Karnan is not juts a movie, its a revolution

Karnan movie review

What: Mari Selvaraj’s follow-up to ‘Pariyerum Perumal’ is not just a powerful cinema, it’s a revolution.

Karnan movie synopsis

Karnan (Dhanush), a fearless village youth, must fight for the rights of the people of his village. The people of the village belong to a marginalized community that has been oppressed for decades.

Karnan movie review

A young girl scumbles to epilepsy on a main road, buses and cars pass by but nobody stops, the girl dies like a stray dog on the highway, her life doesn’t matter to anyone, the camera zooms in and instead of the girl, the writer director Mari Selvaraj shows the deity’s façade.

An eagle poaches on a chick raised by household in the village of Podiyamkulam. The neglected, always oppressed village of Podiyamkulam is a place for people who don’t find any space in the heart and minds of the people. The lower caste, Dalits worship a headless god. They do odd jobs and interact with pigs, piglets, eagle, native dogs, a horse.

They don’t even deserve a bus stop and are always at the mercy of the people from the other/upper caste who keeps on exploiting them and snatching them from their basic necessities.

Mari Selvaraj uses layers and gives the greatest epic on this earth – the Mahabharata a thought provokingly disturbing twist. The lead character Karnan (Dhanush) from Mahabharata a revolting twist, a range derived from the age along oppression and discrimination of his community, village, his people. In a layered statement, it’s Karnan who cuts the fish into two to claim the sword as the protector of his village. It’s not Arjuna who has hit the bull’s eye of the golden fish. Interestingly, Karnan lady love is named Draupadi in this saga of a revolt of the down trodden towards its predators – the system, the ‘caste’ system, the dominance of the powerful over the weak and poor.

The movie takes a leaf from the horrific 1995 Kodiyankulam caste violence that happened in Thoothukudi district. Mari Selvaraj uprising drama Karnan is filled with anger. If Pariyerum Perumal was a thought provokingly, heart rendering realisation of how caste plays an important role in our educational system/institutions, Karnan is a battle for survival, a cry of the deeply wounded, shattered human who is thrashed like an animal - a no one by the other/upper/privileged caste. This demanding cinema shouts for a change and begs for some humanity and concern towards the oppressed community who have equal right to live and like others.

The conflict of ideologies/approach is portrayed with sheer brilliance by Mari Selvaraj where the older people of the village are not ready to change, while the younger generation wants to fight back and claim their rights. Mari Selvaraj brings the debate forward with metaphors of deity, a donkey with his front legs tied up so that he can’t run at will. The headless god as said earlier.

Mari Selvaraj characters in the movie are finely structured, the metaphor is very effective in highlighting the point that add layers. The female characters in the movie are strong as well. Especially, Karnan’s sister Padmini (Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli) and his mother played by Supatra.


A brilliantly crafted piece of art, Karnan is enriched by Theni Eswar’s superb cinematography that captures the emotions in all the shades with good use of long, short angles.

Santhosh Narayanan’s music adds to the momentum extremely well. Selva Rk editing is apt. Tha. Ramalingam art direction is first rate.

Any memorable dialogue/scene

The police station sequence. The climax, the metaphoric shots where the donkey, the headless god, the deity appear to add layers to this saga.


Nothing worth mentioning.




Dhanush as Karnan delivers his most powerful act till date.  

Lal as Yeama Raja (Thatha) is the heart of this saga. Sheer Brilliance.

Rajisha Vijayan as Draupathi is fantastic and has her strong moments.

Yogi Babu as Vadamaalaiyan is fine.

Natarajan Subramaniam as SP Kannabiran is menacing.

Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli as Padmini is outstanding.

G. M. Kumar as Duriyodhanan (Podiyanlulam village head) is fabulous.   

'Poo' Ram as Karnan's Father is endearing. 

Supatra as Karnan's mother is perfect.

Azhagam Perumal as Melur Village Head is very impressive.

Gouri Kishan as Pozhila leaves her mark.

Shanmugarajan as Abhimanyu is competent.


Final words


Movies on unrest, revolt from the oppressed have been a part of the journey of cinema worldwide. The most striking point of Mari Selvaraj’s Karnan is the way the writer director is attaining mastery over story telling by creating characters with layers and creating an environment suitable for the subject like angst (this time). While doing so the writer director boldly twists the characters from the greatest epic on earth – Mahabharata to put his point forward. Certainly with Karnan, Mari Selvaraj establishes himself as the master in the making and without any iota of doubt, Karnan after sometime will be hailed as the Tamil cinema’s most powerful film in recent years


Rating : 4.5/5

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About vishal verma

vishal verma

A child born from life & fed by cinema. A filmi keeda from child & a film journalist for the last fifteen years. a father, seeker, foodie who loves crooning bollywood melodies twitter.com/cineblues More By vishal verma

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