Readers Write In #471: Vikram 2X: My experience watching the movie in two continents

Posted on July 4, 2022

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By R Kailasham

Disclaimer: Contains Spoilers.

They say, “Never begin a story with the weather”. They say, “show, don’t tell”.

Thursday, 2nd June 2022, Monroeville, Pittsburgh

“If you don’t like the weather, come back in five minutes.” I have heard this talkedabout both Pittsburgh and Melbourne. It rings true, through and through. As Vignesh and I, postdoctoral researchers at the same university, watched out of the window of Bus #67, the skies which had been spotless about fifteen minutes ago had turned dark and gloomy, pouring forth liquid precipitation by the bucketful. I peeked into my backpack. The beaten and broken remains of an umbrella stared back at me. What’s that Nietzsche quote about looking into the abyss?

Traveling with us were Amar and Venkat, graduate students in the materials science department of the same university. They were on their way to the same mall to catch the 6 PM screening of Major. We were on our way to catch the 7 PM screening of Vikram.

We reached the mall ahead of time and headed over to the food court to load up before the show began. A.&Ve. bade their goodbyes to catch their show which was starting earlier. We picked the one vegetarian option available at a Pakistani outlet (“Vegetarian platter”), and a slice of pizza, couple of garlic bread sticks, and lemonade from a nearby shop. It was 6.30 PM on a Thursday evening, and the mall seemed fairly deserted. The ones who did happen to be there, seemed to be so by accident, as if they had lost their way and entered this massive tomb where offline retail stores go to die.

Vi. paid about $7 for a massive tub of popcorn. I paid the same price for a much smaller serving of nachos. I couldn’t fathom the pricing strategy. The movie tickets had cost $20 apiece. We entered the movie hall and found that we were the only ones in at 7 PM. A trickle of humanity followed soon after, and it was 7.10 by the time the show began. There must have been about 40 people in a hall that could seat 150.

I had never seen a single movie of FahadhFaasil(FaFa) before this, and the first half was entirely this man’s show. Upon invitation by the police department, he goes around investigating potential leads to uncover a slew of videographed murders.

The introductory song seemed a bit pointless, but everything after that was thoroughly gripping, the director keeping us glued to our seats as he had done in Kaithi.FaFa’s interrogation of Kamal Hasan’s driver, the scenes involving Santhana Bharati in the first half, and those at the escort house, all mix humor and action in an organic way. This is probably the closest that I have seen a Tamil action flick resemble a Hollywood one, where the heroes nonchalantly spit out wisecracks as they pound the living daylights out of whatever stands in their way. My take on the movie-direction style? Michael Bay/Ridley Scott meets Quentin Tarantino. There were several massy moments, and the sparse crowd did its best to scream their appreciation at the appropriate scenes. The interrogation scene involving Narainseemed a bit drawn out. The background score and song selection at critical moments are stellar and would stay with me long after the movie was done.

The theater announced a proper intermission, of around 10 minutes, like the usual practice in India. Ran into A. &Ve, and they both seemed misty-eyed after the first half of Major. They recommended the movie highly to me, and I reciprocated the same emotion about Vikram.

The ground palpably shifts in the second half of the movie, as FaFa gently makes way for Kamal. The action sequence involving Agent Tina is superbly choreographed. FaFa’s revenge scene is short and explosive, with more bullets spat out than words, in a style highly reminiscent of KaakhaKaakha.

Special mention is required for Rathna Kumar, who shared the dialogue-writing duties with Loki, just as he had in Master.It is a delicate task, like that of a goalkeeper in football, in that it may be considered a success if it goes rather unnoticed. The scenes are so well-crafted that the dialogues only need to do a bit of light lifting.

My favorite scene involving Vijay Sethupathi would be his wordlessly ushering his family/enterprise out of his home after receiving a bomb-related tip-off. I would have to place this slightly higher than his entry-scene, where he emerges bare-backed from an upturned autorickshaw.

The movie’s climax involves a lot of shooting and vehicles getting blown up, with an equally explosive background score. Was it necessary to also include a baby-rescue mission amidst the rain of bullets? Methinks not.

If I had to make a list of the goriest movies that I have watched, flicks that brim with graphic violence, it would read thus, in order: KuruthiPunal, Sin City, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds, Puthupettai, Vikram.

Having established a strong connection to the plot of Kaithi,the movie leaves you eagerly waiting for its sequel. We strolled out of the hall by 10.15 PM. I was back home before 11. In less than 36 hours, I would be heading to India to get married.

Saturday, 11th June 2022, Mettupalayam, Coimbatore

One day after the wedding, and two days before our honeymoon trip. This was the day that Shreemoyee, my wife, and I chose to fulfil a family ritual that involves going to the movies as a large group. We booked ten tickets for the 2.15 PM show at Shree Shakthi Cinemas in Mettupalayam. The movie attendees were 8 kids aged 25-30, and 2 kids aged 50-65. My mom had walked away after the first ten minutes of Inglorious Basterds, so she stayed back home with another aunt who also cannot stand violent movies. My father joined us for the show, along with his cousin.

We arrived slightly late, about midway through the Pathala song. The theater was packed to the rafters, and probably had around 300 people. We found someone else sitting on the seats we had booked. We pointed this out, and they moved away matter-of-factly. Probably the loudest cheer in the first half, pre-intermission, was for Sethupathi’s entry. While I had felt bored during the scene where FaFa interrogates Narain, my beloved wife simply went to sleep. Someone after my own heart. She woke up a few minutes prior to the intermission scene. By that time, as the title track of the movie played out, the cheers from the audience mingled beautifully with the tiny pockets of silence in the background score. The synchrony was reminiscent of Thursday evening bhajans at the Sri Naga Sai Temple in Coimbatore.

Three of us from the group of ten had already watched the movie once. Sowe went out on snacks duty during the intermission, because it wouldn’t matter if we missed a few minutes of the second half’s beginning. Popcorn, coffee, onion chips, bottles of water: check. And we were back before the second half began. Shreemoyee’s loudest cheers in the second half were for Agent Tina and Rolex.

The final scene with the cameo by Suriya, who plays Rolex, the universally feared drug-lord, is a nuanced study in power dynamics. He is called by three people in the entire scene, but he appears to take offence only with Arjun Das’s utterance. He proceeds to menacingly inform Arjun Das, and his whole army of underlings, to only address him as “sir.” A sign of insecurity, perhaps? It is also telling that both Suriya and Arjun Das (in Kaithi) proclaim a huge bounty, a lifetime settlement offer, for anyone who brings the head of their enemy.

We were out of the theater by 6.15 PM. We stopped on the way back home for cold drinks and greasy French fries. Subham.

Afterthoughts/Wishlist

I love how Lokesh Kanagaraj uses chinnathirai (TV serial) actors from the 90s in his narrative. It would be amazing if he could create a movie version of Jenmam X or Marmadhesam.

Apart from movies by Loki, I would place Thani Oruvan and IrumbuThirai as two of the most gripping action thrillers to have come out in the past decade. Could we have a crossover movie that incorporates elements/characters from these film in the Lokesh Cinematic Universe?

Could we see Loki do a spin-off of the Jai Hind franchise? Actor Arjun appears fit enough even now.