Veeran Movie Review: A superhero film in which the attraction is everybody else
As a corporation vs village story, Veeran is redundant. But every time the film trains its focus on its supporting characters it feels like director ARK Saravan is onto something
In perhaps the funniest scene of Veeran, a bad suit-clad boss (the impressive R Badree) storms into Veeranur to destroy a village deity site, but the superhero protagonist exercises ‘mind-control’ (Harry Potter fans might recognise this as the Imperius curse) and has him dancing to his tunes, literally. It’s a scene that gets funnier with repetition—like another scene featuring a government official played by Chinni Jayanth. It’s these little nuggets I liked in Veeran, moments where director ARK Saravan doesn’t seem too daunted by the pressure of making a superhero film and allows the superhero to work with the sweet-natured people of Veeranur to achieve ‘small’ objectives.
Director: ARK Saravan
Cast: Hip Hop Tamizha Adhi, Munishkanth, Kaali Venkat, R Badri, Sassi Selvaraj
If it’s true that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, then, surely, a superhero in a village must be indistinguishable from… god. This is a foundational parallel drawn throughout the story, with a good priest constantly getting his faith rewarded (remember how a line in The Dark Knight goes, “Sometimes, people deserve to get their faith rewarded’?). There’s even the suggestion that the village deity itself is a mythologised figure of a real warrior. Veeran, in these portions, treads a slender line to ensure that it never comes through as a ‘saami padam’; neither does it ever condescend on the power of faith. In fact, there’s a beautiful scene about how faith can move mountains—or in the case of this film, a paralysed girl. One good man, Kumaran/Veeran (Hip Hop Aadhi), goes to great lengths to underplay the effects of god… while many other good people in the village, including the priest, are happy to repose their faith in the supernatural. This film loves both.
Adhi as Kumaran isn’t exactly radiating charisma (even if his music is likeable and fascinatingly urban for the rural scape). However, I enjoyed that his character constantly underplays the importance of a superhero. It’s a departure from the vanity we are used to associating with superheroes. Even a Batman who seems so burdened by superhero duties finds the time to pose atop skyscrapers, his cape flying elegantly in moonlight. In this film, however, at a time of great need, Veeran’s powers (mind-control and electric arcs) fail him, as he totters, bruised and bloody. It’s a nice touch to emphasise that this man’s superhero attribute isn’t the powers he procured accidentally, but his unquenchable thirst for resistance. In fact, he says as much when he tells the people of Veeranur that they don’t need a superhero if they remember to stand united in resistance.
None of these appreciative observations is to excuse the many problems within the film, including how long it takes to get going, the lack of purpose for the hero’s friend and girlfriend, the weak main villain (Vinay), the generic corporation-exploits-village idea, the not-so-memorable stunts… I could go on, but it’s a film that also has enough moments of enjoyment—or should I say, amusement. Much like the filmmaker’s first film, Maragadha Nanayam, in which the humour shone (over the horror), here too, he seems most comfortable when operating in light spaces. And is there any other actor who’s better suited to playing the village simpleton than Munishkanth right now? There are many other such likeable characters—including a horse owner, the hero’s friend who gets plenty of screen-time and perhaps more dialogues than the hero, the heroine’s fiance, the young leader of a youth welfare association… ARK Saravan’s film seems to have a lot of love for the many people of Veeranur, and I enjoyed the democracy of his storytelling. Nothing summarises his love for the little people more than the scene in which the big villain gets taken down—or in his eagerness to give that fiance character a happy end.
And yet, it's a strange film—a film that’s mediocre with the grand but good with the minutiae. The origins story is so-so. The man-hero-superhero arc is half-hearted. The main villain is a farce. The hero’s power seems problematically intrusive. The heroine is purposeless. But contrast all of this with the film’s love for the ‘little’—especially, the many little people in Veeranur. Even the memorable villain isn’t the main character played by Vinay, but his little brother (R Badree). Even the temple site the hero is protecting isn’t a grand structure of architectural beauty. It’s merely a hint of a deity, a little symbol of a vaster feeling. For such nifty little touches, I feel compelled to be a little forgiving.