Asuran movie cast: Dhanush, Manju Warrier, Prakash Raj, Ken Karunas, Pasupathy, Balaji Sakthivel, Teejay Arunasalam
Asuran movie director: Vetrimaaran
Asuran movie rating: 4 stars
It’s not often we see a ‘mass hero’ playing a 45-year-old father of three children on the screen, in a deglamourised avatar, that too—with betel nut-stained teeth and grey hair. As much as Asuran is about Sivasamy (Dhanush), who fights for the oppressed, it tells the story of a doting husband-father, who protects his family. In the first half, we are shown an older Sivasamy, a helpless drunkard, trying to control his sons’ anger. Eventually, we get to know his menacing past.
We get an ordinary introduction shot of Dhanush. In Vetrimaaran films, there’s no ‘hero’, and everyone is a character. At first, though it seems a story of revenge and bloodbath, we know something better awaits, as the story progresses. We could sense this is not who Sivasamy is.
This powerful revenge survival saga chronicles the struggles of Sivasamy and his family. Like any other Vetrimaaran film, Asuran (the fourth collaboration of Dhanush with the award-winning director, based on Vekkai, a novel by Poomani) discusses class divide, land/power politics of a specific region, and people. What was explored in Vada Chennai and Visaaranai, is seen in Asuran, too.
Vetrimaaran’s universe is filled with real and raw characters. He opts for non-linear narration and the story moves back and forth in time. We see Sivasamy in two dimensions as his looks keep changing, according to the different time period.
The film opens with night-time visuals of what could be in any village—filled with river, trees, grasses and slush. Sivasamy and his little son, Chidambaram (Ken Karunas) wade through the chest-deep waters and go into hiding as the latter kills someone. The proceedings that follow until one of these surrenders in court, forms the storyline. Extreme emotions, like violence, are often prone to the most predictable results—but Asuran doesn’t fall into that category. Vetrimaaran manages to sustain the tension and suspense—in terms of storytelling and pace throughout.
Asuran is a serious film, but I enjoyed the snatches of humour in between the blood and gore, as one of the characters says, “Kooda kooda pesadha pondaati maadhiri.”
Asuran (demon) isn’t a conventionally positive title. Right from the title card, Vetrimaaran prepares us for the stuff the audience going to witness for 140 minutes. We see the opening credits roll out in block red font that indicates violence.
Cut to the past. We are shown a young volatile, quick-tempered Sivasamy with a pencil-moustache, who has all the traits opposite an older Sivasamy. He becomes a victim of circumstances again. Every frame pulsates with the details of surroundings as Vetrimaaran executes a riveting sense of happenings in an uncompromising way.
In particular, I quite liked Sivasamy’s wife, Pachaiyamma (Manju Warrier and this is her Tamil debut) because she’s not your average Tamil ponnu. She talks back, hits back. It’s fantastic how Manju speaks native Tamil with ease and plays her role with conviction.
Cinematographer Velraj fills his frames with dark visual metaphors that make you root for the characters. Even portions shot in sunlight have some contrasting deep tones that communicate something to us. I like how the music and visuals are combined in the scenes. GV Prakash Kumar’s background score isn’t just there to create situation-based ambiance but serves beyond.
Watch out for some brilliant lines mouthed by Sivasamy including, “Namakku thevaiyaanadha naama dhaan adichu vaanganum.”
Vetrimaaran has made challenging films in the past like Visaaranai, which received critical acclaim nationally and internationally. With Asuran, he proves he’s one of the finest directors in Indian cinema, yet again. Only few filmmakers like him can pull off a mainstream cinema, balancing ‘realism’ and commercial elements.
I like how Vetrimaaran urges to fight for our rights and what we believe in, as Sivasamy says, “Poraadama namakku enna kedachurku?” In some places, Asuran got me reminded of Pariyerum Perumal—considering how both the films revolve around the protagonist, who strives to rise above social inequality.
Some of the scenes, of course, felt like I was reading a book. (It’s a compliment) Not all novels adapted into films have been successful, and the makers of Asuran have carefully treaded the path.
The film scores high on emotions, aided by solid layered writing and has a lot of striking scenes. The director’s well-defined characters, definitive performances by actors, situations and conflicts lift Asuran to another level.