I do not watch Kannada movies. So do many others - the number of people who watch Kannada movies has dwindled over the years and understandably so.
Kannada movies earlier had a certain inimitable class during the times of Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan - top class actors. Of course, nobody can forget the likes of Shankar Nag. The late 80s and 90s brought in a significant creative angle with the inception of fresh "directors" like Kashinath and Upendra. There are, of course, offbeat filmmakers like Girish Kasaravalli. Yograj Bhat did come in as a whiff of fresh air, but again, none of his other films seem to have made it as big as Mungaru Male. ( Correct me if I'm wrong, but at least, that's the impression I get ) ....
However, barring these, I really am not sure if there's anything Kannada movies can boast of -
( Feel free to disagree with me here ...I'm only mentioning the impression I've got !! I may be wrong !!! )
- Same old commercial banalities:
A lot of movies are as old as the hills. Formulaic stuff. The number of movie posters in which Darshan and other actors have held aruvaals / knives / sickles is probably more than the number of posters of Sachin Tendulkar holding a cricket bat !
( I've not seen Kraantiveera Sangolli Rayanna ...so can't comment on that ! )
- Lack of originality / Remake flood:
Every other Kannada movie happening is a remake.This is one of THE MAIN reasons why Sandalwood has lost out and is lagging far, far behind in the battle of the southern film industries.
Movies earlier were of such quality that the biggest actors like Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan and others flocked to Sandalwood to act. But do we have even ONE big actor coming forward for Sandalwood? No !!
Sandalwood DOES have some EXCELLENT creative minds like Upendra - the movies he's directed REEK of sublime wit. But he's more of an actor and unfortunately, often a commercial one, than the creative mind behind the megaphone that people crave to see and want a great deal of.
All movie-makers are interested in, is enticing whistles from the audience. NOT ONE director wants to make a movie which would make audiences STAND UP and applaud. This movie, AT LAST, DID IT !!!
The scene is improving these days, but otherwise - this is another area which JUST HASN'T GROWN. Gurukiran was at his best in Upendra-directed movies, churning out cult, out-of-the-box classics. It took a Mano Murthy to raise standards by a great deal, with a superhit-of-a-lifetime album in Mungaru Male. Raghu Dixit has done well too. Unfortunately, that led to another claustrophobia - Sandalwood is just locked up by Sonu Nigam's songs. Everyone wants ONLY him to sing - screw the part whether the song suits him or not - he's singing !! That again, has made it the most mundane of affairs.
This is just the 3rd Kannada movie that I've seen in theater - the first was Puneeth Rajkumar's Appu ( commercial festival, that ) ...the second was Upendra's "Super" ( Excellent creativity, narration in a manner possible ONLY by Upendra - but again, commercialism had diluted its brilliance a little ) ...
Anyway, for me, a person who hardly ever watches Kannada movies, this movie was intriguing RIGHT from the beginning. I BADLY wanted to watch it because of many things:
1. The premise - To the best of my knowledge, no one has done a biopic on Veerappan. ( Has anyone?? ) This was the first comprehensive one.
2. The starcast - Arjun, Suresh Oberoi, Lakshmi Rai ( though glamorous)....Not big heroes ...but good actors...
3. The director - AMR Ramesh ...I haven't watched Cyanide...but I've definitely heard about its redefining success ...I'm definitely gonna watch Cyanide now :) wherever it is available.
4. Music - Sandeep Chowta - An uncrowned king of thriller BGMs...an asset which Bollywood is missing today.
5. Editor - Anthony - A name I've seen by default, under "Editor" on thousands of movie credits.
These 5 reasons themselves are enough to convey that, this isn't a regular, run-of-the-mill Kannada movie, by ANY means.
So, all this, plus positive reviews about the movie made me want to badly watch it. I went ahead and watched it yesterday night. AND BOY OH BOY, AM I GLAD I DID !!!!
