The Hunt for Veerappan Review – the shocking accounts of the Sandalwood smuggler

By Romey Norton
Published: August 4, 2023 (Last updated: August 15, 2023)
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2023 Netflix true crime documentary series The Hunt for Veerappan Review


Decades spent on hunting one notorious, heinous man. This story needs to be seen to be believed.

Here is our review of the 2023 Netflix true crime documentary series The Hunt for Veerappan, released on August 4th, 2023.

The Hunt For Veerappan is a Netflix true crime documentary series inspired by real-life events of the notorious Tamil Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who shook the entirety of Southern India with his heinous crimes.

This isn’t Netflix’s first account covering true crime in India; other documentaries that have been widely popular include House of Burari and The Butcher of Deli. 

What is the importance of this story to be told now? Selvamani Selvaraj, the director of the series said, “This docu-series is an exploration to know if the socio-political situation of a society can create an entity like Veerappan and if he was indeed that entity. Understanding this is important even now.”

It’s such an interesting topic —  I think society does shape systems and situations in which criminals can thrive and survive and not fear authorities or consequences. What drove Veerappan? Poverty, money, power, and more. 

The Hunt for Veerappan Review

Koose Munisamy Veerappan was an Indian bandit turned domestic terrorist who was active for thirty-six years. His crimes vary from one horrendous extreme to another.

He was charged with sandalwood smuggling and poaching thousands of elephants in the scrub lands and forests in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala to smuggle ivory.

He would kidnap politicians and hold them for ransom. He was a wanted man for killing approximately 184 people, many of them police officers.

He was incredibly brazen and unafraid of the law. His story takes the whole “catch me if you can” thing to a new level. 

As this is a story that spans decades, the documentary does well in its structure and detail. The hunt is split into four parts across the four episodes.

Audiences see how he lived as “King of the Forest”, then how he clashed with the police (taking police stations under siege and kidnapping officers), the politics, and we end with his desperation and escape. Each episode carefully examines the escalation of his crimes and the challenges in chasing and catching him. 

There are multiple perspectives on Veerappan’s actions and choices, with some heavily against what he did and others defending his actions toward the police. However, his work is not glorified.

We hear accounts from Veerappan’s widow Muthulakshmi, members of his gang, locals in the villages, investigative journalists, members of a Special Task Force, and the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army. 

This docuseries also features some remastered pictures of Veerappan, eerily clear, where you can try to look into his eyes to see what type of person could commit all these crimes. It’s hard to imagine someone like him existing and causing so much pain and terror — it’s a story you have to see to believe.

Visually we have lots of photos and footage accompanying the interviews which helps demonstrate why and how it was so difficult to catch this man. 

There are some seriously shocking moments, one is when his wife explains the torture she went through, and discusses her children that didn’t know her; it’s harrowing to hear. Unsettling to see that this man had no regard or concern for others.

When he shamelessly murdered, he didn’t care for the families it was affecting. 

After almost 36 years, The Tamil Nadu Special Task Force managed to kill Veerappan in an encounter named Operation Cocoon in 2004, in a gunfight. Veerappan and his team members were led to an area where they thought they would get medical treatment and then were shot down.

Gang members including Sethukuli Govindan, Chandre Gowdar, and Sethumani were also killed in the operation.

Is The Hunt for Veerappan good or bad?

Yes — by meticulously delving into the man, his decisions, and what led him into being a decade-long criminal will make the viewer question human complexities and that fine line between what is good and what is evil.

Is The Hunt for Veerappan worth watching?

There are four episodes with a runtime of just under one hour each, enough for you to sink your teeth into. The episodes have a lot of talking and discussion but do not feel long and drawn out. (There was a lot to get through)

There has to be an appreciation for the fact this documentary series has taken four years to make. It’s very well crafted, with an abundance of information. For a terrifying, ruthless gangster to be active for decades, this story is a horrifying but incredible one. It’s definitely worth investing your time in.

What did you think of the 2023 Netflix true crime documentary series The Hunt for Veerappan? Comment below.

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