Despite provocation, a man resists taking to violence—to the point that even his loved ones begin feeling annoyed about his meekness. He prefers pleading oppressors for mercy to taking up arms. And then, when he realises peace doesn’t stand a chance, you get a rousing interval fight sequence in which he unleashes the full power of his rage. This gets followed by a flashback that shows why he is the way he is. No, I’m not talking about Baasha. I’m talking about Asuran. But these broad structural similarities aside, both films are worlds apart. It’s still fascinating to see how Vetri Maaran looks to be discussing the sort of issues you’d expect to see in a Pa Ranjith film, but in a way that the people—not the politics—take centrestage. The story of Asuran, an adaptation of Poomani’s award-winning novel Vekkai, is so rooted (Tirunelveli) and real, it’s quite fascinating to observe how he manages to sneak in the hero-beating-up-evil-men idea not once but thrice. On the evidence of Asuran, I don’t think this ungainly marriage is yielding terrific results yet.
In Asuran, as in Vada Chennai, though the setting is rife with social problems, the focus is more on people than on their ideologies. For instance, there’s a communist character who means well, but the film’s trying to shade the character, not try and sell you communism. Asuran, for all the social issues in it, is a personal film first, with a protagonist who trades off exercising his inner asuran—going by conventional definitions of the term—in return for familial security.
Among Vetri Maaran’s recurrent themes is loyalty to a teacher figure and consequent betrayal from either party. We have seen this in Polladhavan, Aadukalam, Vada Chennai, and now, in the flashback sequence of Asuran as well. Vetri Maaran’s heroes are usually those whose lives spiral out of control from a single event. Asuran is more of the Visaaranai mould. This isn’t about a man whose life is irrevocably altered by a single event. This is about the effects of a system that thrives in oppression. It’s set in a time, at a place, where people are dehumanised, almost literally, given how the oppressors talk of murder as ‘vettai’. When Sivasamy (Dhanush) and his son are being pursued by murderous men, they do so armed with dogs. At one point, they are examining footprints, almost like they are out to hunt an animal. While on animals, a dog is shown to die quite early in the film, and it’s impossible not to think of Pariyerum Perumal, especially when you notice how little remorse the responsible parties show. While Asuran may not be able to match Pariyerum Perumal’s singleminded focus on caste conflict, it does do a great job in establishing the reality of the setting. The vast empty lands, the fields that serve as cover, the rocky hills that provide an eagle’s eye view, the thick forest… Nature is a mute observer of the unspeakable evil thriving in these lands. In a poignant scene, Sivasamy’s son reminisces a beautiful time he had had at a location, observing how the place remained the same while his life had not.
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For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), please visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2019/oct/04/asuran-movie-review-a-moderately-rewarding-film-but-dhanush-vetri-maaran-have-done-better-14700.html