There are movies which make you enjoy yourself and kill time in the best possible manner. There are movies which make you howl and whistle and go home smiling. But VERY RARELY are there movies, which play once in the theater, and then play again and again and again in your mind, long after they're done playing in the theater - Attahasa is one such, RARE movie! There are very few directors who are IN LOVE with their art and with this one, I can safely bet that AMR Ramesh is one of them.
The climax is still playing in my head, as I type this blog post - just not able to get the thrill, the anxiety, the goosebumps, the hair-raising, edge-of-the-seat nervousness that the movie induced in me, during the 2nd half. Believe it or not, I'm literally gasping for words and sentences on how to describe this movie and I'm not getting too many. I'll still try my level best though, to describe this in a manner that at least comes close to doing justice to how extraordinary it actually is.
Where do I even begin ?! Making a biopic is probably the most difficult of all cinema forms. One may think it is easy, given that the story is readily available. But again, to make such a movie requires thoroughly rigorous, extensive research for historical accuracy. Casting is another supreme challenge. Putting on a mere disguise isn't enough. How deep can the actors get into the skin of the character? Another thing is expectations - the movie has stellar expectations to live up to. Then comes the commercial aspect - how is one to draw the line between commercializing the movie for the sake of profit and leaving the artistic and creative essence of the movie raw and undiluted? Unspoiled ?
Considering all this, I can confidently assert that Attahasa has struck a platinum jackpot in answering all these questions. This is one of the best biopics, one of the best movies to have ever been made IMO.
For a start, the starting of the movie itself is awesome - it begins with the climax !! Then begins the narration of one of the best stories ever told on cinema. On a date-by-date, place-by-place, incident-by-incident basis, the story unfolds - Veerappan has been chronicled in such an amazing manner, right from his birth, to his very last breath. How a small-time rogue and elephant tusk smuggler becomes the absolutely unchallenged, unparalleled LORD of the jungle is brilliantly shown. I HAVE to mention the camerawork here - WORLD CLASS !! The M.M.Hills are an absolute delight to watch from this cameraman's eyes.
The interesting thing in the movie is - it doesn't focus too much on Veerappan's heroics as such. We don't see him fighting people. There's 99% brain, 1% ammunition - NO BRAWN. There are a NUMBER of missions by police officers and other officials to nab the brigand, but they all fail EACH TIME !! The director has brilliantly tried to bring out the clout of Veerappan by showing a number of unsuccessful attempts to nab him....His growth is just mind-boggling. How he was caught and then let off by a reformatory police officer, after which he became what he was ...his rise to such a domination that not even a leaf in the jungle would move without his command ..it's all sheer brilliance !!
One really feels sorry for the villagers, getting tortured by Veerappan constantly, AS WELL AS the police officers who brutally beat them up, asking where Veerappan is. Women, children, nobody spared. Boy, what brutal torture they must've gone through!
Shifting of focus from elephant tusks to Sandalwood smuggling, killing various police and task force officers, at the same time, being very religious, taking holy dips, doing a bit of astrology ...Wow! One can only imagine how much of research had to be done in order to depict all these things in THIS MUCH of detail, with as much accuracy as possible. UN-BLOODY-BELIEVABLE! The story moves slowly, yet engagingly up to the year 1994. Every event in every year has been shown and bloody convincingly! Attacks on police stations, ambushes, head-chopping....Perhaps due to the time factor, they've raced from 1994-1999, showing just for less than a minute, how he RUTHLESSLY held people hostage, shot them as per his whims and fancies.
At the interval itself, you feel as if you've watched one movie, but an AMAZING one, unlike Jab Tak Hai Jaan :P ...
Post-interval, within minutes, we're led to Gajanur in the year 2000 - the part I was very very eager / anxious to see with bated breath - The Rajkumar kidnapping. To be frank, as I grew up, I didn't know anything about Veerappan's various activities. All I knew was, he was a sandalwood smuggler, with a funny moustache.
