Rebuild, reboot, rethink Hrithik: Anupama Chopra on Vikram Vedha
Roshan’s character, Vedha, is maniacal yet charismatic, violent and unhinged. It’s an astonishing pivot from his lover-boy image.
Hrithik Roshan in Vikram Vedha is that rare thing – a Bollywood leading man gleefully demolishing his own image. Vedha is a murderer. Through the film, we see him kill men with guns, knives, even a gigantic hammer, with which he splits a man’s head open. In one scene, he jumps from a building and cleaves a man in half with a sword. There is no backstory, which explains or mitigates Vedha’s bloodlust.
When we first meet him, Vedha is a henchman who rapidly ascends the gang ladder because he isn’t afraid of taking lunatic risks. With a thick UP accent and dark glasses, which he manoeuvres with panache, Hrithik becomes an irresistibly charismatic antagonist. He drops his signature question, “Ek kahani sunaye, Sir?” with such unhinged wickedness, that the frame lights up.
It’s hard to imagine that this is an actor who has spent more than two decades being the superstar hero. Hrithik became an overnight sensation 22 years ago with Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, in which he played not one but two impossibly wholesome young men, Rohit and Raj. He followed that up with roles that amplified his leading man credentials – six-pack abs, the ability to dance and fight like a dream and of course, the stellar good looks.
This is the actor who could convincingly be both Emperor Akbar and caped superhero Krrish. Even when Hrithik played bad, like he did in Dhoom 2, he wasn’t really bad. He was just a suave thief who was so good at what he did that we were rooting for him to get away with it. Vedha is the first time that Hrithik has revealed a genuine heart of darkness.
Vikram Vedha is the 25th film in Hrithik’s career. In 2019, just before the release of War, I did an interview with him, in which he spoke to me about finding composure in front of the camera.
He said: “I’ve just started to experience it, in my last two films, I think. The gear that I was on when I first started off was fear. I was winning the race. I was crossing the line, but I was running fast because there was a dog after me. So I kept having these successes but I was running out of fear. It’s very recently that I started to look back and the dog was not there. I started to run just for the love of it. Now I’m experiencing a plethora of freedoms when I’m in front of the camera. Since Kaabil, there has been a complete shift in my stance.” When I asked him what made the dog go away, he said, it was because he had finally found the courage to be a little wrong and to expose himself. Hrithik said he had finally found the courage to be “authentic instead of being popular or being right.”
Hrithik 2.0 is a joy to watch. I hope he inspires more stars to let go of fear and soar.