Killing Veerappan cinematically

Ever since the night of October 18, 2004, when forest brigand Veerappan was killed, there have been many unsubstantiated rumours, or let’s say theories about what actually took place that night. Veerappan was killed, yes. But, how did the Special Task Force manage to lure him out of his inviolable forest?

Did Veerappan venture out for an eye operation or to meet Prabhakaran from the LTTE? Ram Gopal Varma’s Killing Veerappan, starring Shivarajkumar,picks up one such theory and presents a stylised, RGV-ised version of events.

“This is the truth as I know it,” says RGV as the film opens.

The film begins directly with the planning of Operation Cocoon. In reality, this was a mission headed by the Commander of the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force, K. Vijay Kumar, who masterminded the final assault on Veerappan.

Shivarajkumar plays the Superintendent of Police in Vijay Kumar’s team. Discernibly, his character is modelled on SP Senthamarai Kannan, who is believed to have actually planned the entire mission. In RGV’s version, Kannan is a non-conformist, one who would willingly flout rules as long as Veerappan is captured.

The plot tracks the team’s attempts to corner the bandit. Shreya (Parul Yadav) is hired to befriend Muthulakshmi (Yagna Shetty) so that the STF can get closer to her husband.

The goal is clear: Veerappan has to be lured out of the forest. How the team manages this forms the rest of the plot.

There is little doubt that Killing Veerappan looks slick and is full of engaging camera work. The casting of Sandeep Bharadwaj as Veerappan too is pretty spot on.

Where the film fumbles, however, is in the delineation of its characters. The story, the protagonists and the outcome is already known. What the audience is really interested in is the ‘how’ of it all, even if it is a theory. But, RGV relies on us to know who Veerappan was and why Operation Cocoon was important. The narration jumps back and forth to include a few brief flashback sequences. What RGV does is present a simplified good versus bad guy plot. But that we already know!

Of course, he tells us that the good guy is not entirely virtuous, just that he happens to be batting for the morally right side.We needed to know Veerappan, his gang, his idols and his relationship with Tamil extremists better in order to understand why he left the forest that night.

Shreya and Muthulakshmi are the characters that are least developed. We have no idea who Shreya is and why she agrees to be an informer. And, Muthulakshmi’s rather complex relationship with the bandit is barely touched upon. And this is a tragedy, for Yagna is a good performer.

The film, of course, will be a treat for the fans of Shivarajkumar because Killing Veerappan is as much about the star that he is. The personal story of his father, Rajkumar’s kidnap, intersects with that of Kannan’s passion for killing the bandit and at times it feels like it is Shivarajkumar and not Kannan settling scores, albeit cinematically. Killing Veerappan is sensational, thrilling even, but not convincing enough for it is more about Shivarajkumar than about Veerappan.

Killing Veerappan (Kannada)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Cast: Shivarajkumar, Sandeep Bharadwaj, Parul Yadav, Sanchari Vijay, Yagna Shetty, Sadh Orhan

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 8:19:45 AM |

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