Writers: Jayaraj, Dr. Gokulnath Ammanathil, Based on Macbeth by William Shakespeare
DOP: S. Kumar
Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Shivajith Nambiar, Divinaa Thackur, Himarsha Venkatsami
Film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth but set in Malabar region of Kerala in 13th century, which predates Shakespeare's work. It takes inspirations from Vadakkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads) and tells the story of Chandhu Chekavar, whose name is synonymous in Kerala as a perennial cheat.
M T Vasudevan Nair had told an alternate version of the popular story by justifying Chandhu in his film 'Oru Vadakkan Veeragaadha', with Mammooty playing the role of Chandhu. I saw the film a long time back and don't remember much of it. Jayaraj's version have Chandhu staying true to the legend egged on by Kuttimani, his would be wife. Only add-on I think is that in this version Chandhu suggests that Unniyarcha (his childhood sweetheart) had also asked him kill her own kin so that they could get together. I haven't read Macbeth or seen any of its film adaptations and so can't make any comparison. Michael Fassbender starring one from last year is supposed to be very good and Kurosawa's version 'Throne of Blood' is supposed to be the best.
Veeram is a tri-lingual film with them planning to release a Hindi and English version as well. With a budget of 35 crores, it is the most expensive Malayalam film ever made. The mighty budget seems to have been spent on technical front with many from Hollywood involved for Music, colouring, action choreography and VFX. The budget is well spent as you do get to see where the money went, at least when you are watching it on a big screen with good sound system. CGI is quite good considering it is an Indian film and even when they look quite CGIish, it has a graphic novel like quality to it. The only place where it looked incredibly shit was that woman falling off a cliff scene which is also included in the trailer.
It should be seen more as a martial arts film rather than a character study. Kerala's ancient martial arts, Kalaripayattu, is said to have originated in 6th century, much before the Chinese martial arts which have been popularized by many martial arts films. The action set pieces in Veeram are very well done and the one before the interval, between Aromal Chekavar and Aringodar, is the highlight of the film. One drawback of the film is that these two characters end up being dead before the interval itself and that makes the final ste-piece of the film a bit hollow.
Overall, it is a very good watch and must be seen on a big screen. Many had raised eyebrows when Kunal Kapoor was cast in the role of Chandhu but the ancient Malayalam used in the film helps getting over the dubbing difficulties. They even had subtitles in some places for Malayalam speak. Film is rated A and there is considerable skin show which can be justified by the fact that ancient Kerala was known for its ladies going topless, even the aristocratic ones. Lack of known faces from Malayalam might affect its box office returns but I do hope it does well or at least break even.