Roasts and Toasts

The Toast of Vikram Vedha

After Batman, Vikram Vedha has arguably the catchiest theme (TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA…. TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA). After Joker, Vedha is the next worst guy you’ll want to root for. This film is a delirious mix of Vikram Vethal and The Dark Knight. For the uninitiated, Vikram and Vethal, is the story of King Vikramaditya and his adventures with the Vethal (poltergeist/ghoul). Poltergeists are supposed to be noisy beings who damage property. Thala Ajith’s Vethalam was loosely based on this premise.

A sage asks King Vicky to go to the forbidden forest and bring back the Vethal. King Vicky says “Easy peasy lemon squeezy” and sets out. When he finally faces the Vethal, King Vicky realizes his adversary isn’t an easy target. The Vethal plays more hard to get than a Tinder match who holds strong ideals of feminism, independence, and has high standards. So, King Vicky instead turns the tables and says “only here for friendship”. This gets the Vethal talking. The Vethal promptly lays down some ground rules. The Vethal states that he will ride on King Vicky’s back, and as they make their way back to the sage, King Vicky will have to listen to a story. At the end of the story, Vethal will ask him a question in the form of a riddle. If King Vicky doesn’t know the answer, the Vethal will stay with him, answer the riddle, and move onto the next story. If King Vicky knows the answer and doesn’t respond, his head will explode. If King Vicky responds correctly, Vethal will fly back to his tree, because “if you know errthang, why you need me for, biatch?”

King Vicky agrees to all of the above while mumbling “this clingy bitch right here.” He also notes that if prenups had these clauses, divorce rates would drop steeply, because ain’t nobody getting married if they know exactly what they’re getting into. Now, back to Vikram Vedha.

Madhavan plays Vikram, an encounter specialist, with a broad frame and broader smile. He is headstrong and prides himself on knowing he is always on the right side of the law. He can come back home after a long day of feeding bullets to goons and sleep like a baby, because he knows he has never killed an innocent human being. Vikram is your happy-go-lucky death dealer. This is established in the opening sequence, where Vikram and his squad take a gang by storm. Vikram clocks the most kills, but spots a runner. Instead of chasing after him, Vikram takes a walk in the park while twirling his glock. When the rowdy hits a dead end, he turn around and surrenders, and this annoys Vikram. He responds with, “You could’ve surrendered back there. The fuck did you make me come after you? Okay, tell me a joke and I’ll let you live.” The felon cracks a below average pun. Vikram is not amused and shoots the kills. Lesson for budding comedians: it’s a kill or be killed world out there. Better be ready for the day a cop comes after you with a gun, and all you can do to save yourself is tell a good joke.

Vijay Sethupathi is the best buy one get one free deal in Kollywood. You sign him, you get his acting skills for free. Not for sale individually. His performance as Vedha will surprise audiences once again. Right from the start, it’s clear that Vedha isn’t evil incarnate. He is the bad guy, because the good guys wouldn’t have a job otherwise. He is in the logistics business, and people get hurt once in a while. Every time he faces off with Vikram, he distracts him and gets away; leaving Vikram with answers to find. He teaches Vikram to look at both sides of the coin, instead of simply stopping with calling heads or tails. The story ends with Vikram and Vedha fighting side by side – forced to be brothers in arms due to circumstances. Finally, Vikram and Vedha have a Mexican stand-off, and it’s Vikram’s turn to riddle Vedha – “Should I let you go because you fought by my side, or should I kill you right here because that’s my job? Which is right?”

THE END. The best cliffhanger ending I’ve ever witnessed in Kollywood yet.

The supporting cast has also done well. There are two female characters (Priya and Chandra), and no item songs. There’s also a strong sense of casual feminism.

Priya is Vikram’s wife. She has tattoos, a serious job, and doesn’t exist just to make her man feel better about himself. She is a lawyer who hates cops. Vikram is a cop who hates lawyers. This friction brings them together, and thus begins a flashback song montage of their courtship. There’s a lot of insinuated sex, and they go to bed wearing normal clothes. It is time we acknowledged that lingerie and lip-biting isn’t always part of foreplay. On their first night, Vikram and Priya take the couch and pass out. Again, it is time we acknowledged that the wedding ceremony takes a physical toll on the bride and groom, and they’re too tired to even think of sex. When Vikram realizes Priya is Vedha’s attorney, he tries to get her to drop the case. Priya responds with “Why don’t you drop the case? Your work is work, but mine isn’t?”

