Documentary Web Series Review: The Hunt for Veerappan

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Story of ‘The Hunt for Veerappan’

Cooj Muniswami Veerappan. The name of terror and terror, whose savagery emerged from the jungles of South India and had once become the biggest problem of the country. A criminal who was accused of 184 murders, poaching of 2000 elephants, smuggling of ivory worth 16 crores and sandalwood smuggling worth 65 tonnes (about 143 crores). Netflix’s new documentary series ‘The Hunt For Veerappan’ tells the story of the rise and fall of the dreaded sandalwood smuggler. The series includes many untold stories told by Veerappan’s family members, associates and police officers who were involved in the operation to nab the ruthless dacoit.

Trailer of ‘The Hunt for Veerappan’

‘The Hunt for Veerappan’ Documentary Web Series Review

‘The Hunt for Veerappan’ tells the story of one of India’s most prominent smugglers, who created a wave of terror with his rampage and killings in the jungles of MM Hills. Sporting his bushy moustache, Veerappan had once instilled fear in both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Interestingly, while Veerappan was the biggest challenge for the state governments, the locals dubbed him the ‘Robin Hood of India’. This documentary series also throws light on those aspects of the life of sandalwood smuggler, which are not known to most of the people.

Veerappan started off as an ivory smuggler. Due to his cunning mind and agile body, he became the biggest sandalwood smuggler and murderer in no time. Through journalists, police officers, forest officials, Veerappan’s close aides and his wife, this documentary series traces the factors that led to Veerappan’s rise and fall. The most prominent of these conversations is with Muthulakshmi, Veerappan’s wife. Perhaps this is the first time when Muthulakshmi’s side gets to be heard. In such a situation, the makers of the series deserve praise.

When the terror of Veerappan increased, the central government had to start a mission to catch him. This is the costliest mission ever to catch a criminal in the history of India. The documentary series begins with an interview with Muthulakshmi. This gives the viewers an insight into the character of the man who was something before he became the dreaded smuggler. Veerappan proposed marriage to Muthulakshmi at the age of 15. Talking about Veerappan in the documentary, one describes him as a ‘wild animal in human form’. The documentary consists of four episodes, namely ‘The Forest King’, ‘The Bloodbath’, ‘The Revolutionary’, and ‘The Way Out’. Each episode elaborates on Veerappan’s heinous crimes and traits.

Former Karnataka state forest officer BK Singh recalls the time when forest officials and police personnel from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu tried their best to nab the dacoit. However, their mission did receive some solace when the police seized 65 metric tonnes of sandalwood. Through the documentary, we learn that the plan to capture the dreaded robber begins to pay off when Police Chief Harikrishna, ‘Tiger’ Ashok Kumar and Sub-Inspector Shakeel Ahmed are tasked with the operation to nab Veerappan. When Shakeel kills Gurunath Achari, considered Veerappan’s right-hand man, it is a major victory for the government. But only after this Veerappan attacked the local police station and killed seven policemen.

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This documentary does not tell a one-sided story. Rather, it also talks about the mistakes of the police operation carried out to catch Veerappan. Shankar Mahadev Bidari’s method of getting information from the villagers was at the center of criticism. Incidents such as forcing villagers to drink urine, making naked women sit in front of them tarnished the image of the police. This desperation to meet with no success reached its peak when the draconian TADA law was invoked against those arrested for their alleged association with Veerappan.

The events surrounding the release of Kannada superstar Dr. Rajkumar are also shown in great detail in the series. This documentary series tells another interesting story that is related to Sivasubramaniam. The man who caught Veerappan on camera for the first time. The series also highlights the story of P Srinivas, a forest officer from Karnataka tasked with a different vision to nab Veerappan. His Gandhian ideology played a key role in building relationships and gaining the trust of Veerappan’s relatives. When Srinivasa helps his sister Mariyamma get a job as a nurse in the village, it leads to whispers among the villagers about their relationship. Tragically, when this news reached the smuggler, Srinivasa met a gruesome end.

Selvamani Selvaraj’s direction is superb in this documentary series. He unfolds the whole story like a thrilling movie. The slow camera motion is the lifeblood of the documentary, it also captures the beauty of the wild areas bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The common stories surrounding Veerappan will be familiar to many, but this documentary delves into the stories and important events beyond fiction. It is a tribute to the real-life battles of ‘Tiger’ Ashok Kumar, Shakeel Ahmed, P Srinivas and countless courageous police and forest officers who worked hard, sacrificed their lives.

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