In Killing Veerappan, Kannada superstar Shivarajkumar plays the cop who is the master-strategist in Operation Cocoon by the Special Task Force (STF), which eventually led to the forest brigand’s death in a bloody encounter in 2004.
The then chief of the STF, K Vijay Kumar, was the face of the operation. But Shivarajakumar’s role is believed to be based on another key IPS officer– NK Senthamaraikannan, who has been credited with masterminding the operation, both the intelligence and operational aspect of it.
Senthamaraikannan was instrumental in putting into place a network of informers and attracting Veerappan's own men to the other side. He was the operational brain and coordinated between the top brass and the ground resources, according to media reports in 2004.
In the movie, Shivarajakumar plays the unnamed mastermind who is modelled as a heroic cop and is ‘more terrorising than Veerappan’. “One needs to become a demon to kill another demon and that transformation was necessary for the character,” Shivarajakumar has said earlier. The cop is aggressive and the lifeline of the operation.
In reality, however, Senthamaraikannan is a different person. He is humble and polite, but ready to talk. He has no airs about his role, and readily acknowledges that he alone cannot be credited.
He has not watched the movie yet, but says that any heroic representation of him would be distant from reality.
“It was team work, I don’t think I should be treated like an icon. It was a very large team and everyone had equal contribution. No one person can claim credit,” says Senthamaraikannan, now posted as IG, Operations, TN Police.
“I have not been consulted in anyway so I don’t know about the movie, but the credit goes to the whole team under the leadership of ADGP Vijay Kumar,” he adds.
So is he the rebellious and heroic cop as shown on screen?
“They might have made the character heroic for the film, but it is not like that,” he says laughing it off.
The officer however cannot stop talking about the operation and his experience. The movie could have been based on Operation Cocoon, but in reality, what they did was much more than that, he says. “We did the surgical operation, yes. But it was not just that. We put in mistakes and learning of 20 years and conducted the operation,” he says, “it was a participative process.”
Senthamaraikannan is known to be a low-profile man and an optimist, and was recruited as a Deputy Superintendent of Police in 1989. After the operation ended, his team leader ADGP Vijay Kumar remarked, "His intelligence network was superb. He did an excellent job silently without creating any fuss. I appreciate him."
In a profile of him in Times of India, the writer states, “Kannan has been with STF for about four years now and has never given up on his quarry. The writing on the wall at his office at Sathyamangalam camp reads, "Don't quit. Success is failure turned inside out."”