I did it! I went to see Vikram Vedha! On a weeknight when I had to go to work the next day. I have had very very little sleep this week. Oh well, I’ll sleep in January when the new releases stop. Oh, and that’s why this review is going up on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, because I got home around midnight and did not feel like staying up for another 2 hours writing a review. And this was a gooooooooooooood movie, it deserves a 2 hour review, not a twenty minute one (Munna Michael, dashed that thing off in no time). And also two reviews, I realized halfway through this one that there are a fair number of you who won’t be able to see the film and will want spoilers, and another half who are planning to see the film but want my take in advance. So this is NO SPOILERS, but SPOILERS will be going up later today.
This movie is so good, it cures migraines. I’ve been fighting the beginning of one for the past few days (thanks to the incredibly hot and humid weather, and lack of sleep related to Nivin Pauly and Tiger Shroff), and it was beginning to wear me down. Just the energy of ignoring that slight nagging pain in my head and fear that it would turn into MASSIVE CRIPPLING ILLNESS (I get really bad migraines about once every 5 years, like can’t get out of bed for a couple days bad. And then I get sort of bad migraines once every few months that are just painful. This was neither, but could have turned into either and the fear was stressing me out). Anyway, last night I made the completely illogical decision to go to a late show on a work night instead of crawling into bed and laying perfectly still in a dimly lit air conditioned room. And it worked! This film was so good, it knocked the migraine right out of me!
I’m really not joking, I’m super sensitive to migraines, and movies can be a trigger for me. Or, in this case, a cure! there are certain kinds of movies that actually give me migraines (Head, anything in IMAX). But what really does it is bad movies. Well, badly filmed. If the camera is jerking here and there a lot, and the color tones change without warning, and there are random lens flares, boom! Migraine!
And this movie was filmed perfectly. It was the equivalent of sinking into cool clean sheets, or listening to classical music, or laying in a cool room with my eyes closed. So refreshing, so classic, so clean, it put my head back in order. Even sitting off center in the front row (sold out on a Tuesday night, by the way), which usually is a guaranteed headache inducer for me, still no migraine! Went home and was able to do exciting things like bending over and standing up without feeling dizzy! It was a little miracle!
There is a reason for this filming style (besides being a little gift to the migraine afflicted among us). It wants to be clean and clear so that we can focus on the ethical dilemmas presented. This isn’t a movie about emotions or fancy twists or big spectacles. It’s about giving us a series of simple situations and asking us to pick a side. It’s not even about a right or wrong answer, it’s about thinking about the question.
It’s also about how great Vijay Sethupathi is. Like I said, my theater was sold out. No cheers for Maddy, but big hoots when Vijay Sethupathi was introduced. And big laughter for a lot of his lines (no idea why, the subtitles didn’t capture anything funny in them). And Maddy didn’t get the big introduction either. He got an okay introduction, but he didn’t get the lingering several minute intro that Vijay got.
It’s a credit to Maddy that he set it up this way. He was one of the producers, he could have grabbed all the good stuff for himself. But instead he took the solid foundation kind of role in the film and let Vijay have all the exciting bits.
Remarkably well-balanced cast and characters all around. No one is forgotten, no one has a fuzzy character. Okay, Shraddha Srinath has a couple of moments that don’t really make sense because the plot requires her to say something that is a tad illogical. But her character as a whole is clear and real. And everyone else, even Kathir and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar in their fairly small amount of screen time, feels pitch perfect and real and like people we can care about.
But the purpose of these performances and characters isn’t to make us care about them. Or, it is, but not as an end in itself. We have to care about them because that is part of the ethical dilemma, emotions are part of what has to be weighed in the balance. So is our affection for both lead actors, how does their natural charisma effect our decisions related to them? Are we forgiving Madhavan because he is so heroic? Are we forgiving Vijay because he is so fascinating? Should that be part of our decisions?
And finally, what about the whole history of films? We are conditioned to the noble criminal, the honest cop, or the evil criminal and the corrupt cop. Can we set that aside and see them as individual people who don’t really fit into either mold? Can we deal with this situation as a unique moment, without prejudice?
(Can we watch this and not think “Deewar!”?)
These two characters are brilliantly designed, each with moments of weakness and moments of greatness. And neither of them cross a line that the audience cannot follow them across (no violence towards women and children, essentially. Both characters clearly resist that). We are left with simple moral questions. And, what makes it really brilliant, Madhavan is left with those questions as well. This is not a flawless hero who does everything right because he is the hero. This is a hero who struggles and tries to figure out the right thing and punishes himself when he feels he has failed. While Vijay has the showier part and role, Madhavan sells us on the noble man struggling with right and wrong.