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Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Film Review: Veerappan

There are three elements that work in Ram Gopal Varma’s film on the notorious bandit Veerappan. The first is the real life story, the second is the casting and styling of Sandeep Bharadwaj as Veerappan (he played the same part in the original Kannada film, Killing Veerappan) and the third is the location and production design. The list of things that do not work is longer: The jarring background music, which Varma cannot seem to do without; the lack of smart editing, which could have shaved off a substantial amount of flab from the narrative; a few of the performances, in particular the monotonous Sachiin Joshi as the leader of the special task force focused on tracking down the bandit; the one-dimensional, all-bad Veerappan.

While we are given an academic account of the rise of Veerappan, we learn nothing new about him—his modus operandi, how he came to marry, what he did with all his wealth. Varma’s interest is mainly in Operation Cocoon, which led to the killing of Veerappan in 2004.

The film opens with an attack on a local police outpost and the brutal killing of a senior policeman. The law enforcement agencies are repeatedly being out-gunned by Veerappan and his gang. Finally, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police forces unite to form a combined task force to flush out and kill the sandalwood and ivory smuggler. Kannan (Joshi), the head of the task force, recruits the dead policeman’s wife (Lisa Ray) to befriend and spy on Veerappan’s wife, Muthulakshmi (Usha Jadhav), who is in police custody. The widow becomes landlady to Muthulakshmi, and they strike up a deep and trusting friendship.

With Muthulakshmi entra-pped, the police finally get within sniffing distance of Veerappan. The opportunity for a delicious cat and mouse game, with strategies and intrigue, is compromised by the overuse of certain cinematic devices (scenes between two people with muted dialogue), an over-reliance on background music, underuse of editing, and caricaturized characters. Varma introduces a few odd characters, some of whom have a physical abnormality.

The set pieces and fight scenes are well designed and filmed, and the locations are remarkable. In the jungle scenes, we see flashes of the Varma of old, and he gets solid support from Bharadwaj’s and Jadhav’s performances. If only the screenplay had been tighter and the mood more suspenseful.

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