launch movie, but it’s definitely a movie built around Dulquer being awesome, with some nice character actors hanging around to make him look good.
(Anoop Menon, who’s sister is Shweta Menon, who was the item girl in the song above, and the star of Salt ‘n Pepper)
The very structure of the film is set up so that Dulquer is the centerpiece. We start with the character actors, sucking us in with their clever little attitudes and line readings. It’s a love triangle between Lena, Anoop Menon, and Santhosh Keezhattoor. All of them are great, and they play it in a sort of light-hearted manner that the film style supports. Little things like the way Anoop glances at Lena all “Ha! Showed you!” when she sees him getting married shortly after her wedding, or how after their sons are born on the same day, and the two father’s pointedly ignore each other in the waiting room. It could be tragic, but it’s played as a comedy.
After we have this cute little backstory, we jump ahead to seeing Dulquer’s girl (Namitha Pramod) and his best friend/rival (Unni Mukundan, shirtless) talking about him. And then enter their flashbacks of their childhood together. And then we check in on Lena again, and get her flashback of his youth. Only after aaaaalllll of this set-up, do we finally meet Dulquer as an adult. By this point, you HAVE to love his character, because we saw the cute way his parents met, and we saw him as an adorable small child, and we saw the tragedy of his father’s death. And Dulquer doesn’t even have to act that much, because the audience knows enough of his character’s backstory that we can fill in the gaps of his motivations and so on.
The other thing this structure hides is that, although we are told Dulquer is a “bad boy”, everything we see on screen is him being just about perfect. The smartest, the kindest, the loyalist, the everything good and noble in the world. His character arch just goes from “honest kind loyal fair smart and good” to “honest kind loyal fair smart and good, and also as noble in triumph as he is in defeat.”
Now, a large part of this is because it is a Dulquer star vehicle, and we are there to see him being awesome. But it works because it also supports the thesis of the film, that society puts “bad boy” “good boy” labels on people for no reason. And the “bad boy” has to be just about perfect before he can finally lose that label, while the “good boy” can slide by with no problems no matter what he does.
Which brings me back to the love triangle at the beginning. Oh, and SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
Like I said, the love triangle is filmed and played in this really light-hearted way. Lena is a police officer, and she is in love with a fellow police officer, Anoop Menon. But Anoop can’t get his mother to agree. In the meantime, clever thief on the run Santhosh Keezhattoor overhears Lena talking about wanting to be married, but only being interested in marrying another police officer. So he gets his hair cut and steals a uniform, and pretends to be a police officer to romance her. They get married, and Anoop shows up just in time to see the wedding preparations, having finally convinced his mother to accept Lena. Anoop rushes into a marriage himself mostly, his glances at Lena as his wedding party goes through the neighborhood imply, to show her up. Both wives give birth on the same day, with the two sons, Vikram and Aditya, being handed to their father’s in the same waiting room.
Time passes, and we see Lena and Santhosh’s very happy married life. He is a loving husband, entertaining and taking care of the kids, putting up with his mother-in-law staying in the house, and romancing his wife so much that they end up with a son and two daughters. Meanwhile, we see nothing of Anoop’s marriage, but we know he only has the one son. Which, since the birth of the daughters is shown as a direct result of Lena and Santhosh sneaking off for fun times together, means Anoop probably has fewer fun times with his wife.
We also see that Lena keeps her distance from Anoop, as is proper for a married woman, even though they are still working together. To the point of accepting a ride to work from him, but insisting on sitting in the back of the jeep rather than sharing the front seat. Anoop, meanwhile, seems constantly hurt and a little bitter by these lines between them.
And then it all comes to a head when Anoop arrests Santhosh in the middle of a theft and takes great triumph in humiliating him and his entire family (who have thought he is a police officer this whole time), until Santhosh kills himself. So sad! So glad they brush past this bit with a quick little mention in the flashback so it doesn’t bring the whole film down!
