Anbe Sivam

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Anbe Sivam
Promotional Poster
Directed by Sundar C
Produced by K. Muralitharan
V. Swaminathan
G. Venugopal
Written by Kamal Haasan
Madhan (dialogues)
Starring Kamal Haasan
R. Madhavan
Kiran Rathod
Santhana Bharathi
Music by Vidyasagar
Cinematography Arthur A. Wilson
Edited by P. Sai Suresh
Lakshmi Movie Makers
Distributed by Raaj Kamal Films International
Release dates
15 January 2003
Running time
158 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Anbe Sivam (English: Love Is God) is a 2003 Tamil drama film written by Kamal Haasan and directed by Sundar C. The film follows the events of an unexpected journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai which is undertaken by two men who are polar opposites, Nalla Sivam (Kamal Haasan) and Anbarasu (R. Madhavan). It also stars Kiran Rathod, Nassar and Santhana Bharathi, while Vidyasagar handled the music score. Arthur A. Wilson did the cinematography and the editing was by P. Sai Suresh.

The film addressed a series of themes including that of communism, atheism and altruism, bringing through the film writer Kamal Haasan's views as a humanist. The film released in January 2003 to critical acclaim, though it became a box office failure. Post-release, the film has garnered a "cult classic" status from critics and television audiences.[1][2]


The film begins with ad filmmaker Anbarasu (R. Madhavan), who prefers the much-abbreviated A. Aras rather than his full name, arriving at the Bhubaneswar Airport in Odisha, India. He is about to board a flight back to Chennai for his wedding. However, he learns at the airport that his flight has been cancelled. While waiting for further announcements, Aras watches the television news about a terrorist threat at an airport in Mumbai. Remarking to himself that the country is going to the dogs, he looks around and sees a bespectacled man with scars taking out something rolled up in a newspaper from his bag. Pictures of a pipe bomb shown among the items seized by the Mumbai police flash through his mind. He informs the authorities, only to learn that the man was simply taking out a cucumber.

The man, who is physically challenged, is Nallasivam (Kamal Haasan). Nalla introduces himself to Aras, and they get to know each other. However, Aras underestimates Nalla, ignoring his sage advice and friendly overtures, resulting in some comical events in the airport. Then, announcements are made that all flights have been canceled due to the inclement weather and Aras realizes he needs a room in a nearby hotel for the night. He is informed, much to his consternation, that the five-star hotel where he was staying before is now fully booked, leaving him optionless. Nallasivam helps him find a place in a two-star hotel nearby, where Nalla and Aras are forced to share the same room. Aras' resentment of Nalla makes him act selfishly in trying to get rid of Nalla; at every juncture, Nalla does him a favor which leaves Aras with a guilt-ridden heart. The next morning, Aras takes a taxi without waking Nalla to find his own way to Chennai. Aras realizes that the floods have blocked most of the roads and even the train station is flooded. He gets mugged by a man at the station who offers to help him with his luggage but instead steals all his money. Nalla comes to the station and helps Aras regain the wallet, sans the money. It is then revealed that Nalla is a trade unionist and is traveling with a cheque worth Rs. 3 million to be delivered to some people after fighting a court case for union workers. The comical situations continue as the pair make it to another railway station in a bus. While awaiting their train, Nalla begins to tell Aras his story, but a tired Aras falls asleep and later walks away halfway through the story.

The film then flashes back to a few years in the past when a perfectly good-looking Nalla performs in street theatres protesting against the industrialization process which is marginalizing the labor force. He often gets into trouble due to this. Nalla is also a very talented painter. He is fighting mainly against the town's biggest business tycoon, the manipulative Kandasamy Padayachi (Nassar), whom he satirically imitates in many of his shows. However, an interesting turn of events sees Nalla and Kandasamy's daughter Bala (Kiran Rathod) fall in love with each other. Realizing Kandasamy's power would be too much to bear if they want to get together, Nalla and Bala decide to elope. While Nalla is on a bus on his way to meet Bala, the bus is in a terrible accident on a hillside which leaves him badly injured. Despite surgery, he is left partially paralyzed and badly scarred. Kandasamy informs his daughter Bala that Nalla is dead. It is also at this time that Nalla becomes a firm believer in kindness and love and, while suffering from an inferiority complex due to his scarred and paralyzed body, nevertheless engages with renewed fervour in performing community service and social work while continuing to fight for union causes.

The film then returns to the present, as Aras and Nalla prepare to board the train they have been waiting for. But as the train arrives, they get into an argument about communism, Karl Marx, and so on. Nalla accuses Aras of being an agent for the West and of being manipulated, while Aras defends himself and criticises communism as a whole, concluding that the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. Nalla argues that the idea of communism wouldn't die because the Soviet Union has broken up, just as people wouldn't stop loving if the Taj Mahal got destroyed. The argument turns heated, causing a short-tempered Aras to punch Nalla. After initially looking calm, Nalla punches Aras back even harder, causing Aras to bleed. Pretending to cool down and make up, Aras deceives Nalla into getting some bottled water for him and locks the train door, leaving Nalla stranded as the train leaves without him.

