The Veerappan days

Everyone loves a good mob story, be it The Godfather or Gangs of Wasseypur. While a lot of these are based on true events, there is yet to be a really authentic movie made on our very own Poacher/Bandit/Murderer from the south – Veerappan. A few days after what would have been his birthday, imagine a gritty, raw film about a man who spent a majority of his life gunning down people, animals, informants; smuggling expensive wood and hiding in thousands of kilometers of wilderness. Not that any of his heinous actions are ever condoned, but here’s a brief look at the dacoit’s life and some information that not everyone may know. Spoiler: There is a movie slated for release, but until then…



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The Life: Sandalwood Smuggler Veerappan was born on 18th January, 1952. Unlike a lot of other would-be gangsters, he spent more than 42 of his 52 years on this planet hunting, chopping, running and smuggling. That’s a pretty long time for a guy to have spent hiding in a forest, but, hey, takes some skill I suppose.



The moustache: Ah, probably the most iconic part of this smuggler bandit – the lush, thick handlebar moustache. The film is probably only delayed because no one could pull that face-hair off like he could. The stache is so beautiful that his wife actually claimed she married him because of it.



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The poaching: Veerappan joined forces with a relative, also a notorious smuggler, poacher and criminal Sevi Gounder, and arguably learned everything he did from him. The child gunned down his first elephant – a tusker – at the age of 10. (!) In his lifetime he’s said to have killed over 2000 elephants for their ivory. (Image courtesy Getty Images)



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The murder: Starting down this path at the age of 17, in his lifetime he’s said to have killed more than 180 people, ranging from police to forest officials. His temper and paranoia, alike, were such that he gunned down several civilians as well if he even suspected them of being informants to the authorities. He apparently shot a man dad for traveling in a police vehicle once. Damn.



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The kidnappings: From between the 90s to the early 2000s, Veerappan and his gang were responsible for a number of kidnappings for ransom in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These included police personnel, forest officials, and most famously, Dr. Rajkumar, the actor from Karnataka who was kidnapped and released for a whopping 30 crore rupees. 20 of which was apparently paid by the Karnataka government for his release. Not all his kidnap victims made it back safely, though.



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The wealth: Veerappan, over the course of his incredible career, killed more than 2000 elephants for their ivory and smuggled close to 90,000 pounds of ivory and sandalwood. These combined are worth over 75 crore rupees. For a bandit living in the jungle with a handful of men in the 90s to late 2000s this was a massive sum of money. Not to mention his ransoms and gold added to it.



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The notoriety: His wife, Muthulakshmi publicly credits his notoriety as one of the main reasons she chose to marry him. And being renowned for his lawlessness, there are multiple books written about the man and his band of merry men, even by some who were kidnapped and later released by him. Should be a good read if you’re interested. And although a lot of movies had been in the pipeline and later shelved, hopefully the film yet to come out this year will live up to the hype of this man.



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The elusion: Veerappan was, all things considered, an expert survivalist. Anyone who can stay hidden for decades, living comfortably in a 6,000 km² forest successfully evading 3 state government forces has to have some skill going for him. Using guerilla tactics, his knowledge of the land and basically being a cold-blooded murderer, he could successfully ambush and eliminate anyone who did go in search of him. He’s also responsible for one of the largest mass killings, that of 22 members of the special forces team set after him. And all for killing his lieutenant. Vengeful much?



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The PR: This is actually pretty amazing, depending on how true it is. So our Sandalwood smuggler king had a fleet of PR professionals working for him in offices even in New York and London. It seems they were assigned to help him maintain his reputation and in all likelihood keep him in the news and good graces of the politicians that supported him alike.



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The hideout: So when you picture this frail bandit hiding out in a cave-like structure in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wild animals and mosquitoes and bugs, fret not, the stone cold killer cared enough about the warmth of his crib that he flew in his personal interior decorator to help. Good taste at least.



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The death: Veerappan was finally found, surrounded and shot dead on the 18th of October, 2004. Working off a tip, the special forces assigned to apprehending him tricked him and whoever was left of his gang into an ambulance under the presence of medical aid. The ensuing gun battle left them all dead and the end of the Veerappan era. The surrounding villages celebrated with firecrackers.
(10 images from social media)