“Vikram Vedha,” written and directed by Gayatri and Pushkar, is proof of the fact that we do not have to look anywhere else to find inspiration and stories, as there is an abundance of rich content available in our own culture, mythology, and folklore. For years, we have turned a blind eye towards it. India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, but somehow, we have been unable to use it to our advantage. We have failed to honor our own culture. We have failed to honor our own historical events. A fascinating thing about these folktales and mythology is that even after being written years ago, they still hold their relevance in contemporary times. Writers and directors in our country often find their inspirations from the ideas originating in the western countries and blatantly ignore or are maybe unaware of the treasure that exists in the native tales. Gayatri and Pushkar do not abide by that practice. They not only took inspiration from the anthology called “Baital Pachisi” but gave it a contemporary touch, making it way more intriguing.
“Baital Pachisi,” a.k.a. “Vikram Aur Betaal,” was written by Somdev Bhatt in the early Middle Ages. It told the story of a king named Vikramaditya and his quest to capture a dark spirit called Betaal. A sorcerer arrived in the kingdom of Vikramaditya and commanded him to bring the creature of darkness to him. Vikramaditya did capture Betaal successfully. The king had to stay silent and not utter a word to Betaal. The wily spirit knew that and tried to break his vow of silence, as by doing so, he could escape his clutches and go back to the same tree from where he was captured. Betaal told the king several stories throughout his journey and always left him on a cliffhanger. He always posed a question in the end, and the king was obliged to speak if he knew the answer. As soon as the king spoke, Betaal flew back to its dwelling place. The cycle kept on repeating itself, and Betaal kept on telling stories until that day arrived, when the king was made to stand at a crossroads, and he didn’t know the answer to the question in reality.
“Vikram Vedha” used the concept of “Vikram and Betaal” as its foundation, contemporised it, and created its own authentic badlands over it. Vikram is an honest cop who still has faith in the integrity of the system. He metaphorically represents King Vikramaditya. Vikram was an embodiment of truth and justice. Just like Vikramaditya believed whatever the sorcerer, who practiced black magic, had told him, Vikram also had put his faith in the system. He doesn’t doubt the intentions of his colleagues and his boss, and he stands with them for all the good reasons. King Vikramaditya believed that by bringing the Betaal to the sorcerer, his kingdom would be saved. He was ready to put his life at risk for the greater good. Vikram, too, believed that he was helping society to get rid of the deep-rooted evil. He didn’t know what Vedha’s side of the story was. He had created a narrative in his mind that he believed it to be true. Vikram was blinded by his bona fide urge to be the flagbearer of justice and help an ailing society regain its balance once again. He was still not bitten by the bug of corruption. Vikram feels that there is a clear line that differentiates the good from the bad. He sees the world in black and white. He has a clear conscience even after pulling the trigger in 18 extra-judicial killings (police encounters). Vikram says that he knows by looking into the eyes of a person if they are guilty or not. But can good be differentiated from evil so easily?
In comes, a tide named Vedha that changes the course of things. Vedha was a personification of doubt. The motive of his existence, just like the betaal, was to sow a seed of doubt inside Vikram. Betaal also knew that Vikramaditya was a man of strong ideologies. He knew that he couldn’t just beg the king to consider his narrative and see the truth behind it. Betaal knew that he had to appeal to his conscience, attack his sensibilities and fill the gaps of his morality with pragmatism. Vedha did that too. He knew that he couldn’t argue with a man who was so staunch in his beliefs. He knew that Vikram’s ideologies could only be changed when he would come face to face with his dilemma and understand the duality of the narrative. Vedha somewhere makes Vikram ambivalent. He decimates his opinions and makes him reconsider everything he knew or believed in from scratch. Vedha had led a life of depravity. He was the gang lord of his area, and people dreaded him, but still, he wasn’t able to save his own brother from the corrupt system. Vedha makes Vikram question his own beliefs and ideologies. He makes Vikram skeptical and fills him with doubt. Vedha feels that there is no clear distinction between good and evil. He says that the line that divides the two facets of life is often blurred. Vedha believes that truth is merely a perspective. The film “Vikram Vedha” reiterates what the character “Joker” said in the 2019 crime thriller, i.e., “Nobody thinks what it’s like to be the other man.” The film says that it is very easy to sit on the fence and comment that a person did something that was morally unjustified. It is very easy to pass a decree when you are not a party to the issue. The problem arises when you face such a situation in your own life and realize that it was easier said than done. Vedha asks Vikram if he can make a choice between dignity and love. Would he still want to uphold his integrity if it came at the cost of losing a loved one?
It is often seen that our hypocritical society sheds its morals and principles at the first sign of threat. The code of conduct is only followed until it is convenient to do so. Vedha applauds the honesty of the cop but also urges him to remove his blindfold and see that good and bad can often overlap each other. Vikram understood that truth was nothing but a battle of narrative, a war of ideologies. A war between “what you think” to be right and “what you think” to be wrong. It would have been hugely disappointing if Vikram and Vedha had joined forces at the end of the film. Fire can empathize with water but still cannot be kindled on a flowing stream. Vikram and Vedha would coexist, and maybe time and again, would also help each other, but they would forever be in a state of conflict. “Vikram Vedha” also makes you think about how political systems around the world shape their own narrative and influence their citizens to believe in it. It makes you think about how an ardent follower blindly follows and believes in the narrative propagated by a regime. He considers it to be the universal truth. Only if people could shed their prejudices and see through the world from the eyes of the writers of “Vikram Vedha.” I am very certain that the world would have become a much better place. A place where two people can agree to disagree and still coexist together. A place where you are allowed to form opinions, with the understanding that perspectives are formed through experiences and that the essence of reality can be different for different individuals.