Veeram (2017) Malayalam Movie Review by Veeyen


On a peripheral level, ‘Veeram’ is a highly gratifying thrill ride through the feud ridden terrains of North Malabar, where machismo rules the roost and blood seems cheaper than water. Dig deeper into it, and you have an intelligent amalgamation of two markedly diverse cultures and two startlingly similar, celebrated tales from them with hitherto unforeseen overlappings.


It is no ordinary canvas that Jayaraj has mounted his epic film ‘Veeram’ on, and as such it evolves into an ambitious demonstration of an idea that amazingly blends two classic tales together. Atypical in conception and phenomenal in implementation, ‘Veeram’ presents you with one of the most memorable cinematographic experiences that you have witnessed ever in contemporary Malayalam cinema.

Ilanthalar Madathil Chanthu (Kunal Kapoor) has seen deceit, early on in his life, when he was denied his sweetheart Unni Archa (Himarsha Venkatsamy), by her brother Aromal Chekavar (Shivajith Nambiar), who gets her betrothed to Kunjiraman (Satheesh Menon) instead. Years later, when he receives an invitation to be Aromal’s Padakkuruppu in his duel against Aringodar (Aaran), Chanthu sees it as an opportunity to settle a few scores. Egged on by the scheming Kuttimani (Divina Thackur), Aringodar’s niece, Chanthu grows ruthless in his desires, and slays an exhausted Aromal in his sleep.

The astounding parallels that are drawn between the Chekavar clan of North Malabar and a Scottish dynasty that’s a few centuries old, make ‘Veeram’ move far beyond the stature of a mere adaptation. With almost every character in each of these tales finding a fitting equivalent in the other, ‘Veeram’ is shrewdly scripted, never for a moment letting those legendary scenes in the original shrivel away in the reworked version.

Guilt and penitence and the inscrutable desire for power that rule their lives, make Chanthu and Macbeth strikingly similar individuals, while Kuttimani dons the garb of Lady Macbeth with a notable ease. Together, they embark on a journey of desolation and despair, beheading several lives along the way and splattering blood all around. Surprisingly, this association is extended on to the minor characters as well, and while Aromal Chekavar takes over as the ill-fated Duncan, Unni Archa’s son Aromalunni  flees only to return as Malcolm. Banquo finds life in Kelu Chekavar; Macduff is replaced by Komappan.

A seductive sorceress with a man’s voice prophesizes what lies in store for the Chekavar, and her divination drives him forward, as that of the three witches does to Macbeth. While an indecisive Chanthu admits that unsettling scorpions slither around in his black dreams, a resolute Kutti Mani in a fanatical vow of vengeance urges her breasts to ooze venom and spite to see her foes dead once and for all.

Remorse overrides the grief stricken psyche of Chanthu Chekavar and yet he refuses to give in, ferociously veering between states of sorrow and sheer madness. The prophecy of the Great Birnam Woods in the Shakesperean play finds expression in the Thulunadan green forests marching towards him, as the downpour rages on. A sudden flash of his destiny dawns on Chanthu as a lightning that blazes through the sky, and yet the hero that he is, Chanthu swerves around gallantly to face Aromalunni  in his final battle.

The celebrated soliloquies in ‘Macbeth’ find a definitive place in the film as well, and Kuttimani in a desolate act scrubs her palms and murmurs to herself that all the perfumes from across the seas will not sweeten her tainted hands. Later, when she stabs herself to death, a distraught Chanthu walks in, wondering aloud if life was anything but a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!

I, for one, would choose to not to make a comparison of ‘Veeram’ to those former screen adaptations of Macbeth, be it that of Fassbender  or of Polanksi or that of Vishal Bhardwaj, much closer home. I would also gladly disregard those minor, though very obvious glitches in ‘Veeram’ and choose to be all awed by the sheer grandeur of this pantomime.

Kunal Kapoor is terrifically good as Chanthu, and brings in the exact amount of agility and verve that the warrior role demands, and ensuring all the while that the emotional tussle that Chanthu goes through is retained to perfection as well. Divina Thackur does a near faultless Lady Macbeth, and as Kuttimani, she credibly unleashes the lusciousness and malice that thrusts Chanthu on to a journey of no return.  Shivajith Nambiar, Himarsha Venkatsamy and Aaran deliver commendable performances as well.

‘Veeram’ escalates the technical finesse bar in Malayalam cinema by several notches, and establishes without doubt that this small film industry down south of the Indian subcontinent is fast turning out to be a ready force to reckon with. No stones are left unturned, and the film is a visual extravaganza with one stunning frame after the other flashing across the screen. S Kumar and his magical cinematography is the chief reason why this film has to be watched on the big screen, and Jayaraj can rest assured that ‘Veeram’ sets an exemplary example on that note.

Jeff Rona’s musical score is superlative, and Appu N Bhattathiri does a fine job at the editing table. Much innovation has gone into the unconventional costume design by Purnima Oak, while Trefor Proud strikes an explicit impact with the makeup. The incredible sound design led by Sinoy Joseph, Boney M Joy, Anoop Kammaran and Renganath Ravee adds to the tremendous atmosphere,   while the visual effects are top-notch. Allan Poppleton’s stunt choreography is exceptionally imposing, to say the least.

On a peripheral level, ‘Veeram’ is a highly gratifying thrill ride through the feud ridden terrains of North Malabar, where machismo rules the roost and blood seems cheaper than water. Dig deeper into it, and you have an intelligent amalgamation of two markedly diverse cultures and two startlingly similar, celebrated tales from them with hitherto unforeseen overlappings.


Verdict: Good

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