I was in my 9th standard / grade, when news broke out in school early morning, that Rajkumar had been kidnapped. We were all advised to rush home to safety - I remember those days! Wow!! It was scary as hell - People had gone insane ...this was the worst that could happen to Kannadigas! It was close to emergency / military rule - Patrol vehicles all over the state to check incidents of vandalism / violence, we were scared to speak Tamil on the roads! Train & bus services to Tamil Nadu were shut, Tamil movies were off theaters, Tamil cable channels were blocked - there was no social media then.
As a school kid who wasn't really a Rajkumar fan, let me tell you - the mood of the school kids was actually cheerful, because they got holidays! Which school kid doesn't love holidays?! My aunt and cousin had come from Dubai on vacation & they had to return to Chennai ..but couldn't, because trains were blocked ...I was happy that I got to spend extra time with them and mentally thanked Veerappan! ( Come on, I was a school kid then! Don't expect rational behavior :P )....I do remember watching news channels - they played tapes and audio clippings of the Rajkumar family's appeal to Veerappan - this part in the movie where his grand-daughters speak to him, asking him to return soon..is really very very touching !!
So yes, it was from THIS part of the movie, that I could relate to all the happenings - because it brought back all those memories of fear, uncertainty and volatility of the situation exceedingly well ! Lakshmi Rai makes an entry here as a news reporter - well, it is a guest appearance and she's done a reasonable job. Actresses, that too glamorous would normally not do such a small role, so one has to admire Lakshmi Rai for taking this up and giving it everything she could !!
Suresh Oberoi has given the performance of his career with this one! He may have been a successful villain in many Bollywood movies, but this one is SERIOUSLY the performance of his life !!! Right from the looks, he DOES look remarkably close to Rajkumar...his mannerisms.....his dialogues....his saintly attitude...BRILLIANT !!! One can only imagine the extra-ordinary pressure he would've faced while doing this - one slight mistake and Kannadigas would've banished him from the state, for life ....But, he's done a brilliant job! Again, he appears only for a few minutes during the movie ...still, this will be remembered as his best, most challenging performance! Kudos to you, sir !!
Real footage has been used to depict news stories :) ..which is a MASTERSTROKE !! Nothing could've rekindled those memories more perfectly! Every frame of this part, SM Krishna meeting Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi etc ...regressed me back to 2000 !!! I have to mention that the mimicry artist they've used to speak like Jayalalithaa has done an AMAZING job !!!!! The English was SO DAMN PERFECTLY and EXACTLY like the way she speaks! TOO GOOD !! HATS OFF to whoever the voice behind Jayalalithaa in this movie was !!
Then came the Nagappa kidnapping, which was another tense period in the state - things got worse, because sadly, the minister was found dead !! There was pressure mounting on both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to nab Veerappan ASAP.
From here onwards, it's entirely an Arjun show - Arjun, yet again, proves that he's a classy and amazingly stylish actor. One can only wonder why he wasted so many years of his life doing utter rubbish with people like Sundar C - he just dominates the proceedings from here onwards.
What I like the most about this movie is, it is a battle of brains and not brawn & muscle. Arjun is called the "action king" ...but all action in this movie happens in his brain !!! This is probably the FIRST TIME that we're getting to see on cinema, a non-commercial police / task force official, devoid of any cinematic punches or cliches ...succeeding by sheer use of brain power and intelligence! One of Arjun's best performances ever, in the league of Gentleman, Mudhalvan etc....
The Operation Cocoon, which begins from here onwards ....goes so slowly ...that it seems to take forever and begins to make you question - Is Arjun ever really gonna nab him? :D ....But trust me, IT IS ALL JUSTIFIED - The sheer amount and volume of planning that was needed to execute this operation is shown to great detail, that's what takes so much time ...but still succeeds with flying colors, because this PERFECTLY brings the essence out - HOW TOUGH IT WAS to nab someone like Veerappan !! What all sweat, toil, tears, emotions, LIVES went into this operation..how many sleepless, food-less days, nights have gone in !!!! How much of top-secret, nerve-wracking, mind-f***ing deeply intricate and convoluted planning had to be done ..all to nab a forest brigand ....MIND-BOGGLING !!
