Preparing for the hero introduction scene has apparently been a non-negotiable part of superstar masala movies. It’s a fan service thing. But, over the years, it has become a kind of ritual. No matter how maverick and rebellious the director is, he has to set up a series of events, build anticipation, and prepare the ground for the hero’s entrance. Just minutes before the entrance of the long-awaited hero, the movie will kick into full gear, providing the right cues for fans to prepare to welcome their favorite star with deafening applause, whistles and screams.
But director Nelson Dilipkumar has removed this must-have element in his latest film Beast, starring Tamil superstar Vijay. We meet our hero without any of the established rituals of hero worship. He appears on screen without much announcement and fanfare, and smiles at the audience for a moment. That’s it. It’s a huge subversion of the expectations of hardcore fans.
The creative decision is in line with the stoic nature of Veera Raghavan, played by Vijay. He’s so expressionless that strangers won’t be able to tell he’s suffering from traumatic stress just by looking at him. Nelson has cut the character of Veera Raghavan to the same pattern as Dr. Varun, the stoic hero of his last film as director, Doctor.
Veera Raghavan is a top RAW officer. However, the collateral damage caused by him during a high-profile mission takes a toll on her sanity. And he takes that loss very personally and believes that he has been betrayed by his men. So she leaves RAW. Call it good fortune for innocent bystanders or a stroke of bad luck for a terrorist group based in Pakistan, Veera unexpectedly ends up in a shopping mall, which she is hijacked from. His former classmates, sensing his presence at the mall, request his help. The government tells Veera that he is their best hope. But, his stoic nature protects him from flattery.
Also, unlike the heroes in other movies, let’s say Die Hard, Veera is not tasked with fighting the terrorists and rescuing all the hostages without even for a second thinking about her safety. After the terrorists take control of the mall, Veera escorts himself and some friends to safety and finds a safe place to hide. And then he tells his friends something like, “Let’s not worry about other people’s lives. It’s the government’s job to save these people. First let’s save ourselves and get out.”
Than?! He is the hero and the ultimate sign of a hero is sacrifice, isn’t it? This is where Nelson gets real and touches on a subject that is less talked about: responsibility. Veera doesn’t want to get involved in the matter because he doesn’t want any more deaths on his conscience. He doesn’t want to be in a position to decide who lives and who dies. It is too great a burden for one man to carry.
However, it is Veera’s own clear conscience that won’t allow her to sit back and let innocents die. After hearing a girl’s scream, Veera can no longer be idle. He knows it’s time for him to apply his skills, kill some bad guys and save some good people. “I’m a soldier. Not a politician,” Veera says at one point.
And when Veera leaves her security to confront the terrorists, time slows down. As Anirudh’s Beast Mode track plays in the background, Veera walks in slow motion with an ax in hand, giving fans a chance to go berserk, something Nelson had denied them in the film’s opening moments. .
Because Nelson makes big-star movies without the usual cliches, he seems to be creating a set of his own cliches. Take, for example, actors Redin Kingsley, Sunil Reddy, and Yogi Babu. It seems that this ensemble of actors is a must in a Nelson movie, even if they don’t serve the narrative apart from just being time fillers. Nelson forces these actors into the narrative to create comic relief. Sometimes it works, but this trick seems to wear off with every new movie.
Plus, Nelson could have used this plot setup to make it a nail-biting thriller. Instead, he provides us with unapologetic crowd pleaser and solid service for Vijay’s core fanbase.