I was five years old when the original
Vikram was released. In the early
90s, I watched the film for the first time on Doordarshan on a Sunday
evening. I was struck by a couple of
things. The coolness of the first
half. And the dumbness of the second half! After a point, the film seemed to meander
aimlessly, with the shoddy graphics in the climax a far cry from the rousing
opening sequence where the rocket was captured by the villain. So, the 1986 film was not one that I was especially
fond of. But the Kamal Hassan fanatic I am,
when the first Vikram teaser (for the 2022 version, that is) was
released, I somehow felt instinctively that it was going to be a better
film. Something told me – gosh, I sound
like Anju in Keladi Kanmani! – that this would be, at the very least, a
rollicking ride. And when I watched the film
on the second day of release, my cup of joy began to overflow.
As I mentioned in the title, no,
this is not a review of the film. It is
very rare that I feel so much of ‘ownership’ (for the lack of a better term) of
a film that I cannot trust myself to do a balanced analysis of a film. It was because of the delirious state that I found
myself in while watching the film. With writer-director
Lokesh Kanagaraj at the helm, it was not surprising to see the film get on with
its business from the word, go. The Pathala
Pathala… song was hyped up beyond measure. But in the actual film, truth to be told, it didn’t do much for
me. It was probably because I was
waiting to see Kamal in ‘action’ (pun intended). The moment where I said to myself, “There’s
my Kamal” was the death scene. The tears,
the gesture to the crowd to leave, the easy-chair posture with the grandkid, were all moments
where I was struggling to get into the drama of the scene. Yes, the critics would say that great acting should
make the actor fade out and become the character. And Kamal’s acting in that scene is indeed
great. But I was not a critic (even a
wannabe one) watching that scene. I was
a fan admiring his idol’s every move.
pre-intermission scene made me rue the fact that I was not in a packed theater
in Chennai. I would have enjoyed the
whistles and applause as much as the swagger and the action. In that scene, I actually was enjoying Fahadh Faasil’s acting considerably. There is a hint
of a smile when he says that the Kamal character is not a myth anymore. And I thought
to myself, “This is Kamal’s first major sequence in this film. And yet, he doesn’t have to do all the heavy
lifting!” I was grinning from ear to ear
thinking of films where Kamal had shouldered the lion’s share of the burden –
in terms of time, thinking, effort, and even finances – and yet the rewards were
hardly commensurate to the Himalayan effort put in. Yet here he was, playing a role in a film where
the director, his crew and the stellar ensemble cast were all playing vital
roles in essentially creating a celebratory experience for him and his
fans. I was reminded of Sachin Tendulkar on
the day of the World Cup final in 2011. He
hadn’t exactly done anything noteworthy on that day except score a couple of
lovely boundaries in a short innings.
But after having carried him on his shoulders, Virat Kohli mentioned,
rather eloquently and evocatively, that Tendulkar “carried the burden of the
nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him.”
There is a sequence in the second
half where Kamal goes into a place of danger to fetch a bottle of milk for his grandson. The way I was enjoying that action sequence
was what convinced me that I should not dare write a review of this film. You know why?
Had I been in more of a critic mode, I would have questioned the logic
of that scene. Was that milk powder not
something that he could have gotten elsewhere?
Instead of taking on the villains, had he shown his gun to a security officer
of a nearby supermarket, he could have spared a few broken bones and teeth! But no, I was in no mood to question the logic
of that decision. Just to hear him say
things like, “tough kudukkare” to his grandson, made it worth it. And is there an Indian actor that can exclaim,
“attaboy” with as much attitude as Kamal Hassan?
I must be thankful for the love
that Lokesh Kanagaraj exhibits towards not only Kamal but also his body of
work. Apart from the slightly more
obvious references to his earlier films, I liked the fact that the makeup
of Kalidas Jayaram in the scene where he is tied to a chair evoked a similar
scene with Arjun in Kuruthi Punal.
There is a certain grace and finesse that Lokesh displays in weaving in
moments that never detract attention from his storytelling yet give fans of
Kamal reason after reason to rejoice and relish the man’s return to the big
screen. To paraphrase a line from the
title song, Nayagan meendum vandhu vittaan. And how!
I remember The Hindu review of Nammavar
where the critic had written, “Kamal has fought tougher screen battles before.” That applies here too. But the difference is that Nammavar, as good
a film as it was, was not a commercial success.
Vikram has turned out to be one of the biggest blockbusters of
Kamal’s career. Just like no fan of
Sachin really complained about the fact that he scored only 18 in that famous
World Cup final, no true follower of Kamal is complaining about the fact that
Kamal has “fought tougher screen battles.”
Kohli and company were more than happy to carry Sachin on their shoulders. Thanks to Lokesh, we can do the same for
Kamal. Because…it is time.