• Release Date: 04/10/2019
  • Cast: Dhanush, Manju Warrier, Prakash Raj, Pasupathy, Pavan, Aadukalam Naren, Ken Karunas, Tee Jay, Abhirami
  • Director: Vetrimaaran
  • Platform: Amazon prime Videos / YouTube (Hindi dub)

Pure, vicious and unabashed revenge has been the driving force behind uncountable blockbusters and it still continues to incite and inspire filmmakers to bring their own take on the subject. One such attempt is Asuran that chronicles the journey of a father living in a society that is as brutal as it is unforgiving. Asuran is based on the novel Vekkai by Poomani. 

Sivasami (Dhanush) owns a patch of land in an area where his immediate neighbour is a landlord, Vaddakuran (Aadukalam Naren) who wants to start a cement plant on his land. He wants Sivasami’s plot added to his plot of land as it is the only piece of land in the area that he doesn’t control. Sivasami refuses to sell his hand. Vaddakuran is enraged by this uncharacteristic defiance from a man who is much below him in the food chain and village hierarchy. Soon petty conflicts start between the two landowners and things escalate to a situation where things get physical.

Velmurugan (Tee Jay) Sivasami’s elder son is arrested and tortured by the police for thrashing Vaddakuran’s son. To get him out of jail, Sivasami is forced to do something that enrages Velmurugan when he learns about it from his younger brother Chidambaram (Ken Karunas). He attacks Vaddakuran and teaches him a lesson in insults and how much it can sting. Vaddakuran retaliates and mets out one of the most brutal deaths ever to have graced the Indian screen to Velmurugan. Sivasami’s family is destroyed. He is looked upon as a coward by his younger son Chidambaram as he doesn’t do anything to avenge Velmurugan. His wife is disillusioned and doesn’t want to accept the fact that her son is dead. Sivasami cannot live with the fact that he didn’t even get to perform the last rites of his son while the perpetrators ate heartily and roamed free. Time passes on and Sivasami’s family continues living in agony until Chidambaram decides to take matters into his own hands.

He does the unthinkable when he hacks down, Vaddakuran in full public view and escapes by lobbing a bomb on the street. Sivasami is present at the scene and he realises that unless he makes a quick escape to the nearby forest with Chidambaram, he will be dead in no time. Vaddakuran’s son sends a group of men after the father-son duo. These men are trained killers and have honed their skills by tracking down and killing wild pigs for years. These were the men who murdered Velmurugan in the first place. Sivasami is still looked down upon by Chidambaram who believes that he is a weakling and doesn’t have the strength to fight anyone even if it is to avenge his murdered son. 

Soon a time comes when they are discovered by the killers and Chidambaram’s survival is at stake. It is at this juncture that he gets to see his father for the true monster (Asuran) that he is and learn about a period of his life that he didn’t know existed. He finally gets to know why Sivasami is so submissive and why he chose not to avenge his murdered son.

There is so much to appreciate in Asuran that its occasional flaws literally melt away. If one looks at this film closely, its story is nothing that we haven’t seen a hundred times before. What makes the film special is how the story is approached and treated. Vetrimaaran presents the story in a manner that not only renders every character in question real but also does little things that make us form an instant connection with these characters. 

Velmurugan is a man with a clear conscience and a free thought process. We see him visit a suitable match and in this scene, we see how sober and likeable he is. In the scene involving the family’s first conflict with Vaddakuran, we see how fearless and physically strong he is. In the scene where he insults Vaddakuran, we get a chance to see how intelligent he can be. Thus, the director in many ways makes us warm up to his character and presents him as the real hero letting Dhanush underplay his part.

When Velmurugan is murdered and his decapitated body is discovered, Vetrimaaran consciously prolongs the scene to milk every ounce of the destructive drama that Dhanush and Manju Warrier (playing his wife Pachaiyammal) conjure up. I never looked away from a death scene in a manner that I did in this case. It was beyond horrifying. 

After Chidambaram commits the act of vengeance, we are constantly in fear of what would happen to this kid. The brutality and efficiency of the men tracking them has been documented before and hence we feel that the father-son duo is doomed. We already have an emotional connection with them and hence the fear factor is increased exponentially. Thus when Sivasami is found to be more than capable of dealing with these killers owing to his violent past, it comes in as a great release of the tension that was being built up for almost an hour. It is also a scene that is bound to make the audiences go wild with excitement.

The director then takes us back to Sivasami’s past as he explains to his son why he is so submissive. This portion can serve as a full-fledged film itself. It has a tender love story, it has betrayal, it has violence and like the first act of the film, it ends with an exceptionally satisfying release of a buildup that was being worked up efficiently. Here again, the director makes us privy to certain information — like a kid being thrown back into a raging fire even after he was thrown out of it by someone to save his life — in such an effective manner that our blood is boiling just as much as Sivasami’s and we can totally understand and support his violent killing spree. This portion also effectively explains why he developed a distaste for violence altogether.

Dhanush is always beyond good in characters that are real and earthen. Vetrimaaran’s films have been rooted in realism. Thus the two complement each other wonderfully well. The director knows exactly how to utilise Dhanush’s guiles and he does so with aplomb. He is just as effective as a distraught father as he is as a marauding killer who can take down a gang of killers without breaking a sweat. It was interesting to see Dhanush playing a character spread across decades with very different attitudes and yet nail both the versions of it equally well. 

Manju Warrier is astounding as the mother who has just lost a son and is on the verge of losing her husband and younger son. One can see a feeling of angst and a sense of fear in her eyes sometimes at the same moment in certain sequences. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job with the character. Tee Jay has a small role but he makes you fall in love with his character even in that short span of time. Ken Karunas as Chidambaram is believable and affecting. Prakash Raj does his bit in a small cameo. Every actor essaying and antagonist in the film will strike fear in your heart. It is something that was necessary to make the proceedings as horrifying as they turned out to be.

Asuran is a riveting and horrifying watch. Even though it ends with things beginning to look bright for Sivasami and his family we know all too well that whatever has been taken away from him will never be restored. Even though he smiles as the film draws to a close we can sense a feeling of melancholy in that smile. Asuran is in strong keeping with the body of work that Vetrimaaran is known for and it brings to the table all that is loved and revered about his art. It is a must-watch for anyone and everyone who enjoys films but be warned. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Also read: Godzilla vs Kong is redeemed by a spectacular finale

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