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Understanding Villain – Philosophical reflections on Justice

Typical mass masala entertainers revolve around the theme of Hero taking revenge on the villain by killing him. In this instance, is the hero really the hero? Technically both the hero and the villain have committed murder, both for personal reasons. Is justice served and can the loss of beloved people be replaced by this act? Is this is right way that justice should be delivered? 

B Unnikrishnan's latest movie Villain discusses these interesting points in detail in an unusual and unbiased style. Here both the protagonist and antagonist have committed villainy and can be considered a villain. So basically this movie is about the psychological struggle of two villains. But one emerges as a true hero in the end. The movie aims to make the viewers realize that the existing administrative and judicial system is the best possible solution for maintaining law and order.

The basic plot of the movie is based on justice. The antagonist Shaktivel considers him the messiah of timely justice and takes the matter of delivering justice into his own hands. However,  the protagonist Matthew Manjooran is of the view that no one is allowed deliver justice besides the judiciary system and that revenge is not the answer. Manjooran here puts his faith on the judicial system of the country. It seems Manjooran is with Gandhi on the idea revenge,"an eye for an eye only ends up making whole world blind."

Shakthivel is the complete opposite of Manjooran when it comes to justice and revenge. He believes if justice is delivered by a selected few of the judicial system, why cannot a man like him cannot punish a person who wronged him. Although it is undeniable that there is something gratifying about taking justice into your own hands in order to get a swift solution, it is against the law. However, the thing about court verdict is that, it may be decided by one person but it is a systematic process and thus less prone to error, and definitely better than a single person using unorthodox methods to deliver justice All people are equal before the law, no person has the power to take law into their hands. Unnikrishnan makes sure that this view reaches his audience through his character Manjooran. Our justice system might not be perfect and it might be slow in its process, but in the end, it delivers justice. Justice system is impartial, whereas an individual like Shaktivel cannot be impartial as he is clearly driven by personal motives.

Also Shaktivel is an one man army who can be compared to a dictator.  Using Shaktivel, the writer offers a microcosm of the big picture of how dictatorship works in a society. Unnikrishnan points out that a dictator is the worst thing that can happen to a society and their decisions have only plunged the society into deeper troubles.

 One other thing that is evident from the movie is that inflated ego is not a desirable quality in a person. Shaktivel is a egoistical maniac who thinks he is above all others, including the law. On the contrary, the protagonist believes that law will take its own course. He understands that he is a part of the system and his role can be effectively carried out by another person, his successor. Manjooran believes in the system, whereas Shakthivel considers himself above the system.

Another topic the movie deals with is personal loss. How one can escape from the mental trauma of losing someone that is dear to them?  For a human being, this loss is very sorrowful. They cannot be replaced. Their memories cannot be replaced. But from a system point of view personal losses are negligible. Technically society lost an upcoming doctor when Manjooran's daughter died, however he more than compromises this by giving back two derailed doctors Shaktivel and Shreya who was made to realize their mistakes.

Shaktivel's father committed suicide because he thought his dream to make his son a doctor will not be fulfilled, but later Shaktivel gets admission in the same medical college that refused togive him a seat. So justice is partially served, but instead of trying to overcome the trauma of personal loss by means of grieving  Shaktivel takes out his anger on the system. 

Manjooran's wife's ambition was to build a school for the mentally challenged children. Manjooran quits his job and decides to fulfill the dreams of his wife so that her dream can live through him This is again another thing which helps the collective society in this corrupted world were humanity and compassion is no longer getting higher priority. This also helps him to overcome his personal loss.Also, he will be able to find solace in the fact that he is doing something that his wife yearned to do all her life.

There is often a prejudiced interpretation that people are either good or bad. However, this is not true, this black and white thing only distorts the reality. There's potential for good and bad in everyone, it's a cliché, but it is true. Every person has their grey, black and white moments. We shouldn't be prejudiced and judge them based on those moments, rather it should be left to those people with experience, like the judge.