On the train, Aras meets a well-dressed corporate-type individual, Uthaman (Yugi Sethu), who seems to share the same interests as Aras. Uthaman asks Aras to throw away a pack of biscuits Nalla gave to Aras due to the risk of it being doctored and offers him whiskey. When Aras wakes up the next day, he learns from the conductor that he has been conned and that his fellow passenger man was a thief who stole all of his belongings. The train comes to a halt because a previous train has had an accident and it has to be cleared up first. There, Aras witnesses a slew of dead bodies and suffering people, causing him to suffer emotionally. To his surprise, he meets Nalla again at the treatment camp nearby. He apologizes to Nalla, who forgives him. Nalla proposes that he donate blood to a dying boy in need of AB blood, while Aras mentions that he is bloodsick. Nalla convinces him, and Aras donates. Aras also retrieves his belongings as he finds that the thief is around the camp. Nalla proposes that Aras travel with him in an ambulance which will be carrying the injured boy on its way to Chennai.

While on the journey the boy passes away causing Aras to cry. He calls God 'unjust' for giving the boy hope in the form of Aras' blood and then taking away his life. Nalla, who is an atheist, tells Aras that Aras himself is God, that the sadness he feels and the tears he sheds for the boy makes him God. Aras comes to terms with using his full name Anbarasu, a name he previously despised because he apparently doesn't like 'anbu' (love). On reaching Chennai, they go their separate ways, but Aras realizes that Nalla's union cheque is still with him and returns to the address Nalla had given him.

He realizes that Nalla had lied to him previously when he said that he had a wife and a son named 'Sangu'. The address is a place where injured labourers from Odisha camp while waiting for their legal funds (the money fought for and being brought to them by Nalla) and that 'Sangu' is the name of Nalla's dog, which incidentally had caused Nalla's accident. After giving the cheque to the office, he goes to the nearby shop to meet Nalla and scolds him for not telling him the truth. He asks Nalla to come with him for his marriage, but Nalla says he will 'come later'. In an emotional moment, Aras recounts the story of how his brother died from a freak accident when he was young (a story he had told Nalla before). He says that Nalla is his new-found brother and should stay with him as long as life permits. A clearly emotional Nalla accepts the invitation.

At the marriage, Nalla realizes that the girl Aras is about to marry is Bala. He takes this opportunity to appear in front of Kandasamy and threaten that he will stay on and make Bala realize what a cheat her father is unless Kandasamy signs all related documents for pay increment and bonuses for his company's labourers. Sacrificing himself for the workers, Nalla leaves after Kandasamy signs, leaving behind a letter for his 'brother' that he has missions to complete in this world, and that he'd rather travel as a free bird than be caged and tied to one place. He thanks Aras for the love and affection he has shown. Kandasamy meanwhile orders his assistant (Santhana Bharathi) to kill Nalla. As Nalla walks away, the assistant approaches him from behind. Hearing Sangu bark, Nalla turns around and sees his would-be assailant with a sickle in his hand. Requesting him not to hurt Sangu, who is barking and growling, he tells the assistant that he cannot fight like he used to and is ready to accept death. The assistant drops his weapon, weeps, and apologizes to Nalla. He tells Nalla that because he did all the dirty work for his boss, God has punished him by taking away his beloved daughter. He tells Nalla that he has read Nalla's letter to Aras. He also states that he has sinned much and doesn't want to commit any more sins on behalf of his boss. He asks Nalla to leave and that God will protect Nalla. Nalla refutes, saying that the assistant himself is God. He says that there is no greater God than the person who comes with the intent to kill but instead apologizes to the person he aimed to kill.

The film ends with Nalla walking away in the monsoon rains with his dog, Sangu.



After finishing a script, Kamal Haasan approached Priyadarshan to direct the film in early 2002. The pair had been looking out for a storyline to work together since the late 1990s and Priyadarshan felt that Kamal Haasan's script had great value to be an 'emotional love story'.[3] R. Madhavan was added to the cast in January 2002 and revealed his elation at working with the pair, while noting that a human drama film like Anbe Sivam was important for his career as an actor as it came after a successful masala film, Run. Cartoonist Madhan wrote the film's dialogues as Kamal Haasan continued writing the script, revealing that it would be a road film between two polar opposite characters. Kamal Haasan went to Los Angeles to test and select prosthetic make up for the film and was notably detained at a Toronto airport security centre in April 2002.[4][5] Pre-production work commenced soon after but a difference of opinion between the director and the actor mean that Priyadarshan opted out of the project in June 2002. The director had wanted to work with Kamal Haasan in a bigger project than the current venture and instead began preliminary work on another film with Kamal Haasan on the caste system in India.[6] Following this sudden setback which led to the whole crew being put off their schedule, the producers selected Sundar C. to direct the venture and filming started in July 2002.[7] Kiran Rathod was selected to portray the leading female role, while Uma Riyaz Khan was also signed on to play a role and described the film as her "magnum opus".[8]

