Vadakkan Paattu or the Northern ballad is characterised by its simplicity and its power of delivering the story, rather than the drama involved in it. Veeram is a valiant effort by the one and only Jayaraj to create cinema which has a similar impact. In the process, he courageously broke all the existing norms of producing a commercially successful big budget film, overlooking the stars available in the Malayalam industry for actors who perfectly fitted in the moulds of the characters, almost like how a common man would imagine Chandu and Aromal chekavar when he hears the Vadakkan paattu.
The Northern Ballad, the modern Malayali is familiar with is that of 'Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha' by M.T Vasudevan Nair, which found its place among the classics for telling the tale from the time immemorial villain Chandu's point of view. What makes 'Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha' special is that it doesn’t alter anything that the bards sing about Chandu as it end with "Let the tale of traitor Chandu end here". Veeram follows suit in narrating the tale from Chandu's perspective. But it starts almost where Vadakkan Veeragadha ends, that is Chandu killing or rather forced into killing Aromal Chekavar. Veeram is all about the venom of betrayal creeping into Chandu taking various forms of revenge, temptation, superstition, lust, violence, guilt, fear, survival, solitude and death. The venomous snake turns against Chandu as his own conscience as he is forced to fight and stand tall against himself, building an unassailable pseudo fortress in his own mind. The fortress is kept intact even when he faces death, as he smiles at the jaws of it. All this have been shown tangled with Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy Macbeth.
The first half of Veeram where the story is undeniably close to Vadakkan Veeragadha, heroically fights with it in the minds of the Malayali audience and comes short. May be it’s not fair to compare any movie with the classic but events which carried great emotional trauma among the characters in the former movie were shown in Veeram in the most linear of ways. But Veeram was never about the story or the heroics. It was all about Chandu and only that. The view of a traitor who only sees his targets. Everything else was left to the viewers to assume, which in turn results in a special and beautiful cinematic experience. The brilliance of Jayaraj was quiet evident in the way he drew parallels with Macbeth, especially regarding the irresistible influence of women and superstition in the protagonist's life. In doing so Jayaraj used ample freedom in deviating from the original background of the Vadakkanpaattu and Kalarippayattu. Certain symbols used in Veeram also spoke volumes of Jayaraj's craft.
Casting actors who are not familiar to the average Malayali audience for the costliest Malayalam movie till date is clearly a huge financial gamble. Kunal Kapoor justified his selection by giving life to Chandu and his emotions. The rest was left with Jayaraj as he projected the actor and thus the character with perfection. For the valiant fighter that Chandu was, it very often seemed Kunal Kapoor deserved a stronger voice behind him. The voice went out of sync especially in portions where Chandu experienced intense fear and guilt. Casting someone like a Mammootty as Chandu's voice like it is done in Hollywood animation movies, might have given Veeram a great boost in the box office. Divinaa Thackur did an excellent job as Kuttimaani, the character parallel to the pivotal Lady Macbeth.
Just as Jayaraj was hell bent in casting actors whose appearance itself spoke about the character of the roles they played, he gave great emphasis on the technical side of Veeram yielding overwhelming results. He ensembled a crew of technicians featuring greats like S.Kumar and foreign artists like Trefor Proud for make-up, Jeff Olm for colour grading and Allan Poppleton for stunt choreography. It contributed massively to the intensity of Veeram, giving it an international outlook.
Unlike foreign industries, Indian music directors are seldom known for their background scores than their songs. Jayaraj attempted to change the trend by giving the music credits to Jeff Rona, whose scores gave brought alive the visuals on screen.
Veeram is all about the phenomenon of the growth and death of a traitor. It lacks the emotional drama that usually powers cinema through the turns of its story, as it is mostly from the eyes of Chandu alone. Thus Veeram ends up a different movie experience, enhanced by great technical finesse in its DOP, colouring, costumes, make up, music etc., combined with Jayaraj's craft and picture perfect casting. Veeram collecting well in the box office would be the biggest victory of Malayalam cinema in recent times. But in the current cinema world, it takes lots more that quality cinema to conquer the box office.