tamil superstar Kamal Haasan returned to big-screen entertainment after a four-year hiatus. While he was publicly active as a television host and political party leader, he couldn’t have asked for more. back as Vikramwritten and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj.
Kamal and Lokesh kept telling us that there was no connection between Vikram released in 1986 and the new iteration. But that’s only a half-truth. Lokesh, like his other films, takes material from Kamal’s cinematic well and reinvents it to suit the taste of the current culture of the movie-going audience. The spark for the latest Vikram came from Kamal himself. When Lokesh approached the actor to pitch him a movie, the latter talked about a plot idea he had originally thought of for the 1986 film. But, at that time, director Rajasekhar felt that the idea for the story was way ahead of its time and focused on a different premise about a spy on leave, who ends up preventing an air strike. This Vikram was Kamal’s attempt to make a Bond movie in Tamil, whereas this Vikram is very rooted in terms of culture and in the social and relational context, far removed from the world of Bond.
Left to Kamal, he couldn’t have made the last Vikram so good. He might have been able to make a better movie than this version about a rogue agent who goes on a killing spree on a personal mission. But this film would not have been so pleasant. He would have added layers upon layers to the narrative and crafted quiet, character-building moments, giving the film intellectual weight. Lokesh, on the other hand, keeps this film very light on the mind and the eyes. The storytelling is smooth and nimble, filled with a plethora of fanboy moments.
Kamal reprises his role as a spy named Vikram from the first film. The film’s setting, however, borrows events from Lokesh’s career film Kaithi (2019). The Story: Vikram and his team of spies were dishonored and hunted down by the government after a covert operation in the 1990s went awry. Kamal and a few of his companions come off the radar and live in hiding for about 30 years. They no longer have the thirst to stop foreign attacks. All they want is to protect their loved ones from the very people they once fought for.
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Vikram is a ghost. We know of his current life through vignettes of friends and acquaintances. He’s like a distorted memory, everyone seems to have a different version of his personality. Amar (Fahadh Faasil) leads his own cop unit, which performs missions at the behest of the government. He and his team work outside the confines of the law that controls other men in uniform. “We don’t have any rules. If you have it, it will be broken,” Amar said before taking over the case to investigate some high-profile murders.
And there is Vijay Sethupathi’s Santhanam. One character describes him as a local version of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. He is a cook, who produces quality narcotics when provided with the right raw materials. A huge shipment of raw materials goes missing, thanks to an honest cop, who works with a single-minded determination to rid society of the menace of drugs.
Amidst all this chaos, where does Vikram, a rogue spy, fit in? Fans lovingly call Kamal, Andavar (God). And Lokesh is Kamal’s die-hard fan, so he put Kamal on a pedestal, from where he directs the blows in the little games played by mortals.
Lokesh weaves a very convoluted hunt around the missing raw material that is needed to produce medicine in the first half. There are corrupt cops, and there is another group of honest cops, and then there is Santhanam and the gang chasing the drug treasure trail. Most can go over your head. Would you be eager to see what’s wrong with Vikram? What will he do now? Lokesh, however, chooses to slow down. Just before we hit breaking point, it hits us with the cinematic moment we’ve been waiting for. “Aarambikalangala (are we going to start),” Vikram says. And that’s the signal that the good part has only just begun.
Lokesh hits us with one crowd-pleasing moment after another. Yes, we bought the tickets for Kamal. But, Lokesh doesn’t burden Kamal with the Herculean responsibility of keeping us entertained for the full three-hour duration. He even gave minor characters moments to shine. Sethupathi is compelling as a brash drug addict, who speaks so fast his lips can’t keep pace with the spoken word. Fahadh Faasil’s on-screen presence promises us that he’s up to something big and keeps us invested in the story. And there’s a surprising female character, who channels her inner bride (Kill Bill), slaughtering a group of men with silverware. The style and freshness she brings to the stage sent the theater into a frenzy. The gleeful violence, the special appearances, the burst of action moments from Kamal, where he switches effortlessly between melancholy, arrogance and comedy, make Vikram a very satisfying watch.
Vikram is just the beginning. At the climax, Lokesh teases at least three separate movies that could spin off from this one. Achoo (Suriya!). Achoo (Karthi!). Achoo (Kamal Haasan!).