Arjun despite being a honest, hard-working, iron-willed, determined commando is STILL depicted as the underdog ...and Veerappan, the favorite to win the battle ...that's the beauty of it !!!! Which movie shows the villain as mightily way stronger than the hero ?!! HARDLY ANY !! Until the end, you're always skeptical - you're still like, OMG...Is Arjun actually gonna do it ...or will Veerappan somehow escape !!
THAT'S THE BEST PART of the movie - the climax ....now, we've seen this right at the beginning of the movie ...we know that Veerappan's gonna die ...STILL, IN SPITE OF ALL THIS ...The build-up and the climax INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFULLY GIVES YOU GOOSEBUMPS ..and makes you shiver in fear, anticipation, anxiety ...brutally injects a thrilling nervousness into you and makes your hair stand on its end !!! IT IS NO JOKE to do something like that !! PHENOMENAL STUFF !!!!!!!
Like I told you, I'm suffering from a hangover - I saw the movie yesterday night ..and the climax has still not left my head !! :D
Let me come to the 3rd supporting hero of the movie - Sandeep Chowta ...Trust me, for a 2 hour 50 minute movie to be engaging and not make the viewer yawn away ...THE MOST CRUCIAL component is the background music ...NO ONE COULD'VE fitted the bill better than Sandeep Chowta, who is more or less the uncrowned, heavily underrated king of thriller BGMs ..who can forget his BGMs for Ram Gopal Varma, when the latter was still into making sane movies? His BGMs are PHENOMENAL, truly of international standards!! This man deserves Hollywood movies !!Amazingly engaging, thrilling, sad, romantic ..this score has got it all !! .....Very very gutsy of the production team to decide AGAINST having ANY songs in the movie ! WAY TO GO !! One really can't imagine what a disaster it would've been, had songs been included...and had Veerappan danced to them :D...GUTSY approach !! Kudos !
FINALLY, Kishore ...Man !!! Frankly, I doubt I can ever watch any of your movies again, without having the image of Veerappan in my mind ....ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT performance! Deserves many awards...role of a lifetime, for sure!
But the challenge has only increased manifold for you ..hereafter !
Oh yeah, Vijayalakshmi and the other lady who acted as Chandni make a brief appearance and do their job well.
Having RAVED about the movie so much, let me come to some flaws, though they end up being totally masked by the movie's sheer excellence.
1. Length - The movie's very long ...Prepare yourself for some very patient viewing ..but the good thing is, it is made up for ..by a very racy screenplay and riveting BGM ...Superb editing ..Anthony at it again !
2. Censorship - The censorship of some scenes makes no sense - there's nothing obscene, lewd ...Scenes are censored arbitrarily ...Can someone please explain the reasons to me ??
3. This is an impractical or fanciful feedback - but I'm just wondering if it could've been FAR better were it to be a trilogy or something ? I mean to say ...if only Veerappan was in the US and this was made in Hollywood ...it could've become a franchise in itself - Attahasa - Veerappan Arrives, Attahasa 2 - The rise of Veerappan, Attahasa 3 - Operation Cocoon ...would've been so amazing !!
Of course, the market here for such stuff to happen is too unfriendly ...so it's ruled out ..but the story has scope for such things to happen! :) ...
Otherwise, trust me, this is as good a Hollywood movie as you'll ever get to see ..in Sandalwood ! Phenomenal, brilliant, extraordinary ...everything!! This is TRULY Oscar-worthy and I'm NOT kidding !!! More than being educational about Veerappan's life, it ends with a stunning message about karma!!! Also, I hope it serves as a lesson to other filmmakers, inspires them to stop making inane, commercial, mass-masala rubbish ...and do some real good cinema like this!
A movie that's worth every bit even if watched in a luxury theater....A DVD that's worth buying too, whenever it releases ! A director whose movies are worth watching! GO FOR IT !!!
Now, to watch "Cyanide" by AMR Ramesh and regret why I missed watching that in theater !!