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Times of India
The movie depicts the rise and fall of forest brigand and dreaded sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who oversaw a reign of terror in the forests of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Supreme Court's dismissal of the mercy petitions of Veerappan's gang members is bound to have created a lot of curiosity with regard to the film, which has been released after a long court battle. Sadly, the film that has hit the screens is a much-censored version, which neither does justice to the director's vision nor gives the audience an insight into the life and times of the forest brigand.
The first half rushes through the various incidents that brought him into the limelight, including the merciless killings of his opponents and various police and forest officials and the kidnapping of Kannada superstar Rajkumar (played by Suresh Oberoi) from his farmhouse in Gajanur on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border. These scenes are dealt with and dismissed in such a perfunctory manner that it almost seems as if one is watching a documentary. It is only in the second half, which begins with K Vijay Kumar (portrayed by Arjun) being put in charge of Tamil Nadu's special task force, that some energy is infused into the proceedings.
It is obvious that A M R Ramesh, whose earlier works include movies such as 'Kuppi' based on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, has done a lot of research, which shows in the detailing of characters and incidents. But with the character of Muthulakshmi (played by Vijayalakshmi) being completely cut out after a case filed by her threatened to block the movie's release, Veerappan comes out looking like a ruthless and cunning killer just out to make money by selling forest produce illegally. No attempt is made to humanize the character or to explain his reasons for becoming an outlaw.
What ultimately strikes a chord is the excellent work by Kishore, who seems to have lived the character of Veerappan. From sporting the dreaded whiskers to copying every mannerism of the jungle brigand, including his dress style and gait, this could have turned out to be the role of his career only if director Ramesh was allowed the creative freedom to make the movie he originally set out to.