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The Hunt for Veerappan

The Hunt for Veerappan Netflix Review

  • Documentary Name: The Hunt For Veerappan
  • Director: Selvamani Selvaraj
  • Number of Episodes: 4
  • Year of Release: 2023
  • Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

The Hunt For Veerappan is a four-part documentary series that tracks the journey of India’s dreaded criminal, smuggler, bandit, and forest brigand, Veerappan. 

The documentary is interspersed with various accounts of people associated with Veerappan’s life, including his wife, gang members, local villagers, journalists, forest officers, and police officials. Each gives their share of perspectives about a criminal who dodged the Indian authorities for over two decades. 

While the journey of Veerapan into crime and sandalwood smuggling started much earlier, The Hunt For Veerappan documentary shows his life from 1989 onwards. Around this time, Veerapan met his wife, Muthulakshmi, whose perspective during four episodes provided a counterbalance to other views.

“If someone was true to him, he was ready to even sacrifice his life. But if someone tries to betray him, he would not hesitate to kill them.”  – Muthulakshmi quips with a smile.

The documentary opens up with the back shot of Muthulakshmi, where she recounts how, at the age of 15, she saw Veerappan and his swirling mustache for the first time and the immediate marriage proposal he got from the man. Veerapan was 39 years old then. 

Veerapan was responsible for killing over 1,000 elephants for ivory and the large-scale sandalwood smuggling in the MM forests spread across three Indian states: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The documentary notes that the pillaged forest resources had a combined worth of Rs. One hundred crores (US $22 million) as per published reports in 2004.

If looting forest resources and killing harmless animals was not enough, he and his gang were involved in several killings of civilians, ministers, and security officers. For several years during the 1990s and early 2000s, Veerappan was involved in the killing of more than 120 people. The gruesome killings involved bomb blasts, beheadings, guerilla-style murders, etc. 

In 1991, Veerappan shot and beheaded an unarmed forest officer, Sreenivas, who was called to his hideout in a pretense that he wanted to surrender. In 1993, he killed 20 security team members in a landmine blast. In 2000, Veerappan kidnaped a highly popular Kannada cinema actor, Rajkumar, and three others, which caused a huge public outcry and violence. 

In addition, the documentary also highlights Veerapan’s candid interviews with TV channels, his connections with LTTE, and his stature as a Robinhood amongst the local people. 

After playing hide and seek with security and administration, finally, in 2004, Veerappan was killed in an encounter at 52. 

Even though authorities from two large Indian states were involved at the highest level, the MM forest provided shelter and escape to Veerappan. As per the documentary, since the formation of the Special Task Force, the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka spent Rs 220 crores (US $50 mn) on Veerapan manhunt. 

The Hunt For Veerappan documentary may not have captured all the incidents. Still, it has shared a captivating story of this forest fugitive through interviews with stakeholders who were part of those missions.

The makers have not recreated any scenes; they have used all the historical footage from the news channels, pictures, and recordings. What also makes The Hunt For Veerappan documentary fascinating is the background music, forest shots, and screenplay. 

Veerappan might be from India, but this man’s story will always be remembered whenever we speak about forest conservation anywhere in the world. 

Trailer of Hunt For Veerappan:



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