Asuran Review: A fierce tale on caste violence packed with gory action!
Dhanush and Vetrimaaran form one of the most trustable actor-director combos in Tamil cinema. With their latest release ‘Asuran’ they further prove this. Based on the novel ‘Vekkai’ by Poomani, Vetrimaaran has come up with an intense tale on revenge, caste and class violence.
Asuran’s story is set in the dry, rustic Kovilpatti region between the ‘60s to ‘80s. Sivasami (Dhanush) is a middle aged farmer living with his family comprising of his wife Pachaiyamma (Manju Warrier), two sons Murugan (TeeJay Arunasalam) and Chidamabaram (Ken Karunas), daughter, and his supportive brother-in-law (Pasupathi). The humble family own three acres of land which is adjacent to that of Narasimha aka Vadakkooran (Aadukalam Narein). He tries to grab the land for starting a cement factory but his efforts go in vain as Sivasami’s family are determined to not let lose the only piece of land they own.
Soon Vadakooran’ son and his men get into a fist fight with Murugan. The rich and influential Vadakooran gets Murugan arrested and forces Sivasami to apologize and humiliates him in front of the entire village. Things take a turn for the ugly when Murugan avenges for his father’s humiliation by slapping Vadakkooran. Enraged by this, Vadakkooran and co. murder Murugan brutally and severes his head.
Murugan’s mother Pachaiyamma refuses to accept that her son has been killed and falls into depression. Deeply affected by his mother’s condition and to seek revenge for his brother’s death, Chidambaram murders Vadakkooran. Sivasami’s family is forced to flee out of the village and from then on it’s all about their survival.
Superficially seen, ‘Asuran’ is a revenge drama that is triggered by greed for land. But if you pay close attention, it is actually a dark tale on caste injustice, particularly dalit oppression. Though caste names have not been used, what the makers have intended to show is quite evident. The same becomes more clear with the flashback portions where we are shown school going girls getting attacked publicly for wearing slippers. Had the flashback was a bit shorter, the film would have worked much better.
Right from the very shot of a calm moonlit stream getting disturbed by Sivasami and his son running for their life, Vetrimaaran’s craft is on display. Some lengthy shots are staged and shot brilliantly with the help of his frequent collaborator, DOP Velraj. The bird’s eye view of the agricultural fields and the long walks through barren lands all absorbs the audience to feel the heat, both in the atmosphere and in the storyline.
GV Prakash’s music is a major asset to this film as he gets the rural flavour spot on. The song ‘Ellu Vaaya Pookalaye’ will shatter even the strongest of hearts. His thumping background score aided by slo-mo edits and Dhanush’s fierce persona all syncs perfectly to elevate the mass moments. Peter Hein’s action choreography deserves a special mention as it has been a long time since such we’ve seen such ferocious stunts. Thankfully, the actors were up for the challenge.
On the down side, it seems like the makers were completely ignorant of the lip sync issue. There was an inconsistency throughout and felt very odd at the beginning. Guess better dialogues were added in the dubbing stage but it still could have been avoided.
Coming to the performances, Dhanush is at his stunning best, both as the forty plus Sivasami and his younger version. It is the former that gives him more scope to showcase the range he possesses as an actor. He is ably supported by the two newcomers Ken Karunas and Teejay Arunasalam, both of whom showed much promise. Manju Warrier’s is a case of brilliance in casting as the Malayali actress stood up with the effortlessness of Dhanush. She even nailed the tough Nellai slang and looked so convincing as the underprivileged Tamil woman. Pasupathi was the calm amidst all the storm and just seeing him on screen gave some sort of assurance. It’s a crime that filmmakers these enough don’t give enough fodder for this highly talented actor.
Vetrimaaran and his co-writer Manimaaran have worked superbly on the layers as the caste commentary is never on face. And the film never lets out a wrong message – it clearly says that revenge is never a solution. Moreover, the politics in the film reminds one of the Pa Ranjith brand of cinema. Even the last dialogue, a very powerful one, where Sivasami stresses on the importance of education resonates with BR Ambedkar’s famous words – educate, organise, agitate.
In a nutshell, ‘Asuran’ is another gem from the Vetrimaaran-Dhanush duo. It’s as raw as it gets and is elevated to the next level by its actors, especially Dhanush who delivers a truly asura level performance!