The first scene the team shot was at a railway station in Pollachi with actor R. S. Shivaji, portraying a station master, joining the lead actors. Kamal Haasan and Madhavan interacted closely during the initial stages of the shoot in order to ensure that the on-screen chemistry between the pair was apparent.[9] The film was shot on a restricted budget, with only the train disaster scenes involving the use of extensive art direction. The team also shot in relatively empty locations meaning that the time allotted for shooting was flexible, with one day being cancelled due to dialogues not being ready.[10] Further schedules were held in Chennai, Visakhapatnam and on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border.[11] Post-filming, Kamal Haasan revealed that he was impressed with Madhavan's enthusiasm and concentration during the making of the film and thus subsequently signed him on to appear in his production venture, Nala Damayanthi (2003).


The film was released on 14 January 2003 coinciding with the Thai Pongal festival and opened alongside five other films at the box office, including the Vikram-starrer Dhool and the Vijay-starrer Vaseegara.[12] Anbe Sivam won primarily positive reviews from reviewers. The Hindu praised the film, noting that "well-defined characters, a strong storyline and intelligent screenplay are the other vital ingredients of Anbe Sivam". The critic revealed "Kamal Haasan's diligence that has gone into the chiselling of the story and screenplay is only too evident", while calling the film a "milestone"[13] A reviewer from noted "with a perfect script, screenplay, direction and music, 'Anbe Sivam' is sure to take its viewers for a roller coaster ride of all ages".[14] Another critic also added "the wonderfully acted movie manages to be both touching and entertaining, while conveying a strong social message", adding it is a "movie that is difficult to pigeonhole into a genre".[15] A reviewer from, in comparison, labelled the film as "average" and noted that "despite the good performances the outcome is still stressful on the nerves."[16] Similarly a reviewer from praised the film's lead performances but wrote the film "suffers from the disease of excess" and "tries to do too much".[17]

The Telugu dubbed version of the film, Satyame Sivam, was released on 28 February 2003 to positive reviews, with a critic claiming "this film is strictly for the elite audience who does not mind having a look at the philosophical films" adding that the "story of the film is just wonderful".[18] The producers of the film sold the Hindi dubbing rights at a low price and the film was released as Shivam in Hindi in 2005, much to irking of the lead actors.[19]

The film did not perform well commercially and lost the producers significant investment. An estimated Rs 6.5-crore loss was made through the film by Lakshmi Movie Makers, effectively stopping the production house from investing in other ventures during the period.[20][21] Director Sundar C also revealed that the failure of the film meant that he went unpaid for his work, and producers were unwilling to fund his other ventures.[22] It was later screened at the 2003 International Film Festival of India.[23]


Post-release the film has garnered critical acclaim from belated critics and television audiences and is considered as one of the "cult classics" of Tamil cinema.[24][25] The film's DVD also sold well and was made widely available in North India, earning the film more critical acclaim.[26] Film critic Baradwaj Rangan wrote that the film "was leagues ahead of the average Tamil and Indian film", though felt that "the masses were unwilling to accept the experimental nature of the film", while talking about the film's box office failure.[27] During his acceptance speech after winning the Vijay Award for Best Director in 2010 for Naan Kadavul (2009), director Bala revealed that a scene in Anbe Sivam had inspired him to make his film, referring to a scene where Kamal Haasan states to Madhavan that "when we love others unconditionally without any expectation, we become Gods".[28]

In September 2013, producer V. Swaminathan announced his plans of digitally converting the film and re-releasing it to cash in on the post-release cult classic status.[29][30]


The music for the film was composed by Vidyasagar, while lyrics were written by Vairamuthu. The titular song was initially written to be sung in a third person tone and thus Kamal Haasan was reluctant to do perform the track to avoid his character being reflected in the song. Subsequently after being convinced by Vidyasagar, he agreed to render the version.[31]

Anbe Sivam
Soundtrack album to Anbe Sivam by Vidyasagar
Released 2002
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Language Tamil
Producer Vidyasagar
Vidyasagar chronology
Anbe Sivam
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Anbe Sivam "   Kamal Haasan, Karthik 4:18
2. "Ela Machi"   Kamal Haasan, Udit Narayan, 4:35
3. "Mouname"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Chandrayee 4:36
4. "Naatukkoru Seithi"   Kamal Haasan, Chandran 8:08
5. "Poo Vaasam"   Vijay Prakash, Sadhana Sargam 4:27
6. "Poo Vaasam - 2"   Sriram Parthasarathy, Sadhana Sargam 4:27


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  3. ^ "Movies: No regrets, No remakes: Priyadarshan". Rediff. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
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  7. ^ "Movies: Kamal Haasan on Panchatantiram". Rediff. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
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  10. ^ "Kamal Haasan and Madhavan on their film Anbesivam". Rediff. 9 January 2003. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
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  13. ^ "Anbe Sivam". The Hindu. 17 January 2003. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
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  23. ^ "Time To Re Release Kamals Classics". Behindwoods. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
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