Director: ARK Saravan
Cast: Hiphop Tamizha Adhi, Athira Raj, Vinay Rai
You might not like several aspects of Veeran but it’s not too difficult to understand that this movie has been imagined by a person with a very original idea of humour. But it’s not so much the process of writing these elaborate gags that's giving you this feeling. Instead, it’s the conviction with which he’s able to deliver big laughs and that too with a set of performances that would stick out in any other film. One such in Veeran is how it uses the hero’s superpowers as the base for long stretches of comedy. The hero here has the power to control people’s minds but only for a short duration of time. Now this idea may have been used extensively to the point where even the central conflict ends in minutes. Yet Saravanan chooses to prop up this power almost entirely for laughs. In one situation, Veeran (Hiphop Tamizha Aadhi) gets a senior government official to halt the process that could damage his village by controlling his mind. Ensuring this officer refrains from signing a document is one thing but the writing is oftentimes so wild that this superhero convinces this officer to start cooking instead and not just anything, but onion sambhar.
The scene plays out exactly as randomly as the sentence above and that in parts is what makes Veeran reasonably enjoyable even if we’re only waiting for the next gag to play out. Like Minnal Murali, this film too is very much a homegrown superhero with the film set in a village called Veeranooru somewhere in the middle of picturesque Pollachi. If the originality of the funny scenes keeps us hooked for the most part, the lack of originality in the basic idea chases us away. Agreed that this is Tamil cinema’s first real superhero movie but you can’t really remove the template of a rural hero standing up for his people, that too to tackle the evil intentions of an evil corporation.
The conflict is what we’ve seen in a million mass movies before but then again, it is the randomness that comes to the film’s rescue. The evil corporation here does not want to steal the people’s water or introduce a certain kind of pesticide to destroy their crops. Instead, this power company is in the process of laying a multi-crore laser cable through 26 such villages with the hope that it generates power. It’s a 2000 crore project and Veeranooru is the last village this cable has to go through for the project to get completed.
Now don’t ask me why the central power unit of such an expensive project requires to be protected using a Rs.200 Godrej lock that anyone can break open but you’ve already accepted the silliness as the film’s flavour by this point. The silliness works in its favour even when we meet the extremely over-the-top supervillain, whose main hobby is to develop a green-coloured poison that leads to the implosion of his victims.
This comic-book quality keeps the film likeable because who can take offence at a film that seems to be targeted at children (Veeran later saves a little girl from imminent danger). It is when it tries to get serious with a Science Versus Saamy debate that things go out of control. It is with the way that it wants to “address” the issue of indigenous Gods of rural Tamil Nadu that you feel the film diluting itself from its strengths. In parts, you feel like the film is reinforcing notions of religion and how it can be used to manipulate gullible villagers into almost anything. When Veeran thinks of using the legend of one such God and his own superpowers, the plan initially is to get his villagers to oppose the corporation in the name of God.
But this wouldn’t be such a progressive take, would it? So you find the film retrofitting disclaimers to make sure it does not promote any false mythmaking to fool its people, even if it is a worthy cause. These modifications to the central idea feel like a cop-out, especially when it uses an obviously Marxist character as someone who has to accept the powers of blind faith, even if it is for his daughter’s well-being.
What makes these detours a little annoying is how it’s forcing you to take the movie seriously even when we’ve happily accepted its out-of-the-world gimmickry as a strong suit. The redeeming factor, even when the film loses direction, is the comedy, that too anchored by a set of actors we want to keep seeing more of.
Which is to say that the superhero aspect of the film doesn’t quite work either, especially after a point. If mind control works for the laughs, his ability to shoot out lighting strikes should have worked for the action bits. But this too is used predictably to do things most movie heroes can pull off anyway. Except for an interesting interpretation of the Baasha electric pole scene, the use of a superhero is, for the most part, as generic as you would see in most Marvel movies.
And without the mega wattage of a superstar, you find Hip Hop Aadhi struggling to sell the slow-mo reveals where we see him for the first time in his superhero costume. Veeran works for the most part as a decent superhero movie that’s meant to speak to children. But we will have to wait for another day to see if a superhero can find a home in an issue-based rural mass movie where the dhavani is still more powerful than a cape.