Top Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan are reuniting after 20 years for “Vikram Vedha.”
The film, directed by writer-directors Pushkar and Gayatri, tells the story of a tough police officer Vikram (Khan) who sets out to track down and kill an equally tough gangster Vedha (Roshan). What unfolds is a cat-and-mouse chase, where Vedha, a master storyteller, helps Vikram peel back layers through a series of stories, leading to moral ambiguities.
“It has been 20 years since I worked with Saif on a film. Coming together with him for ‘Vikram Vedha’ was the best thing that could happen to me as an actor,” Roshan told Variety. “He is a co-star who pushes me to deliver my best onscreen. His acting is so real and powerful that it uplifts the whole scene. If given an opportunity, I’d like to collaborate with him again.”
“Hrithik is super committed and one of the actors that I really have a lot of respect for. And I knew that I would be challenged, and I’d have to work hard in terms of the way I looked at my fitness and action to try and keep up,” Khan told Variety. “And it frightened me a little bit, which is always good.”
The pair last co-starred in “Na Tum Jaano Na Hum” (2002). Khan was coming off the massively influential “Dil Chahta Hai” (2001) and Roshan was white hot after his debut as a leading man “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai” (2000) and “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…” (2001). Indeed, “Na Tum Jaano Na Hum” was named after one of the hit songs in “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai.”
“On ‘Na Tum Jaano Na Hum’ we were kids. And I didn’t really care,” says Khan. “I remember, Salman Khan came to the set. He said, ‘Why are you working with him? He’s going to kill you on screen, because he’s the hottest thing in Bollywood.’ And I said, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter.’ And it didn’t matter.”
“I was probably more conscious of crossing swords with him this time than I was then and I wanted to acquit myself well because I don’t think I’m going to be better at what I do than what I am today,” Khan added.
After playing scores of romantic roles, notably in “Kal Ho Naa Ho” (2003) and “Hum Tum” (2004), for which he won India’s National Award for best actor, Khan changed gear with the plum role of Ishwar/Langda Tyagi in Vishal Bhardwaj’s acclaimed “Othello” adaptation “Omkara” (2006). He gained international prominence in 2018 playing a world-weary cop in Netflix original series “Sacred Games,” which went on to earn an Emmy nomination.
Roshan has also had a phenomenally successful career with highlights including the Krrish franchise, “Jodhaa Akbar” (2008), “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” (2011), “Agneepath” (2012), “Bang Bang!” (2014) and “War” (2019).
“My prep for Vedha’s character began with constructing his world. Understanding his story, his journey and his lifestyle,” said Roshan. “I started with first working towards his physical aesthetics, while prepping to talk and walk the way Vedha would as envisioned by Gayatri, Pushkar and myself. Once the structure of Vedha was ready, we delved deeper into his mind, his emotions and means of expression. It was a journey that involved a lot of learning and unlearning, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to play the character of Vedha.”
The film is a remake of 2017 Tamil-language hit “Vikram Vedha,” also directed by Pushkar and Gayatri and starring R. Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi.
“It’s a very clever script, it’s all there on the page,” said Khan. “I saw the original – I saw it a couple of times. And I was very impressed by Madhavan’s performance, in the sense that when I came down to interpreting the role, there were very few things that I thought I would do differently, to be honest. I was like, this is pretty much the perfect way of playing it, except a few cultural things.”
Along with Mani Ratnam’s “Ponniyin Selvan: 1,” “Vikram Vedha” is the big Indian release on Sept. 30, with the latter getting one of the widest Bollywood releases of all time. After a somewhat rocky post-pandemic restart to the theatrical business in India, industry hopes are pinned on these two films.
“It’s cyclical, we go through great phases, and then everyone gets involved. Then we go through a bit of a drought and everyone’s singing doom of the industry and it’s all over,” said Khan. “But yeah, we need some nice hits so that people can start investing money more confidently, again. I’m sorry to say, I don’t think very good films have not run, and we just need to make better movies.”
Roshan added: “I hope the audience watches ‘Vikram Vedha’ and enjoys it as much as we did making it. Fingers crossed.”
“Vikram Vedha” is produced by T-Series and Reliance Entertainment in association with Friday Filmworks, Jio Studios and YNOT Studios. Producers include Bhushan Kumar, S. Sashikanth and Bhushan Kumar.