This movie is thus against mob justice.Like the Greek philosopher Aristotle believed, everything happens for a reason, we need to analyze it. Here, the protagonist understands the situation that his colleague is in and forgives him. He forgives the man who was responsible for his wife's death instead of blindly seeking vengeance. Manjooran doesn't over react or gets aggressive, instead he enquires calmly about the reason for the betrayal he committed. And he leaves the rest to the judicial system.

Another thing at play here is love. The antagonist and protagonist, both have lovers. Manjooran truly loves his wife. When his wife was in a coma and suffering, he releases her from all that suffering. That is out of love. Shaktivel on the other hand manipulates his lover's love for him and  makes her an accomplice in his crimes.

One thing I found interesting is the subtle use of intelligence and technology. Shaktivel is an intelligent doctor who uses his expertise to kill people to take revenge on the system. On the other hand Manjooran uses his intelligence and expertise to solve a murder and to save many lives.  

In the movie we can see a chain of events happening because one person took matters into his hands ignoring the administrative and judicial machinery. Felix never wanted to end up in jail, thus he escaped and this resulted in the murder of two people and then again in the murder of an innocent lorry driver. This is an interesting pattern; in the movie out of the three people who lost their lives, only two were real culprits, but revenge cost the life of an innocent person. So when one person takes the task of delivering justice into his hands there will always be collateral damage. In the case of Shakthivel, while he was seeking revenge three innocent police officers lost their lives. This pattern would have repeated if Manjooran had took justice into his hands. However, no more collateral damage was done as Manjooran followed the law.

Interestingly enough the last target of Shaktivel was the DGP of the state. So he thinks that his fight against the Justice system of the society will have a perfect finale if he is able to punish the justice keeper even though it's out of personal vengeance. He proposes to do this in front of Manjooran whom he considers an upright officer and the alternate Justice. But Manjooran clearly points out that we all should follow the law of this land and also proves that  the DGP is innocent and that Shaktivel has come to the wrong conclusion. The person who considers himself the best vigilante has erred. So he cannot be considered invincible or better than existing Judicial system. The judicial system of the country delivers justice through a long process which has many levels so the chances of error is much less than Shaktivel thinks.

 It is also clear that the movie is also against capital punishment. the movie already established that the people are not binary or black and white. They are much more complicated than that. There are different shades in everyone. There is often a prejudiced interpretation that people are either good or bad. However, this is not true, this black and white thing only distorts the reality. There's potential for good and bad in everyone, it's a cliché, but it is true. Every person has their grey, black and white moments. We shouldn't be prejudiced and judge them based on those moments, rather it should be left to those people with experience, like the judge. Manjooran is ready to accept this fact and let the wrongdoers surrender to law. Once they serve their jail term they should get reformed. This is in line with our justice system. Manjooran mourned the death of his wife and daughter for 7 months in isolation. This can be considered  akin to a jail sentence which redeems his earlier mistake of taking law into his hands when letting his wife of her misery.

Manjooran finds that revenge is a bad life-long disease and was in dilemma for long whether to commit suicide or to do murder. But he neither committs suicide or does murder. He overcame his trauma by telling himself that revenge is not the right path, and thus he choose the right path, that is the path of law and order. The movie again makes a strong point by saying that it's the circumstances that makes a person a hero or villain, but even in such circumstances a villain can become a hero by making the right choice. It is the choice that defines who we are. It is the choice that matters.

It is debatable whether mercy killing is ethical, legal, or justified. However when he saw his suffering wife, he didn't think about the legality of his actions. He just wanted to put his wife out of her misery. May be it was a slightly villainous thing to do, but after that he evolved much as a person and became the ultimate hero.

So, Villain is actually an endearing and heartbreaking journey of the protagonist from a villain to a hero. He doesn't allow his animal instincts to overrule his  humanity. He is an ideal citizen who doesn't hold himself above the law.

The last thing is that you should always think before you take a decision. Dwell on it. Sleep on it. But never do something in haste. So before posting a negative review of this movie, do think about the movie in depth. 

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