The love triangle goes from this very silly beginning, with Santhosh deciding on the spur of the moment to pretend to be a cop so he can marry the pretty girl he sees on the bus, and Anoop’s disappointment being played as a quick little sort of “BWA-bwa” comic aside, to this very dark ending. But I think that is on purpose. This is how these things start. Very light and silly and casual. And that’s how Lena and Santhosh saw it. A fun little thing that happened, and then they moved passed it. They were very happy in their marriage, she never really thought about him being a cop after their initial meeting, although she presumably still thought he was one. Their marriage was about so much more than that. And she also never thought about her “lost love”; while Anoop was giving her slightly bitter glances, she looked content and happy.
But Anoop let his bitterness grow. His own marriage was less about his new wife (who doesn’t even get a name!), but more about showing up his old girlfriend. He had years of seeing Lena happy and in love with her husband, feeding his bitterness. And because this kind of envy can only grow, and never be satisfied, even shaming the entire family and driving Santosh to suicide did not serve to end his jealousy.
(This is his wife. Doesn’t she look nice? The actress is named Charmila, the character is named “Vikram’s mother”)
And so the story is called Vikramadithayan because it is about the rivalry between the two boys. But that rivalry is really more about Anoop and his jealousy than anything between them. And both Vikram and Aditya are almost defeated by Anoop, before confronting him in their own ways and rising above the conflict.
This is where the whole “good boy” “bad boy” thing comes in. Unni is the good boy, he has the responsible cop father, he goes to temple all the time, he has a perfect body (as we are shown over and over and over again!), he wins the sports competitions, and he is kind and fair to Dulquer, despite Dulquer’s shameful past. But, the movie unpacks this a little, is he really the “best” boy? He can afford to be kind and fair, because he has the support of his father behind him. He can spend his time studying and working out, because he doesn’t have to worry about earning his own pocket money. If he had faced the same adversities in his life that Dulquer did in his, would he have come through as cleanly?
Meanwhile, Dulquer has to resist the urge to give in and live down to the expectations of others, including even his own mother. The movie sets up a clear one to one relationship between the attitudes of society and his own slippage into a worse crowd. As a small child, his best friend was the sweet daughter of the local homeopath, Namitha, and “good boy” Unni. But after his father was shamed, his misery and embarrassment around them lead him to join in with the local gang of “bad boys”, who ran around stealing petty items from stalls, chalking on walls, riding bikes, etc. I mean, they’re adorable little 10 year olds, they can’t really do anything that bad, but it is still a clear break from the hyper-moral friends he used to have. (also, this whole bit is a clear reference to the opening of Awara, when cute little Shashi is thrown out of school and sinks down into life on the street)
It all comes to a head when Anoop gets involved in his life again. Dulquer and Unni finally come to blows, over a misunderstanding around Namitha. And Anoop reveals his bitterness and the twisted pattern of his mind, by trying to arrest Dulquer over the fight. Unni himself stands up for Dulquer, pointing out that they were equally wrong and it is only his father’s prejudice which is making him leap to Dulquer as the perpetrator. And Namitha is inspired to pay a little more attention to Dulquer’s actions, note that he is starting to slide down a bad road, and suggest that he try to borrow a little bit of Unni’s ambition and apply for the police as well.
All that is needed for Dulquer to succeed is for one person to believe in him, to challenge him. Or rather, for one person to believe in him and for another to challenge him. While Namitha’s belief gives him the energy to move forward, it is the rivalry between him and Unni that focuses his goal on the police force, and drives him to be better.
While Anoop represents a hatred that seeks to destroy, Dulquer and Unni show a friendly rivalry that causes both of them to create. And to acknowledge the superiority of the other whenever they find it. While Anoop crows in triumph when Unni makes it through the first round of tests, Unni acknowledges that Dulquer scored even higher, even without the advantages of prep classes and training, he is still the better candidate. And Dulquer helps Unni to attend the test, even while ill, because his triumph would mean nothing of Unni wasn’t able to put up a fair fight. Unni is the “good boy”, but he doesn’t detest those below him, he is noble and big enough to acknowledge their achievements, something his father never learned. If he had, he would have been able to acknowledge that the better man won Lena, that she ended up with a husband who loved her enough to fight for her and make her happy.
