VIKRAM: HITLIST (2022)

Kamal Haasan in a still from the film
  • Release Date: 03/06/2022
  • Cast: Kamal Haasan, Fahadh Faasil, Vijay Sethupathi, Narain
  • Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj

Vikram: Hitlist has most entertainment that you can expect from a masala potboiler in theaters

— Ambar Chatterjee

I have a friend who suffers from Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and has a history of walking out mid-way from films like “Judgementall Hai Kya?”, “Roohi”, and even “Hobbs & Shaw”. I coaxed him into watching this film. Interestingly, even with his terrible record at finishing films in theaters, he not only agreed to watch the film but also paid for the ticket of a third friend who is always broke and has only Rs 10/- in his pocket when he is accompanying us. Shockingly my friend (suffering from ADHD) not only sat through Vikram but was cheering and hooting all the way through. He even asked me if we could watch the film a second time. This tells you everything that you need to know about the film and its success at being an entertainer.  

Amar (Fahadh Faasil), an unforgiving officer with a clandestine unit of law enforcement is brought in to investigate a series of murders committed by a gang that resembles vigilante killings. Two of the murdered individuals were police officers while the third was an unlikely candidate as he was only the father of one of the murdered officers and a compulsive drunk. Amar strongly believes that the key to solving the case lies in deciphering the life of Karan (Kamal Haasan), the murdered drunk father of one of the police officers, and understanding why the killers murdered him in the first place. As Amar dwells deeper into Karan’s life, he understands that there is a lot more to the killings than what meets the eyes and the alcoholic Karan might not be the looser that he portrays himself to be. What happens next is what Vikram is all about.

Vikram is a special film and the reasons for that are many

The story, screenplay, and Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Direction

The biggest positive of the film is its story and screenplay. It starts off as a simple and temperamental whodunit thriller and then quickly catapults into a massy actioner but with such organic ease and panache that even the most unassuming of audiences will be able to be on the same page with the characters and the story of the film.

The plot of the film borrows its elements heavily from Lokesh Kanagaraj’s 2019 hit, Kaithi. These elements are woven into the narrative of Vikram with such creativity and authority that I felt as if Kaithi was written keeping in mind that they will make a sequel to it. Soon elements from another Kamal Haasan film of 1986 were introduced into the story. I was bewildered by the ease with which I was able to accept all that was put out on the screen and that went on to prove the vision and genius of Lokesh Kanagaraj. The story elements from these two films not only elevate the plot of Vikram but also ensure ceaseless moments of mass elevation that don’t let the audience sit without clapping and cheering. It must be noted that these elements are not incorporated as mere crowd-pleasing moments but are an integral part of the narrative and will invariably lead to the creation of a larger universe populated by characters from atleast three different films.

Vijay Sethupathi in a still from the film

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that while the film goes absolutely nuts with its storytelling, the action and drama of it somehow remain rooted in realism to an extent that makes it believable and real. Whatever we see can only be called an exaggeration of things that are humanly possible. This infuses a sense of believability in the narrative and makes it that much more authoritative and adds the necessary credibility to it. The film delivers knockout punches in scenes that are laced with drama and tragedy. Loses feel real and the stakes against the protagonists are continuously escalating resulting in tense, gripping, and thrilling moments that almost always end with humongous payoffs.

Action, thrills, and soaring moments of mass-elevation

Vikram starts off slow but never for a moment makes you feel restless or bored. As the film progresses, you realize that the slow pacing of the film was a conscious decision of Kanagaraj as by the interval point we get its first large scale action sequence and after that, the action sequences keep on piling to the extent that I felt dizzy by the time I reached the climax of the film. Every action sequence has something special about it in terms of the characters involved or the techniques used and this ensures that the action is not only thrilling but is unique in every aspect of it ensuring that the audiences are endlessly invested in them. They are always results of emotional outbursts resulting from a predicament and hence are always intriguing.

One has to applaud the cinematography and editing of these sequences that contribute to making these sequences not only easy to follow but always put the audience in the best vantage position to enjoy the action. The long takes and wide angles used to show the entire action organically were a great move. The quick pans into characters to give a peek into their reactions were a masterstroke that elevated many bits. Even some of the Hollywood critics applauded this aspect of the action of Vikram as they were able to see the efforts that were put in to make up for the lack of finesse in the bits that involved Computer Generated Imagery.

Kamal Haasan 

One of the greatest film stars of our times makes a spellbinding comeback after a hiatus of around 3 years. I thoroughly enjoyed his Vishwaroopam films even though they were panned by many critics and audiences alike. Here he plays an older version of a character that he made popular in 1986 and has a lot more facets to it than it ever had. He is a grieving father. He is a doting grandfather. He is a raging force looking for retribution. He is also a thinking man trying to do his best to rid society of a terrible menace. All these aspects of the character are beautifully encompassed by Hassan and brought out with visible emotions and expressions when the time demands.

Fahadh Faasil in a still from the film

I was particularly impressed by how efficient he looked in the action sequence. While a lot of that has to do with how well the sequences were envisioned, shot, and edited to suit the pace and physical abilities of the man but he did his part to perfection. He is able to infuse such emotional depth in every sequence that it becomes integral to the entire film and remains etched in the audience’s memory.

Vijay Sethupathi

Vijay Sethupathi plays the antagonist with his trademark comic undercurrents in everything that he does. He maintains an odd mannerism throughout that is not only noticeable but also hilarious from time to time. His behavior with his three wives and what he does for a living creates such a contrast for the character that it becomes impossible to imagine that both these attributes are of the same man. If that was not enough, during key action sequences, he munches on a substance that grants him superhuman strength for a brief period. This leads to some interesting altercations that are amusing to watch. Sethupathi can successfully balance all these different aspects of his character and mishmash them into one memorable character that inspite of being the antagonist will be loved immensely by the audiences.

Fahadh Faasil 

Fahadh Faasil is the only actor in the film who is not over the top. He is the detective out to unravel the truth and he does so most believably and authoritatively possible. However, as the story progresses he learns things that make him change his mind about the case and side with an unlikely party. This leads to some immense personal losses for him that transforms him as a man and turns him into something that will most definitely be interesting to follow in the sequels of this film.

Pulsating background score

The background scores of the film once again prove how important it can be to elevate action sequences and mass elevation moments. Anirudh, who is fresh out of scoring a terrific background score for Vijay’s Beast does a phenomenal job. Every action sequence and the crowd-pleasing moment is complemented by his soaring background score that gives shape and spirit to the inspiring thoughts in the minds of the audiences. This not only helps make these moments even more effective but also ensures that the audiences associate them with a sense of heroism and machismo that can only be inspired by an exceptional musical score.

Final words

Vikram to me was one of the most entertaining and inspiring movie experiences of this year. This is the kind of film that you need to watch on the big screen with an aware and packed audience. It is also the kind of film that you will need to watch more than once to absorb every aspect of it. The plot has so many layers and things unfold so fast in the second half that after a while it becomes difficult to keep track of all the characters and subplots. The action demands repeat viewing too to absorb everything about it. While this will surely become a raging hit when it releases on OTT, I urge my readers to watch it in theaters as it is the kind of film that deserves the big-screen treatment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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