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ASURAN (2019) and KARNAN (2021) - Two must-watch Tamil movies that remind us about the centuries-old social evil that probably exists more prominently in the new millennium. (Movies To See Before You Die - Drama / Thriller)
24 May, 2021 | Movie Reviews / 2019 Releases / 2021 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / A / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Movies To See Before You Die / Drama / Indian Regional language Gems (Other Than Hindi) / K

A recent TV debate had an honest and blunt panelist sharing his views on the social divide in the country. Beginning his enlightening argument, he said that we the middle-class people debating about various social problems of our country are in reality just a tiny, small proportion of our vast population. The rich are even in a smaller percentage and a big majority of our country is the poor living in the smaller cities, villages, and remote areas we might not have even heard of. There is a whole different world out there lived by these people within the country and the scenario changes every few hundreds of kilometers, without an exception.

That’s exactly the thought I had in mind while watching Asuran and Karnan at the gap of two years, as both the films talk about the world, we the middle-class people are not well familiar with. Yes, we know about it, have read about the people in books, and have seen the characters in serials or films too, yet we know so little about them as revealed by such meaningful attempts showing us the ground reality, based on real-life events.
 
Sharing the gist, Asuran (meaning Demon) is an emotionally charged action drama written and directed by the National Award winner Vetrimaaran (of Aadukalam, Kaaka Muttai, Visaranai, and Vada Chennai fame). It is based on a novel Vekkai (meaning Heat) penned by Poomani with the basic plot inspired by the actual events of the Kilvenmani massacre that occurred in 1968 in Tamil Nadu. The film begins on a calm note and then gradually finds its pace exploding before the intermission with a spellbinding action sequence that forces you to straighten your spine and watch the proceedings on the screen. It then reveals the actual story of exploitation and suppression moving into the flashback before coming back to the decisive conclusion.
 
Continuing with a similar thought, Karnan (named after the Mahabharat’s character) hits it even harder focusing more on the action along with emotions, adding some solid commercial elements providing the adrenaline rush. The film has been directed by Mari Selvaraj who earlier delivered a worth-appreciating project Pariyerum Perumal (2018) based on caste discrimination and exploitation with reference to educational institutes. Just like Asuran, Karnan’s story content is also loosely inspired by another shocking real-life incident of Kodiyankulam violence that happened in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu in the year 1995. 
 
Purposefully set in a different period, it begins unusually with a heart-wrenching sequence and then uses many eye-catching metaphors incorporating nature and animals at regular intervals. This particular feature of the film strongly reminds you of the adorable depiction of ‘Karuppi the dog’ in the director’s earlier venture. In Karnan, though Selvaraj stuffs it more than required, these thoughtful and well-shot insertions still work and brilliantly represent the people’s struggle against the powerful.
 
For instance, here we have scenes involving pigs, piglets, eagle, chicks, pigeons, village dogs, a horse, an elephant, and a donkey too (with its legs tied) along with a special ‘Arjun and the fish’s eye’ kind of sequence establishing Karnan’s strength and vision. On a personal note, its particular scene with the eagle reminded me of a similar sequence in J. P. Dutta’s GHULAMI, in which the young boy catches the eagle and kills it, instead of simply watching.
 
Karnan takes its own time to reveal the actual plot (showcasing romance too) but keeps you thoroughly engrossed before it moves on to the unexpected brutality by the police officials (again thoughtfully using the references to Mahabharat characters). From here onwards it becomes a very potent revenge drama bringing the viewers on to the edge of their seats feeling empathy for the characters suffering on the screen. In fact, at times its execution making you cringe at the helplessness of the innocent villages being beaten in the police station.
 
Looking at the core plot, both Asuran and Karnan might appear to be two realistic, well-enacted revenge dramas helmed by their exceptionally competent directors. However, the films are much more than that representing the majority of our population, their issues of education, and the caste culture prevalent in our society for centuries. Where Asuran talks about the open abuse and exploitation practiced by the landlords in nexus with the powerful politicians and police, Karnan points towards the way Police treat the Dalits and the poor peasants living in the remote areas that don’t even have their authorized bus-stands.
 
So, if studied from that angle, these (including Pariyerum Perumal) are the bold, courageous, and important films made in the present era, when most of the production houses avoid getting involved in such eye-opener subjects and content for the obvious reasons. The films not only excel in their cinematography, action, and background score but also have brilliant performances from the supporting cast apart from being superbly led by Dhanush. The writing remains their backbone, transcending the barrier of language and that’s the reason the films easily communicate even when one doesn’t understand Tamil or has no English subtitles to read. Another worth-mentioning feature is the way the makers convey the message being passed on to the next generation, getting better education and opportunities of proving themselves.
 
On a concluding note, if you look at most of the promotional posters of Karnan then you will notice attractive masks used in it. The same is used in the film too wore by a small girl who repeatedly appears in all the crucial scenes. Actually, there is a beautiful tradition related to it that will surely inspire you to watch it at the earliest. According to the centuries-old tradition followed in the southern part of rural Tamil Nadu, young girls who unfortunately die before getting married are considered divine, equivalent to a godly figure. So, the mask denotes divinity considering them God.
 
Rating: Movies To See Before You Die

(Note: At the time of writing the article, both the films could be seen on Amazon Prime with English Subtitles for a subscription.)

For friends interested in reading the review of PARIYERUM PERUMAL, it is available at the following link: 

Tags : ASURAN (2019) and KARNAN (2021) Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Tamil films reviews by Bobby Sing, Must Watch Movies List by Bobby Sing, Not To Be Missed Movies, Must Watch Regional Movies
24 May 2021 / Comment ( 0 )
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