Dhanush and director Vetrimaran has once again dared to take the road less traveled, and delivered another brilliant film, that hooks you straight away. For the actor-director combo, it is another feather on their cap and as good as their earlier films like Pollathavan Adukalam and Vada Chennai. It is intense, raw, and hard-hitting, and tells about the hold of caste and class in rural south Tamil Nadu of 1980s, where the rich gobbled up farmlands from the poor in the name of development. The film is an adaptation of Sahitya Academy Award winner Poomani’s novel Vekkai.
The film also shows the mastery of Vetrimaran over his craft and storytelling in making it an entertaining manner without being preachy. It is marked by an outstanding performance from Dhanush, who can be seen in three avatars, as a hot blooded youngster, a matured middle-aged man, and a calm and composed old man in his early 50s. The character allows Dhanush to prove his acting range and calibre without any prosthetic make up or gimmicks. Be warned: it is the most violent film from the director-actor duo so far as the story is all about revenge and its consequences.
Asuran is a riveting blood-soaked revenge drama set in rural Kovilpatti near Tirunelveli in the 1980s in south Tamil Nadu. Sivasamy (Dhanush), a lower-caste person is a marginal farmer and an alcoholic, who leads a peaceful life, along with his aggressive wife Pachaiyamma (Manju Warrier). Both their sons, the 20-year-old Murugan (Teejay) and the 16-year-old Chidambaram (Ken) are hot-headed. Their happy family life gets a jolt when a rich landlord, belonging to the upper caste, Narasimhan (Aadukalam Naren) wants to acquire their three-acre farmland adjoining his property to build a cement factory. Things go haywire as the landlord uses his influence with local panchayat and police, and humiliates Sivasamy. This infuriates Murugan, who has a run-in with Narasimman, and slaps him. Unable to bear the humiliation of getting beaten by a lower-caste man, Narasimmam arranges the brutal beheading of Murugan.
Meanwhile, Sivasamy tries to pacify his family members from taking revenge but Chidambaram, unable to see the suffering of his mother, who is devastated by the death of her eldest son, kills Narasimman. The family is on the run as Narasimman’s sons and relatives start the hunt for Chidambaram. Sivasamy still tries for a compromise with the help of an activist lawyer (Prakashraj). But Narasimman’s family wants to take revenge at any cost,. Sivasamy is now forced to protect his son. What happens next, including a back-story on how Sivasamy became a soft-spoken pacifist, unwilling to confront his enemies, is told in a stunning manner.
Vetrimaran’s tight-knitted screenplay, and his well-defined characters is what makes the revenge survival drama tick. The subtle message he wants to tell is there is a devil (Asuran) lurking inside all of us, and comes out at times. Revenge will consume a person, will be their downfall, and in no way, will solve their problems. His scene composition is terrific, the interval block is one of the best, and the characterisation stands out.
Manju, as Dhanush’s wife, makes a sensational debut in Tamil. You can feel her anger and the wetness in her tears. The two newcomers, Teejay and Ken, who play Dhanush’s sons, are riveting, and the supporting cast of Naren, Pasupathi, and Prakashraj bring life into their roles. GV Prakash’s score is his best in recent times, and perfect as per the mood of the film. Velraj’s (he plays a cameo) camera, especially the night shots in forest areas (beginning of the film when Dhanush and family are on the run), creates tension in the atmosphere.
The film belongs to Dhanush as his body language and voice modulation is in perfect sync with the character he plays. A big shout out to the actor and star for being brave to do the role of Sivasamy, something which his contemporaries would never do. But Vetrimaran has written the role and projected him in such a manner where the essential ingredient of Tamil cinema, ‘heroism’, comes out well.
Asuran is one of the best films of the year, and a must watch. Vetrimaran keeps the flag of good cinema flying high.