‘The Hunt For Veerappan’ Review: A Dark And In-depth Discussion Of Veerappan’s Complex Anti-heroism

Directed by Selvamani Selvaraj, one of Netflix’s most recent offerings is a compelling Indian documentary titled The Hunt for Veerappan. This four-part documentary series emerges as a captivating exploration of one of India’s most notorious criminals, Veerappan. However, this documentary goes beyond a mere exposé of Veerappan’s criminal exploits and adeptly serves as a mirror, projecting back to the audience the intricate dynamics at play among law enforcement tactics, societal tensions, and the delicate equilibrium between criminal activity and the quest for justice. The series goes beyond Veerappan’s life to reveal how different factors influence law and order. Selvaraj’s skilled direction prompts us to think about the bigger consequences and ethical questions that emerge when society seeks revenge against criminals. This documentary shows the strength of storytelling, exposing both the grim aspects of humanity and the intricate challenges in the ongoing battle between crime and justice.

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Hailing from the rural village of Gopinathan in Karnataka, near the border with Tamil Nadu, in Veerappan’s early life he shared an inseparable bond with the surrounding forests. Growing up, his life became intertwined with the wilderness, and he gradually became a part of this natural world. He married a village girl, Muthulakshmi, in 1990, when he was already king of the jungle. He asserted his authority not only over his gang members but also over the entire village.

Veerappan’s hunting capabilities flourished, gaining him a reputation as a ferocious poacher. His target became the jungle’s elephants, and shockingly, he was responsible for the ruthless killing of over 2000 elephants, taking their valuable ivory tusks for profit. As the elephant population in the jungle declined and government regulations became stricter, his pursuits shifted towards the dangerous trade of sandalwood. This change led to his being infamously known as “Chandan Taskar Veerappan” or “The Sandalwood Smuggler.”

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However, Veerappan was not just a menacing outlaw and smuggler. His deep-seated animosity towards authority figures, especially the police, made him a terrifying individual. He used fear to keep his village under control, even threatening those who dared to cooperate with law enforcement. Veerappan’s cruelty extended beyond theft and smuggling; he decided to bring the hell out of those who challenged his rule, leading to the deaths of numerous forest officers, police personnel, and members of the specialized task force created by the government to capture him. Despite the government’s efforts to end his reign of terror, Veerappan managed to evade capture for a decade, until 2004, when his spree of violence and criminal activities finally came to a close. His story is a dark chapter in India’s history, characterized by a complex blend of terror, wildlife exploitation, and the struggle between law enforcement and an elusive outlaw.

Ram Gopal Varma’s 2016 film Veerappan was a gripping exploration of the dark criminal world and the elusive life of Veerappan, effectively engaging the audience with its brutality. On the other hand, The Hunt for Veerappan, a documentary, takes a different approach. It avoids sensationalizing Veerappan’s heinous deeds and instead draws parallels between his criminal acts and the authorities’ pursuit of him. This pursuit led to unintended consequences, including the unjust detention of innocent villagers and the deaths of some gang members at the hands of the police.

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This cycle of violence only fueled Veerappan’s anger and escalated his murderous acts. The documentary maintains a humane perspective and highlights interviews with Muthulakshmi, who attempts to portray her husband as a rebel or martyr. Personally, I found the documentary engrossing, as it delved into various aspects of Veerappan’s life, from his killing spree and the beheading of a District Forest Officer to the abduction of the renowned actor Dr. Rajkumar. However, conspicuously absent from the documentary was any discussion of the infamous incident involving Veerappan killing his own daughter. Perhaps Muthulakshmi chose not to address this issue due to discomfort, or it could be dismissed as a mere rumor. Instead of those dark and twisted aspects, the series focuses on unveiling the tender affection shared between Muthulakshmi and Veerappan while also tracing his journey from a mere bandit to a fervent revolutionary figure who demanded a sovereign Tamil state. However, the documentary skillfully delves into the intricacies of Veerappan’s motivations, highlighting the paradox within his actions. Despite his outwardly political and attention-grabbing demands, a deeper examination reveals that his core driving force was centered around gaining more wealth. This duality raises questions about the complexity of Veerappan’s motives.

The Hunt for Veerappan handles its subject matter expertly, maintaining a neutral approach to highlight the misdeeds committed by law enforcement as well. These actions range from disturbing acts like mistreating innocent women to carrying out unauthorized killings in the name of justice or payback. The documentary raises an important question: Can the pursuit of justice by those in authority be considered valid when they themselves engage in objectionable actions? This idea prompts us to consider whether their efforts inadvertently promote violence. But while it is indeed a debatable issue whether the method adapted by the police to capture Veerppan was morally ethical or not, the eventual end of Veerappan does manage to bring a measure of comfort to those who had lived in fear due to his ominous presence.

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On the contrary, the gang members and Veerappan’s family held the conviction that his demise was a blow to their state and their people. To them, he epitomized true bravery. Nevertheless, the docu-series posed a probing question to Muthulakshmi: Did she genuinely consider taking lives to be a demonstration of courage? The documentary took on a noticeably dark and occasionally eerie mood, particularly when watching Muthulakshmi passionately stand up for her husband, even proudly acknowledging his skill in ending lives. Yet it also offered a peek into her vulnerability as a wife, partner, and mother. In this portrayal, she comes across as someone who unwaveringly puts her family’s welfare first. In pursuing this goal, she felt compelled to come to terms with the array of violent deeds her husband once carried out. Veerappan’s end marks the conclusion of a sinister story, yet his character remains puzzling—a combination of fearless bravery and unsettling cruelty. As the darkness fades, his legacy triggers us to contemplate the delicate boundary between his bravery and motive for violence, firmly establishing his name among some of the more complex antiheroes.


Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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The Hunt for Veerappan handles its subject matter expertly, maintaining a neutral approach to highlight the misdeeds committed by law enforcement as well. 'The Hunt For Veerappan' Review: A Dark And In-depth Discussion Of Veerappan's Complex Anti-heroism