September 30, 2022
The story goes that there was once a noble king, Vikramaditya, but his people were facing a terrible drought. A sorcerer comes to Vikramaditya and tells him he must seek out an evil spirit, Betal, who hangs upside down on trees and asks riddles. If Vikramaditya can bring Betal to the sorcerer, the sorcerer promises to get rid of the kingdom’s ills. So Vikramaditya sets out to find the devious Betal. There’s just one catch. Vikram’s answers to Betal’s riddles determine whether Betal will stay with him or escape. And so a game of catch and release ensues. “Shall I tell you a story?” Betal asks Vikram, laughing maniacally.
This animation is how Vikram Vedha (2022), the Hindi film by husband-wife duo Pushkar-Gayatri — a remake of the hit 2017 Tamil film of the same name — introduces us to one of the most entertaining premises in Bollywood in recent history. There is Vikram (Saif Ali Khan), a cop and encounter specialist who thinks there’s only right or wrong, cops or criminals, innocent or guilty, good or evil. There is Vedha Betal (Hrithik Roshan), a gangster who wants Vikram to question everything he believes. What follows is a smart, two-and-a-half-hour film with multiple twists and turns that leans into Indian epics and shows their relevance in today’s world.