What happens when a promising film shows obvious marks of having been unrecognisably mauled? It looks disjointed and pathetic. Like Vanayuddham (U) does!

When director AMR. Ramesh first announced the film on the life of forest brigand Veerappan, it kindled immense interest, also because earlier Ramesh’s Kuppi (Cyanide in Kannada) had created quite a stir. It was the story of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers. Comparatively Vanayuddham appeared to be an innocuous showcase of the unlawful escapades of an anti-social element. The result is that a storyline with potential for a racy feature dwindles into a tepid docu-drama.

Where is Vijayalakshmi, who is supposed to have played the part of Veerappan’s wife? For all purposes Veerappan is just an aging bachelor in Vanayuddham. After a point watching his unscrupulous acts in quick succession is tedium.

Kishore plays Veerappan and does his best to resurrect a tattered storyline, in vain. But once Arjun enters the scene as Vijayakumar, chief of the Special Task Force, matters do look up. The last hour of Vanayuddham has some interesting moments.

Casting is commendable. Be it Kishore, Arjun, Ravi Kale, the officer working under him, Aadukalam Jayabalan, the ex-serviceman who’s initially in the payroll of Veerappan, or even Suresh Oberoi who plays the kidnapped Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar, Vanayuddham boasts of a capable team of performers. The only two women in the film — Lakshmi Rai and Shikha — have very little to do. Of course, the Chief Minister is only heard.

Yet behind the haze, you see her hands in close-up. If it’s Sulakshana who dons the role (you also see her in a scene as Rajkumar’s wife) the director could have made it less guessable.

Though said to be a straight film, the early portions are clearly dubbed from Kannada. It’s only after Arjun’s arrival that you are made to feel that Vanayuddham is a Tamil film after all.

Thankfully the film has no songs, but the RR is an assault on your aural sense. As the film sustains viewers’ interest in parts, cinematographer Vijay Milton’s toil could go unnoticed.

It’s sad that all the research that is said to have gone into the film has come to nought. These days, unrealistic super hero subjects seem a safe bet. Any true-life venture could spell angst for the maker. Vanayuddham is another case in point.