Speaking of Lena, it’s not clear at first, but I think just as Unni is a mirror to Anoop, showing how a healthy attitude towards his situation would have lead to a better life, so is Dulquer for Lena. Anoop looks down on her and her husband, and she accepts that. She doesn’t fight back against the label of “bad” for her entire family. In fact, she perpetuates it. In their final fight, Dulquer throws at her that if she had had more faith and love in her husband, maybe he wouldn’t have killed himself! The film never really backs off from that statement. Lena seems sympathetic, the long suffering wife and mother who never did anything “wrong”, but it is her very acceptance of that role which is poisoning her family. If she was less willing to suffer, if she was more willing to fight back, then her son wouldn’t have grown up feeling constantly hobbled by her expectations.
And that’s where it all comes to a head in the end, around the arrest for the drugs found in Dulquer’s bike. Interestingly, it breaks down on generational lines. Dulquer is sure of his innocence, and ready to fight to prove it. Unni and Namitha are sure of his innocence as well and ready to bend the rules in order to show it. His mother is sure of his guilt, ready to bow her head to fate and accept whatever punishment is given. Anoop is sure that, whether Dulquer is guilty in this case or not, he was born guilty thanks to his father, and any punishment he decrees will be just. And so, in the end, the young folks work together to free him. And the old folks work together to destroy him, sure that they are doing what is fated, Anoop joyful in his “rightness”, Lena once again accepting her fate of being forever “wrong”, and cursing her son to the same fate.
In the course of this whole story, there were two moments that stood out to me as being a little odd, and I think they were put there to underline the point that this is not just the story of Vikram (Unni) and Aditya (Dulquer), as the title says, but also of Anoop and Lena. First, while Dulquer is trying to earn money honestly, he takes up a commission to paint the police station. Anoop makes fun of him for it, and lowkey threatens him, implying that someone like him has no right to even paint the police station. And Dulquer responds by quietly letting him know that he, Dulquer, is aware of the bribes and underhanded profits Anoop makes from his police position. But that he, Dulquer, will never tell on him, because of the respect he has for his son, Unni, and how he knows it would hurt Unni’s sense of honor to learn what his father has done. At first, I thought this was just another moment to show that no matter how much they may fight, Dulquer and Unni have a strong bond and respect and understand each other. But then it never really comes up again in the context of the Unni-Dulquer story, so it is really just in there to show that Anoop is corrupt. Why? Why add this?
I think because it is less about Dulquer and Anoop than Lena and Anoop. Lena has always felt small with Anoop. Way back at the beginning, they couldn’t get married because his mother didn’t think she was “good enough”. Meanwhile, Santhosh always made her feel good, special. They first meet when she is being abused by a prisoner’s husband, and Santhosh comes to her rescue. She thrives with his love and respect. But when it is taken away, she is made to feel even smaller than before. And Dulquer is the only one who can see this clearly, knowing that Anoop, the “respectable” cop who was too good for his mother, is secretly corrupt and petty. And so, at the end, when Dulquer returns in triumph to take over the police station, he makes a point of saying that, just like Unni, he also has a parent who is a police officer, his mother. Not just Dulquer himself, but his mother also, have now triumphed and proved their worth.
And it’s all thanks to the completely merit based police application system! Is it really that perfect and merit based, by the way? Setting aside the basic issues like being able to afford test-prep classes or not? There is no way to bribe your way in? If my father is a powerful politician and your father owns a tea stall, we can both get the same job? I wouldn’t be your boss? This blows my mind, because in my state/city, government jobs are super super NOT merit based and super super “who do you know?” based.