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Dhanush and 16-Year-Old Ken Deliver the Goods in ‘Asuran’

Directed by Vetrimaaran, the film stars Dhanush, Manju Warrier and Ken

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Chidambaram only wanted to cut off Vadakkuran’s hand, not kill him. Asuran, based on Poomani’s subaltern novel Vekkai is directed by Vetrimaaran and stars Dhanush, Manju Warier, Pasupathi and an ensemble of supporting actors each equally effective in their roles. Here’s all you need to know about this bloodbath, to decide if you need to book your tickets.

Vetrimaaran Retells Vekkai

First off, whether you’re into reading fiction, or subaltern novels, read Vekkai. You could read N Kalyananraman’s translation Heat. There’s surprisingly little that’s lost in translation.

What Vetrimaaran fails to get or consciously omits from the novel is the layered narrative. It feels like a ‘rich vs poor’ story where the violence takes centre stage.

Vetrimaaran borrows the geography, the basic premise and plot points, and of course, the violence from the novel. What he gets bang on is the Louis l’ Amour-esque tracking and sign reading. The villains are expert hunters who can read sign, understand the lay of the land and ‘sense’ when the prey is near. Dhanush is capable of ‘throwing sand in their eyes’, a local expression meaning that he can confound them.

Directed by Vetrimaaran, the film stars Dhanush, Manju Warrier and Ken

What Vetrimaaran fails to get or consciously omits from the novel is the layered narrative. It feels like a ‘rich vs poor’ story where the violence takes centre stage. In the novel, it’s the father-son bonding while they evade getting killed. Why the son is portrayed as a hotheaded teenager who thinks his father is a wimp, beats me. There’s so much more to the boy in the novel.

By the interval, Dhanush’s character stands taller than any other’s. It’s great as a star vehicle, but I’d have liked more from Vetrimaaran. I don’t think it would have affected the film’s masala factor had he ventured out of the usual weakling-big reveal-flashback formula.

The Two Unseen Heroes

G V Prakash, the music director, and M S Bhaskar, the dubbing artist par excellence. Like magic, or subtle CGI, their work spans almost every inch of the film, and yet remains hidden. Prakash got into acting a couple of years ago. I’m not a fan of his random, pulpy comedies, and his acting hasn’t really matured over the years. But, by God, his ability to score evocative BGMs is still bang on.

For a film set in rural Tamil Nadu, where dialects shift from palate to the back of the tongue every fifty miles or so, Bhaskar adds authenticity.

Aadukalam, Paradesi, Visaranai, Veyil were all movies with complex themes, in which GV’s music played a crucial role. And M S Bhaskar, while excellent as a comedic actor and in serious supporting roles, is brilliant as a dubbing artist. He gets the dialects bang on. For a film set in rural Tamil Nadu, where dialects shift from palate to the back of the tongue every fifty miles or so, Bhaskar adds authenticity. He’s dubbed for a number of characters in the film and manages to convey emotion and urgency in seconds.

Vetrimaaran has a penchant for changing dialogues and fine tuning the script in the dubbing studio, much like Jean-Luc Godard. So, almost everyone speaks out of sync most of the time. But eventually you’ll stop noticing it.

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The Mother and Son

Directed by Vetrimaaran, the film stars Dhanush, Manju Warrier and Ken

Ken plays Dhanush’s son Chidambaram in the film. And Manju Warrier plays Dhanush’s wife. The chemistry that the three share on screen is palpable. Ken delivers a pitch perfect performance. He throws tantrums, mumbles dialogues in anger and is crystal clear in diction where necessary. While Dhanush has a charisma on screen, Ken’s natural angst makes it impossible to focus on anyone but him when he’s kicking up a storm, or even just sitting quietly. You don’t know what he’ll do next.

Yay or Nay?

Asuran is a Vetrimaaran film. So regardless of the tragedy, the soul sucking moments of despair and the stark realism, it ends in a way that lets you think and talk about it without being overwhelmed. It’s not another national award worthy film like Aadukalam. The lingo isn’t as perfect, some scenes look like they’ve been conjured up lazily and you have banal dialogues next to brilliant, pithy ones. But it’s definitely worth a watch. It’ll give you a dopamine rush that’ll outlast the weekend.

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