Asuran Review: Asuran opens with the shot of a reflection of the moon on still water. But the tranquility of the visual is lost when a foot steps into the water. This single shot is evocative of the film’s core plot – the peace of a family destroyed by a reckless act.
The family is that of Sivasamy (Dhanush), a small farmer from the lower caste. With Narasimhan (Aadukalam Naren), a rich landlord from the upper caste, plotting to grab his three-acre land, to build a cement factory, the tensions are running high between the two families. Things escalate when Sivasamy’s hot-headed elder son, Murugan (TeeJay Arunasalam) humiliates Narasimhan, and the latter retaliate by having him brutally killed. Sivasamy still tries to protect his family by taking a pacifist approach, his angry teenaged son Chidambaram (Ken) unable to see his mother Pachaiyamma (Manju Warrier) suffering, kills Narasimhan. With the landlord’s relatives baying for the youngster’s blood, can the patriarch save his family and put an end to the enmity?
With Asuran, an adaptation of Poomani’s acclaimed novel, Vekkai, Vetri Maaran delivers yet another solid action drama that keeps us engrossed from start to finish. He treats the first half as a survival drama, with the father and son trying to evade Narasimhan’s men who are on their track. And he intersperses these moments with scenes that have lead to this life-or-death situation. He keeps building the tension in scene after scene, and it all comes to a boil in a superb mass hero moment. He lets the socio-political aspects simmer underneath the thriller-ish plotline on the surface, and brings them to the fore in the second half, through Sivasamy’s backstory. It is this approach that makes Asuran distinctive. It shows how caste divide has metamorphosised into a class divide, even as the participants remain the same. In fact, caste isn’t mentioned explicitly until the latter portions. The film remains a rich vs poor battle on the surface even as Vetri Maaran drops enough caste markers to make us realise the issues run far deeper.
The assured storytelling (there is not a single wasted moment), combined with the solid filmmaking (Velraj’s cinematography, in particular, is a highlight) and the fine performances, often have us on the edge of our seats. And the director gets another noteworthy performance from Dhanush, who is superb here. Playing a character who is older than his real age, the actor convincingly portrays the physicality of a 40-plus man. His limbs hang loose, his walk is a little slower paced and unsteady, and his speech has the tremors that age adds to our vocal chords. This should rank among his best performances.