The inhumanness of humans is the crux of this Thiagarajan Kumararaja creation, but to digest the degree of avarice and the resultant avalanche of bloodshed showcased isn't easy. Aaranya Kaandam (A) isn't grey — it is black, with the carnivore in man laid bare for you to recoil in shock or move on with the thought that despite such an underbelly of crime, a decent, dignified society exists.

S.P. Charan deserves to be lauded for opting for a story that's dark in the darkest sense, going with a new director and breaking away from formula.

Expletives touch a new nadir, yet when it is about cutthroats steeped in crudeness and irreverence, they are inevitable. Otherwise Kumararaja's dialogue is simple and effective — the boy's pithy words in the final scene exemplify it.

Jackie Shroff is an unusual choice, but he's apt in the part of the generally soft-spoken aging don with a complex about his impotency, who kills without qualms. The shades of novelty in the character are very few, yet they impact.

The allegorical names of Singamperumal (Shroff), Pasupathi (Sampath) and rivals Gajendra and Gajapathy have been chosen with thought — as the title suggests, it is a jungle of brutes out there.

The only character that shows a semblance of feeling is Pasupathi, played by Sampath. He carries it off with aplomb. Displaying the angst of a criminal who has to save his woman at any cost, hold on to the booty and also keep himself a step ahead of his chasers, Sampath scores.

Ravikrishna re-surfaces in a solid role and does much better than he used to. And who is that boozer? It's a creditable show from him. The part of Subbu, the woman with an ace up her sleeve, has ample scope. Yasmin Ponnappa should have utilised it better.

The background score (Yuvan) is a plus, though the stretching silences in certain scenes are quite trying.

Just because it is a dark subject, should the film look dark, literally? And why combat with knives most of the time? Pistols could have been pulled out more often — at least it would have speeded up matters. The pace of AK gets you. What could have been a slick actioner is unnecessarily protracted — the elongated rooster fight, the henchmen's exchanges in the opening sequence and the drunkards' gibberish are examples. AK

Like Nayakan's protagonist who justifies acts of crime, Kumararaja begins with a rhetorical line that implies securing what you need is dharma! Never mind the means!

From Kill Bill and Kaminey to Bheema and Yogi, several vengeful sprees and sanguineous sagas have come your way. AK is the latest in the league.

The sombreness of this Kaandam leaves you depressed. If good is pitted against evil, you are happy. If good wins over evil you rejoice. And if evil meets its nemesis, you feel gratified. Here it's evil against evil all through.

Aaranya Kaandam

Genre: Really dark

Director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja

Cast: Jackie Shroff, Sampath, Ravi Krishna, Yasmin Ponnappa

Storyline: The drug war between killer groups and the ingenuity of one member among them who takes the factions on.

Bottomline: If you can stomach blood and bestiality at a slow pace, fine.