NOW ON NETFLIX! It’s always fascinating to learn about notorious villains in other countries, as it is a lens to humanity that has a bizarre connection to all of us. In the docu-series, The Hunt for Veerappan, director Selvamani Selvaraj presents a deep dive into the existence of Koose Munisamy Veerappan. He was a bandit who became a domestic terrorist in southern India for more than 35 years.
Veerappan was a sandalwood smuggler and elephant poacher living in the forests of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. During his reign as King of the Forest, “a wild animal living in the form of a human,” he kidnapped the famous Indian cinematic icon, Dr. Rajkumar. Veerappan also abducted forest officials and police officers, among others, for ransom, taking advantage of the tensions between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Throughout the four-part of The Hunt for Veerappan, Selvaraj provides interviews from Veerappan’s wife and mother of his two daughters, Muthulakshmi, who lived with him in the forest and was arrested and terrorized but supported his “Robin Hood” existence. She said he always carried a gun, and no one could catch him. Muthulakshmi married Veerappan at 15, and he was 39.
Investigative journalists, gang members, and others discuss Veerappan’s appeal and unique ability to always be ahead of others in arrests and capture. As a hard-core criminal, he understood the need to keep cash flow to operate. He utilized India’s southern forests to poach elephants for ivory and illegally harvest sandalwood trees as their oils and scents are desired worldwide.
Known by many for his twirling mustache, the seemingly elusive villain was not lacking in photos and archival footage. There are plenty spread throughout. In addition, modern-day forest drone footage and other filming form the setting and environment in which Veerappan and his gang operated. Although he may have been disturbed and unable to achieve happiness, the subject managed to attract gang members for decades until he was finally lured away with very few men at his side.
“…utilized India’s southern forests to poach elephants for ivory and illegally harvest sandalwood trees…”
The Hunt for Veerappan fascinatingly provides intel into India’s Special Task Force, created between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, to capture Veerappan and how it was unsuccessful. They had informants in the forest villages and operatives but to no avail. However, once Veerappan’s eyesight began to fail and his force was diminishing, he was contained. In his 30-plus years of surviving in the forest, 120 lives were lost, 1,000 elephants were killed, and 22 million dollars of sandalwood was pillaged and smuggled. In addition, 50 million dollars were spent trying to capture the man with at least 5,000 officers.
A mythical figure or not, Veerappan could outsmart and understand nature to sustain himself and his gang. It’s incredible how one person managed to rise among so many. I can only imagine if Veerappan was the opposite of his being, what would have been achieved?
The language is sometimes overwhelming when trying to understand all the pieces and parts. Adding to the layers of information, one cannot help but be intrigued by India, its people, and all the changes revealed. Although Muthulakshmi is a significant figure in this story, one does not know how she operated with Veerappan except that she was a loyal wife and did not abandon him even in the most tortuous moments. One wonders how Veerappan’s daughters feel about the series as they are not present, and others who may still be alive that were close to Veerappan or lost someone to his violence.
With the many questions that arise, most likely from access and those who wanted to refrain from participating, The Hunt for Veerappan is a fascinating tale if unknown to the viewer. Although, at times, it may be a little dragged out, it is well-produced and a compelling piece of history.
"…a compelling piece of history."