A deadly sandalwood-ivory smuggler and the most wanted criminal in India in the last four decades; a criminal for whom the costliest and the longest capturing operations were undertaken by the authorities of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; an extremist who had LTTE chief Prabhakaran as his inspirational idol and the killing machine who didn’t even think for a second before shooting a group of people together, certainly deserved an intense, informative as well spine chilling biographical movie unarguably.
So when I heard that RGV is planning to go for the same with a docu-drama style of making similar to his worth watching THE ATTACKS OF 26/11, then I was both glad and excited together being an ardent fan. And further when his KILLING VEERAPPAN (majorly revolving around Operation Cocoon) became a Hit in Kannada language getting rave reviews (to the extent of saying RGV is back) then the excitement got even bigger, waiting for its Hindi adaptation to be released soon (in the same year).
However, it’s really sad that the much awaited Hindi version VEERAPPAN doesn’t turn out to be anything exceptionally great or novel allowing us to declare ‘he’s back’. So the man is not really here with any great movie, but thankfully does manages to deliver an average straight forward biographical film that’s (at least) much better than many of his recent awful attempts in comparative terms.
Interestingly this time it’s the amazing-scary resemblance of its lead actor (to the real VEERAPPAN) that works big time for the movie, much more than any famous directorial touches, out of the box narrative or supporting performances. In other words VEERAPPAN works only when Sandeep Bhardwaj captures the screen as the killing machine and not in any other moment at all to be straight. Though even Sandeep doesn’t display any wide range of expressions throughout the long duration, yet its his strong presence alone that largely saves the film from becoming another forgettable venture from the once ‘trendsetter of our cinema’.
Apart from Sandeep, there is only Usha Jadhav who shows a decent sincerity in her portrayal as Veerappan’s wife along with some new faces towards the end, whereas the rest of the cast boldly exhibits its peculiar standard of acting following a ‘trashy’ mode. For instance, Sachin Joshi confidently keeps conveying I am the hero of the film-as I am the producer too, in his every single scene with a similar expression and Lisa Ray keeps making weird faces into the camera playing her own games. Plus it was really strange to see the gang members running along the man, treated as some unimportant extras called in just to stand in the frame.
Technically generating a ‘deja-vu’ kind of feeling through all familiar sequences, camera angles, character movements and jaded chases, VEERAPPAN isn’t any breakthrough film from a director back in form, crushing all the big expectations raised by some recent ‘must watch’ interviews, like the one taken by Anupama Chopra.
Yes, we do get some glimpses of the maverick in the brutal killings, scenes of ripping off ivory tusks from the dead elephants, the hiding with the kid and the waterfall sequence. Yet the script doesn’t have any grand narration on the subject knocking you down with its every next scene like the RGV we remember from the 90s. It keeps proceeding on the same pace without building any kind of mystery around the controversial figure and then simply ends missing that much awaited exciting thrill or extreme characterization mostly seen in the director’s innovative films. As a matter of fact, Ram Gopal Varma’s JUNGLE (2000) had a much better suspenseful mystical aura built around a similar negative figure with a different name.
In addition, I personally found the presentation quite confusing as it was not clear, how the writer-director actually wished to portray Veerappan before his audience. To give you an example, at one end he is shown to be brave as hell, whereas on the other he quickly runs away without caring about his unarmed wife when the police attacks their hideout unexpectedly. Besides, watching Lisa Ray standing in a police interrogation room right behind the person being beaten to death honestly forced me to think that, was this really a scene from a Ram Gopal Varma film?
Moreover the background music that always has been a forte of RGV ventures, disappointingly turns into loud scary score after a fine start and I really wish the veteran had used “Veer veer veer veer Veerappan” repeatedly in the film just like he did in his earlier gems (instead of going for an unnecessary variety).
Summing up, this is neither any century nor a 50 hit by our not-in-form famous batsman. But it isn’t a duck either and the man does score a good 30-40 runs showing that he has still not lost the touch and is bound to get back soon in the coming years.
Rating : 2 + 0.5 / 5 (with the additional 0.5 just for the perfect lead casting that couldn’t be any better.)
[And now I would honestly like to know what actually went wrong in this Hindi version falling way short of its original Kannada hit KILLING VEERAPPAN in comparison.]