Cast: Sandeep Bhardwaj, Sachin Joshi, Lisa Ray
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
A society gets the criminal it deserves.
A 360-degree camera spin follows this Voltaire quote, and you find yourself surrounded by a dense forest and trumpeting tuskers. This territory belongs to Veerappan, a killing machine who counts LTTE chief Prabhakaran as his inspiration. You wish to know more about this rugged man, and a child appears with a camera mounted over his shoulders.
The kid takes you on a time warp and loud background score ensures you remain stuck there for a while. And then you breathe, recognise and realise it is that Ram Gopal Varma touch. Welcome to the world of omnipresent cameras.
Now, to the film’s story: Different task forces couldn’t kill or capture Veerappan (Sandeep Bhardwaj) in more than 15 years, so the project has been handed over to a no-nonsense cop (Sachin Joshi), who hasn’t been given a name in the film. He involves Shriya (Lisa Ray), an untrained civilian, in a highly confidential plan to eliminate Veerappan for reasons best known to Varma.
Though we know what happened on October 18, 2004, the day Veerappan was killed, we still sit in anticipation of RGV’s trademark storytelling, if we can ignore bad acting and touches like a candle in an already well lit room. There is a straight lift from Sholay as well. Who said RGV is out of his Aag hangover!
The disappointment grows when the script fails to produce any grip over the characters. Nobody other than Bhardwaj looks serious about the film. Thanks to his make-up artist, he reminds the viewer of the dreaded man from the beginning, but he has a gang that looks absolutely out of sync.
The cop, Joshi, takes this cluelessness many notches higher by inviting Lisa Ray to the interrogation room holding one of Veerappan’s aides. She breathes heavily, almost orgasmically, and it all becomes so ridiculous that you wonder who will faint first — Ray or the bandit?
Other characters bring no relief despite Varma’s flourishes of using camera from unexpected angles. The attempt to produce a taut thriller is hampered by the fact Veerappan states the obvious. Rather than how and why of the dreaded smuggler’s rise in the border areas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it seeks refuge in dishing out the details of Operation Cocoon.
Instead of diving deep into Veerappan’s past, there is an effort to create a positive halo around him. At a point, he candidly describes how he received only Rs 7 lakh out of the total Rs 9 crore ransom in the kidnapping of Kannada superstar, Dr Rajkumar.
The basic idea is to present it as a morally ambiguous story where the good can also use evil means, but that isn’t enough.
Having said that, this 126-minute film has pace and a narrative technique which may give you a glimpse of RGV’s old charm. But, the mojo isn’t completely back yet.