Chandra also has her moments – when she gets slapped, she slaps back; when someone tries to intimidate her, she puts them in their place.

The soundtrack is great, and the songs have replay value. Karuppu Vellai is the recurring theme, and Yaanji serves as the romantic montage number. Tasakku Tasakku is the actual item numbers, where the bad guys have some fun dancing to their own tunes with a side of booze. The rest of the songs seem like they were made by the music director simply because he got commissioned for the job – much like a content writer who has to meet deadlines because they got paid ahead of time in full. The movie has a lot of subtle humor peppered in the most intense scenes, but the grit and pace of the thriller is maintained. You can tell there’s a lot of tension in the movie simply by checking out Madhavan’s nipples. After Batman, his nipples are the sharpest. This might also explain why he never wears a bulletproof vest.

Standard
Roasts and Toasts

The Toast of Baby Driver

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Right now, I gotta tell you about… the fabulous… most groovy… BABY DRIVER!

Days before watching this movie, I’d been listening to the soundtrack. If you have a car, and you’ve got an L board stuck on the back or front, this soundtrack is not for you. If you have a car, and are usually late to meetings, this soundtrack is definitely for you.

The trailer conveys just enough for you to buy the ticket. But, it’s more than just another fast and furious wannabe. This is a movie about love, music, cars, and cold blooded killers. The dialogues are well-written, with some seriously funny one liners being thrown around occasionally. The interesting thing about the story is there’s not much character development, outside of the title character Baby (Ansel Elgort). Everyone has code names, and Baby is no different. It is never really explained how or why these nicknames came up. Baby also doesn’t talk much, case in point, Buddy’s (Jon Hamm) explanation:

“You know why he’s called Baby? It’s because they’re still waiting on his first words.”

Baby Driver looks like Bo Burnham with a pair of shades and a driver’s license; with the musical humor intact. Throughout the film, Baby is always plugged into an iPod. Owing to a car crash where he lost both his parents as well as some of his hearing, he plays music to drown out his tinnitus. He’s a “good kid and a devil behind the wheel.

Kevin Spacey plays Doc. Doc is Frank Underwood on steroids, minus the politics and the fourth wall breaks. He is the mastermind behind each heist, and doesn’t work with the same crew twice. But, he does like to mix and match. My favorite Doc line is “He puts the Asian in home invasion.

Jon Hamm is Buddy. Buddy is what happens when Don Draper decides to act in the ads he pitches to clients. Buddy and his lady love Darling (Elza Gonzalez) are part of the first and third/final heist in the film. They’re a Mr and Mrs Smith, the outlaw version. 

Jamie “doesn’t give two” Foxx is a late but welcome addition to the cast. He shoots first, and asks questions later. Sometimes, he asks questions while shooting as well. He goes by Bats, and is Bats-hit crazy. Bats is Django Untethered. “I like the way you die, boy!”

Lily James plays Deborah, and serves as the cute waitress crush/love interest of the protagonist. She represents the normal life that Baby tries his hardest to hold onto. It is also noticeable that a lot of work has gone into Baby’s wardrobe. He looks like a date-able Levi’s store mannequin, wearing shades of grey that darken towards the end as he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, being dragged deeper into the world of crime and bloodshed.

The music is the most interesting part of the film. The first six minutes minutes has Baby Driver grooving to Bell Bottoms. This sequence is a tribute to the music video of Blue Song by Mint Royale (which was directed by Edgar Wright himself in 2003). The coffee run sequence where Baby walks to the coffee shop is also visually pleasing, with words and phrases from the song popping up in the scene as graffiti. Even the action sequences have been choreographed to music, with the bullets being shot in tandem to the beats of the track. But, Kamal Haasan already did that with Vishwaroopam’s trailer.

Overall, this is a movie you’ll definitely want to watch more than once. But, if you’re a struggling artist like myself, you’ll watch it in theaters the first time, and wait for a good print to watch online. Most if not all the stunts in the film are real, and more than 150 cars were reportedly used to make every scene come alive. The story also has a cause-and-effect method of storytelling, where the characters live to break the law and face the consequences, even if it is death.

The best part about watching this movie is when you pull into Satyam cinemas, and the guy asks you which movie you’re here to watch, and proceeds to yell, “BABY! BABY DRIVER! Park your Baby behind that car, sir.”

Standard