The recently released Vikram Vedha is an action-packed thriller with insane performances and an even better story. But fun fact: the same movie released in 2017, with an entirely different cast set in a different language. The Hindi-language Vikram Vedha is the most recent in a typical Bollywood trend of remaking movies from the Southern film industries of India. While the movie is an exhilarating drama, it disappoints as a remake. So let’s use the Vikram Vedha Hindi remake to discuss what actually constitutes the need for a remake. In any industry, in any language.
Please note, the following will have a lot of spoilers for both versions of Vikram Vedha. If you don’t want spoilers, please read our review of Bollywood’s Vikram Vedha here first.
Before we start, let’s do a crash course in the Indian Film Industry, for those unaware. Contrary to popular belief, Bollywood is only the Hindi film industry of India and does not represent the whole country. India has a variety of rich cultures, and countless languages in its many regions and states, each with its own incredible film industry.
Over the decades, Bollywood movies’ international accessibility, has caused the industry to mistakenly become associated with non-South Asian audiences as representative of all the film industries of India. Slowly, movies from Indian industries like Tollywood (Telugu), Kollywood (Tamil), Mollywood (Malayalam), and others have become more and more popular outside of India. For example, one of the most appreciated movies of this year, RRR is a Tollywood production, and not Bollywood. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
The original Vikram Vedha (2017) was a Tamil-language film, classified as a neo-noir action thriller. The movie featured an original story that was thrilling in so many ways. Writer /directors Gayatri & Pushkar created a unique framing device, that mixed in many plot twists and a hero/villain dynamic that could be the stuff of legend.
The story starts as Vikram (Madhavan) leads a special unit of Police, responsible for the encounter killing of known criminals and writing it off in official reports as in ‘self-defence’, or while ‘attempting escape’. This was their way. The sole purpose of this unit is to hunt down a known murderer and crime boss, Vedha (Vijay Sethupathi). The first surprise twist comes when Vedha surrenders to the police, only to engage in a cat-and-mouse game with Vikram. This involves him recounting his own origin story, and posing a moral conundrum to Vikram.
This is the unique framing device of Vikram Vedha. Throughout the movie, Vedha and Vikram come across one another in various ways, and each time, Vedha recounts a story of a certain part of his life. After this, Vikram is left questioning the morality of what he does, and the concept of good and evil, which he thought he understood up until then. It’s interesting, engaging, exhilarating and absolutely genius storytelling. The Hindi Vikram Vedha, by the way, is also the exact same movie.
The Vikram Vedha Hindi remake does absolutely nothing new with this story. Besides recasting all the actors, and changing the original language from Tamil to Hindi, there’s no difference. Now, granted, the lead pairing of Bollywood megastars are stunning in their performances. Saif Ali Khan plays Vikram as strongly as Madhavan. While the biggest difference in the movies is Hrithik Roshan’s performance as Vedha.
Roshan makes an absolute meal of his role, completely immersing himself in it. He plays Vedha more as a psychotic sociopath, versus Sethupathi’s more restrained and calmly intimidating performance. But besides that, there is absolutely no difference between the original and the Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha.
Now, I have no problems with remakes. I’ve dedicated an entire Split Screen Podcast to the concept of discussing and analyzing remakes. (Shameless plug). However, a remake usually adds some sort of value to the original or discerns itself in some way that warranted the remake in the first place.
Famously, Hong Kong’s Infernal Affairs was remade in Hollywood by Martin Scorsese into the Oscar-winning The Departed. In that movie, the change of setting from gang-torn Hong Kong to a mob-occupied Boston, Massachusetts set the stage for the adaptation. Following that, the backgrounds of the characters, the culture, the hierarchy of organized crime and a plethora of other changes followed suit. While it’s still the same story, the spirit of the story was adapted into an entirely different world.
More recently, Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump was officially adapted into Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha. The original movie saw the life and times of a man against the backdrop of the growth of America. So when making an Indian version, obvious changes to the country and its history directly affected the context of the character’s journey and the way it plays out.
Whereas The Vikram Vedha Hindi remake only changes the city that the story takes place from one Indian city to another. But this does nothing to the cultural impact of the story of its events. The police force, their tactics, the rampant corruption, the culture within the force— all the same. The socio-economic situation of the characters, the criminal underworld, and how the events take place— are the same. I saw the original Tamil film with English subtitles. And it seems the Hindi version even has the exact same subtitle file.
Personally, it feels pointless for Bollywood to remake a movie, 5 years after the original Tamil film, and make zero effort in adapting anything from the original. Instead, they just replace the cast and told the entire story again. Shot for shot. Line by line. At least for certain remakes, when a director gets inspired by the original, they remake it with their own flair and interpretation.
Indian director Ram Gopal Varma incredibly remade Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic The Godfather into Sarkar. On top of changing the setting from an Italian family in America to an Indian crime family ruled by cultural politics, Varma changes some crucial plot points as well. The same director even took inspiration from American Beauty and Lolita, to make Nishabd. A movie that explored how the attraction of a much older man to a young woman affects the conservative Indian family dynamic.
The Hindi Vikram Vedha, on the other hand, comes from the same directors as the original. So the vision and visual dynamic are exactly the same. South Asian and international audiences now embrace films of other languages readily. Non-Hindi Indian films such as Baahubali and the aforementioned RRR featured non-Bollywood superstars but still appealed to the masses. Both commercially and critically, they were absolute commercial blockbusters.
So it’s baffling to me why Vikram Vedha had to be remade into Hindi. Especially with big Bollywood stars, without any value-added adapting of the source material.
The Hindi Vikram Vedha is now playing in select theatres.