Imagine that Miramax trailer guy doing the voice-over a dark, inner jungle tracking shot….His home was 4000 miles of jungle….He was ruthless….He helped his people….He killed his enemies….An army was after him….Veerappan. Flashing shots of him running through the brush, Raj Kumar looking nuts, attacking police teams, sniffing sandalwood etc. The poster would have a shadow background of the ‘stache.
Koose Munusamy Veerappan, who killed 120 people, 2,000 elephants, stole millions of dollars worth ivory and sandalwood, beheaded Forestry officers, kidnapped ministers and actors, filmed his own 9-hr documentary, but was never caught, was killed yesterday.
Obviously he was a loathsome criminal but, damn, there is something alluring about a man who seemed to inhabit some other time-space than the 21st century. Dacoits and brigands have always had a mythic hold on the south asian psyche (remember the Thugees?). His persona was incredible. His myth even more so. With Che being romantacized as we speak in multiplexes everywhere, it is inevitable that the movie of Veerappan will be made.
And I typed too soon. Google says, of course, such a movie as I posit is being directed by my very favorite director Ram Gopal Varma. Good call, Ram.
update: Tangential to tsk’s query re: the ‘Stache…is a column in India Today about the Mustache’s Last Stand. Ravi Shankar thinks that the ‘stache is a dying breed which has come to represent Eeevieel, while once it represented manliness:
But today, hairlessness is macho. Consider the Salman Khan sculpted look, with a clean-shaven face showing off its angles and planes. Ramp models have smoothly hairless visages and only grandfathers in advertisements have moustaches. So perhaps it is a sign of changing tastes that nobody really cares for Veerappan or the non-crisis he has created.
The ‘Stache is back, at least, in American pop-culture with the ascendancy of 70s style. Who can forget the “who wants a mustache ride?” line in Super Troopers?
So much of Veerappan’s post-mortem press seems to be revolving around his facial hair. I will have to ask my South Indian crew, if that was during his lifetime as well.
update 2: I think I should put a bio-sketch of Veerappan up here as well since we are starting to discuss how to read his public persona in the comments. This is as close to an official sketch as I can find. It is written by K. Arkersh, Superintendent of Police Task Force commissioned to bring Veerappan in.
Veerappan and his associates have hitherto killed over 120 persons, (including police officers) – 55 from Kamataka and 66 from TamilNadu; poached over 2,000 tuskers, bringing in an abnormal ratio of tusker: makhana* (*makhana = A female elephant, bearing no tusks, but capable of breeding even tuskers.) elephants and denuded sandalwood costing over Rs 200 crore. He systematically created terror by indulging in selective killings representing regional and social groups (killed 3 PSls and a PC at Hogenkal, blasted 22 policemen and informants at Palar, brutally beheaded popular forest officer Srinivas at Yerkehalla near Gopinatham, ambushed senior police officer Harikrishna, ~ Superintendent of Police, Mysore and Shakeel Ahmed, PSI, M.M.Hills police station near Meenyam, killed 5 policemen and looted armoury at Ramapura police station, ambushed Superintendent of Police Gopal Hosur and killed 5 policemen and looted 5 Self Loading Rifles at Rangaswamy Oddu near M.M.Hills; killed 5 Soligas at Gaddesal (Tamilnadu), 5 lingayaths at Manjugummapatti (Tamilnadu), 7 Badagas at Punjanur (Kamataka), a Lambani near Gopinatham, 5 of his own cousins at Gopinatham village, two Padiyachis at Gopinatham, namely Koteyur Madaiah and his brother, a Shetty and his son at Nallur and brutally tortured and killed Kandavelu, a Padiyachi and Bhaktavatsalam, a student near Talamalai (TamilNadu). Most of his killings are of police and forest officials and suspected police supporters and informants.
Veerappan is known to be timid, unemotional, and shrewd and cunning as against the popular belief that he is brave and emotional. He always plans for the worst and goes for minute details. He does not take an iota of risk on himself. He does not give his mind to anyone except Govindan and that too on a selective basis. Planning important operations like kidnappings, blasts, raids and ambushes are meticulously planned and discussed only with Govindan. (Veerappan is known to be carrying the photograph of his daughter Rani who is now aged 12 years. He had also killed one of his own infant daughter, fearing disclosure of his location by the child’s cry. His association with wife Muthulakshmi who was earlier in the gang is now severed. She is now known to be working as a factory labourer at Hennur, Tamil Nadu. Veerappan has no repentance or remorse for having brutally killed so many persons and animals. He has a tendency to justify all his actions with strange logic. He fears death penalty even if he surrenders, that is why he is demanding amnesty to be announced by a person no less than President of India, through popular media. Any talk of surrender short of such amnesty are only his game plans with evil designs.
Veerappan who has studied Che’s guerilla warfare tactics (Tamil translation of which was recently recovered from one of his hideouts), follows it in letter and spirit. He is not likely to fight a prolonged battle for the fear of losing ammunition and realising the might of the Task Force. Hence he is likely to take a couple of aimed shots and escape in case of a `chance encounter’ or a deliberate attack.
update 3: Boy, this is getting long. I talked to a colleague here who hails from the same district as Veerappan. Summary is that he knew two of Veer’s victims as well as one of the kidnapped. Veerappen, in his view, was as much a bandit as a creation of the state and media – he did not kill as many elephants/people as are credited to him and there are two or three regional newspapers whose sole purpose is to inform the public about Veerappen. He operated in a large jungle where only tribal populations held sway and over them, he exercised control through the age old carrot-and-stick policy. Hence, his persona as a latter day Robin Hood. A persona he says Veerappen carefully supplemented. My colleague recommends Veerappan: The Untold Story.