Dev (Prithviraj) is a police officer who is posted near the Nallamalla forests. He comes there along with his wife Raagini (Aishwarya Rai).
Veera (Vikram) who often takes law into his own hands to protect his people is on the hit list of the police. In order to avenge the death of his sister Vennela (Priyamani) who dies because of the cops, Veera decides to pay back Dev in the same way and kidnaps Raagini.
An enraged Dev sets out with his team in search of Raagini and the rest of movie is about how Dev and Veera try to get better of each other.
The entire story is woven on the lines of Ramayana where Ram goes to search Sita who has been kidnapped by Raavan. However the characters in this modern story are not black and white but grey.
The modern Raavan, Veera is portrayed as a virtuous man who manages to win the heart of the modern day Sita, Raagini. Dev is a character who unlike Ram in Ramayana is willing to do anything to reach his target Veera.
There are other characters like Hanuman and Surpanakha as well which are adapted to the modern day context.
Vikram is superb as Veera. He perfectly fits into the role of Veera and plays his part well. What makes his performance very special is the fact that he plays the contrasting role of Dev in the Hindi version that was shot simultaneously.
Aishwarya Rai is good as Raagini but one can’t help feeling that a south heroine would have suited the role better in the regional version. However considering the fact that most heroines down south are Mumbai imports the director Mani Ratnam had little choice.
Prithiviraj who plays Dev is excellent as the cop who is hell bent on catching Veera. The rest of actors like Priyamani, Karthik and Prabhu have done justice to their roles.
The music by A.R. Rahman is disappointing by his own high standards. The songs Usure Poyene and Veera Veera are the pick of the lot.
Cinematography by Santosh Sivan and Manikandhan is excellent and exotic locales shot in the jungles and waterfalls are a visual treat. The fight sequence between Prithivraj and Vikram on the bridge is amazing.
Dialogues by Sriramakrishna are below average and fail to give the Telugu feel to the film which is so essential in a dubbed movie.
The idea of a modern take on Ramayana which shows the dark side of Ram and the positive shades of Raavan is very interesting. But the movie is slow at times especially in the first half and leaves the audience disappointed at the interval stage.
Mani Ratnam oscillates between the past and the present in the movie and that slackens the pace of the film. Somehow the trademark Mani Ratnam narration and storytelling that all his fans expect of him is missing in this movie.
Coming from Mani Ratnam who has made movies like Roja, Bombay and Dil Se in the past, the movie disappoints. Watch Villain for the performance of the lead actors and for the breathtaking cinematography by Santosh Sivan and Manikandhan.
Critic: Raghu Chaitanya