Sahithya Akademi award winner Poomani’s novel ‘Vekkai’ comes alive on-screen in ‘Asuran.’ The Dhanush-Vetrimaaran combination is like no other and the duo establish this chemistry again with a vendetta tale about caste politics and oppression of the downtrodden.
Set in 1980s in Kovilpetti — a rural region of Thirunelveli — ‘Asuran’ follows the life of Sivasamy (Dhanush), a low caste farmer owning a piece of land. With wife Pachaiyamma (Manju Warrier) and three children — 20-year-old Murugan (Teejay Arunasalam), school-going Chidambaramn (Ken Karunas) and a little girl, Sivasamy is a happy man. Not for long. however...
Trouble brews when the neighbouring landowner, Narasimhan (Aadukalam Naren), a powerful man from an upper caste, desires Sivasamy’s little piece of land as it comes in the way of Narasimhan’s plans of setting up a cement factory.
What begins as an altercation because Pachaiyamma questions Narasimhan’s men for drawing water using a motor from the common well, snowballs into a family feud. Following Narasimhan’s murder one night, Sivasamy’s family is on the run. And closely on their heels baying for their blood are the sons of Narasimhan.
Hard-hitting and realistic, Vetrimaaran’s ‘Asuran’ reminds us of our shameful past when discrimination on the basis of caste existed as the norm for aeons. Not to forget that we read about incidents of caste discrimination even today in the newspapers.
Dhanush as Sivasamy is terrific. You completely forget the star who depicts Sivasamy from different timelines of his life, the younger one with pencil moustache and impulsive, unlike the older mellowed down Sivasamy. When we are first introduced to Sivasamy, he is a middle-aged man, with stained teeth and greying hair. There is a limp in his gait, too.
Wading through a river in the jungle with his younger son Chidambaram, Sivasamy goes into hiding to escape Narasimhan’s people.
Chidambaram idolised his older brother Murugan, who challenged Narasimhan’s bullying and subsequently lost his life in the most macabre manner possible. Chidambaram is pained that his father did nothing to avenge Murugan’s death. He has only contempt for his father.
As the story unfolds, Sivasamy’s past is revealed shattering Chidambaram’s image of his father.
Like Hindi film ‘Article 15’ that explored the exploitation of the Dalits by the upper caste people, ‘Asuran’ follows a similar vein through and through.
In ‘Article 15’, three young Dalit women were raped and two killed for daring to ask for a raise of Rs3 at work, ‘Asuran’ has an entire village wiped out in fire, because Sivasamy dared to challenge the upper caste folks by buying a pair of slippers for his lover Mariamma. Wearing slippers was the sole right of the upper caste people, the lower rung people were entrusted with cleaning their footwear.
When pinned against the wall, it is inevitable but to strike back. Sivasamy’s concern for his family brings out the ‘asuran’ inside both as a young man and later as a middle-aged father.
Manju Warrior on her Tamil debut shines as Sivasamy’s wife, a bold woman. Pasupathy lends good support as her on-screen brother who stands by his sister at all times.
‘Asuran’ leaves you depressed and pondering over man’s inhuman atrocities. With its violence and gore, this is clearly not a film to watch with the family. One scene that sends a shiver down a spine is the one around Murugan’s death. The only happy moment in the film is when the family goes to see a bride for Murugan and the father is teasing his son. It is beautiful.
Velraj’s camera work is amazing. The night scene when Sivasamy and son Murugan follow a wild boar that has entered their field refuses to leave the mind.
‘Asuran’ is appreciated for its content, staging and brilliant performance by all the lead actors, including newcomers Teja Arunasalam and Ken Karunas. And, it ends with a positive message.
Don’t miss it!
‘Asuran’ is now showing across the UAE.