The diametric legacies of Veerappan


Even before he was wanted in connection with the murders of over 100 people, Koose Muniswamy Veerappan was a notorious poacher and sandalwood smuggler. Things really got interesting on July 30, 2000, when he kidnapped "the John Wayne of Bollywood"--Rajkumar--after the beloved actor had thrown a housewarming party (at the behest of his astrologer, to coincide with the usually beneficent new moon). The Kannada star was generally tight-lipped about the ordeal, but a New York Times Magazine piece of 2004 (the year Veerappan was apprehended and killed) illuminates some of the more bizarre and introspective aspects of the kidnapping:

In 2000, he kidnapped a 71-year-old film actor, Rajkumar, a demigod in South India. The hostage and the kidnapper held lengthy discussions on religious scripture. It had a therapeutic effect on the thespian. ''My time was all my own,'' Rajkumar later said. ''I prayed to God, conversed with my inner self and marveled at natural phenomena like day and night.'' The brigand would twirl and flourish his whiskers and ask his captive his opinion. ''He used to smear all sorts of oils and herbs on it,'' the actor recalled. ''He used to comb it every day and keep it very clean. He also used to take great pains to dye it black.''

From what I know, this bandit's legacy has not been addressed via dolls (but let me know if I'm mistaken).

Instead, his life and its tyrannies have inspired various filmmakers, including Ram Gopal Varma & his 2000 biopic, Jungle, and AMR Ramesh from Karnataka, who expounds on Veerappan in this recent Q&A:

DH: You are also planning a film on Veerappan.

AMMR: I have been planning it since five years. When the late Dr Rajkumar was kidnapped, I was the first person to go to the forest. I met Veerappan's wife Muthulaxmi. This film will be in Tamil and Kannada and it will be named Samharam--Forest Encounter. Again it will be real names and real situations.

Of course, Muthulaxmi has filed a case against the project, and she has got every right to do so. But as a filmmaker I have got my own right to make a film. Veerappan did not take anybody's permission to kill animals and human beings.

The day of Veerappan's funeral, 20,000 people showed up, some curious, some lamenting the death of a figure who championed unity between the contentious states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Among his ten conditions for the release of Rajkumar were that a statue of poet Thiruvalluvar be erected in Bangladore and that the wages of tea estate workers be raised.

His widow, Muthulaxmi, even seems to take the long way around his atrocities. According to the BBC, she acknowledged Veerappan was a "loving father and good husband" and that he "asked me to be patient, saying he would take the necessary steps at the right time. For the sake of the children he said I should not come to the jungle to live with him."