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VCD cover
Directed by Priyadarshan
Produced by Mohanlal
R. Mohan (co-producer)
Screenplay by T. Damodaran
Story by Priyadarshan
Starring Mohanlal
Prabhu Ganesan
Amrish Puri
John Kolvenbach
Nedumudi Venu
Tinnu Anand
Annu Kapoor
Alex Draper
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Santosh Sivan
Edited by N. Gopalakrishnan
Pranavam Arts
Shogun Films Ltd. (in association with)
Distributed by Shogun Films Ltd
Amitabh Bachchan Corporation(Hindi dubbed version)
Release dates
  • 12 April 1996 (1996-04-12)
Running time
160 minutes
Country India
Language Malayalam
Budget 2.5 crore (US$400,000)[1]

Kaalapani (English: Black Water) is a 1996 Indian epic film directed by Priyadarshan, starring Mohanlal, Prabhu Ganesan, Tabu, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenivasan, Tinnu Anand, Annu Kapoor, Alex Draper, Amrish Puri, and Vineeth. Although it is originally a Malayalam film, it was dubbed into Hindi (Saza-E-Kala Pani), Tamil (Siraichalai) and Telugu (Kaala Pani). Amitabh Bachchan had bought the Hindi dubbing rights,[2] besides narrating the prologue for the Hindi dubbed version.

The film is about the lives of prisoners in British India who are brought to Kālā Pānī, the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The name Kalapani is derived from the mode of imprisonment in British India. Ilaiyaraaja composed the music, the cinematography was by Santosh Sivan, and the editing by N. Gopalakrishnan. The film introduced Dolby Stereo into Malayalam cinema. It was made on a budget of 2.5 crore.[3] Mohanlal produced the film under his studio Pranavam Arts International.

The film won three National Film Awards including the awards for Best Art Direction (Sabu Cyril), Best Special Effects (S. T. Venky) and Best Cinematography (Santosh Sivan). Along with that it won six Kerala State Film Awards. It was released in 450 theaters worldwide.[4]


The film is set in British India in the year 1915. The story is about a young doctor, Govardhan Menon (Mohanlal), who is wrongly accused of bombing a train carrying 55 people including British officials. He is put in a cellular jail at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Kaalapani shows the sufferings of hundreds of Indian prisoners in the cellular jail, including leading participants of the freedom movement. The extremely inhumane conditions faced by the prisoners in the jail are accurately depicted.

Alex Draper plays the sadistic jailor David Berry, who is of Irish descent, while John Kolvenbach plays the kind-hearted English doctor, Len Hutton.

Annu Kapoor plays the role of Veer Savarkar who is incarcerated and tries his best to keep the spirit of the prisoners going despite unbelievable torture. Tabu plays Mohanlal's lover who keeps waiting for him to come back. Due to the efforts of a British doctor, Len Hutton, the government decides to investigate the matter of the torture meted out to the prisoners. 14 people are ordered to be released. One of them is Mukundan (Prabhu Ganesan). David Berry and the jail warden, Mirza Khan (Amrish Puri), hatch a plan and shoot down 13 prisoners while they are escaping. Mukundan refuses to escape. He is forcibly taken on the pretext of meeting the Chief Commissioner and is shot and killed. Seeing the dead body of his friend, Govardhan is angered to the greatest extent and throws down jailor Berry from one of the towers and then kills Mirza Khan by strangling him. Govardhan is hanged to death.


The film is shot in the Malayalam language. However, numerous portions contain dialogues in Hindi, English, Tamil, Bengali, and German.

Cast and crew[edit]

The actors include Mohanlal, Prabhu, Tabu, John Kolvenbach, Vineeth, Amrish Puri, Sreenivasan, Annu Kapoor, Alex Draper and Nedumudi Venu. The film is directed by Priyadarsan, with music by Ilayaraaja and cinematography by Santosh Sivan. The songs have been rendered by Malayalam playback singersK.S. Chitra and M. G. Sreekumar. It marked the Malayalam debut of Prabhu Ganesan, Amrish Puri and Tabu.


Director Priyadarshan co-wrote the screenplay with screenwriter T. Damodaran.

Story basis[edit]

The basis for the story were existing accounts of life in cellular jail, particularly excerpts from biographies of political leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. Most of these excerpts covered the ruthless routine of prisoners in jail, under the command of Jailer David Barry, Major James Pattinson Walker and Petty officer Mirza Khan.[5][6][7]


Despite having the grandeur of Hollywood and French classics, director Priyadarshan efficiently managed to complete the film at an unbelievably small budget of 2.5 crores. The shooting was completed in 72 days at Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Post production took more than four months to complete. Composer Ilaiyaraaja completed his symphonic score in 16 days; audiographer Deepan Chatterji completed the sound design and mix in 90 days. This is the first Malayalam film to record in Dolby soundtrack.[3]


The music was composed and conducted by Ilaiyaraaja. A. R. Rahman was initially signed in as the composer of the movie. He was simultaneously working on another Priyadarshan film, Kabhi Na Kabhi in Hindi. Reportedly on the request of lyricist Javed Akhtar who had scripted 'Kabhi Na Kabhi', Rahman opted out of Kalapani to give full attention to Kabhi Na Kabhi.[8]


Malayalam (Original version)

All lyrics written by Gireesh Puthenchery, except where noted.. 

No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Aattirambile Kombile"   M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra 5:01
2. "Chempoove Poove"   M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra 4:59
3. "Kottum Kuzhal Vizhi"   M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra, Chorus 5:43
4. "Marikkoodinullil"   K. S. Chithra, Ilaiyaraaja 5:07
5. "Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar) Chorus 6:06

Tamil (Dubbed version)

All lyrics written by Arivumathi. 

No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Alolam Kili Thopilae"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra 5:01
2. "Suttum Sudar Vizhi"   M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra, Chorus 5:43
3. "Sempoove Poove"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra 4:59
4. "Maaman Kurai"   K. S. Chithra, Gangai Amaran 5:07
5. "Ithu Thai Pirandha"   Mano, Chorus 6:06

Hindi (Dubbed version)

All lyrics written by P. K. Mishra, except where noted. 

No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Zindagi Mein Tum Mile"   Hariharan, K. S. Chithra 5:01
2. "Bachpan Ke Saathi Mere"   Hariharan, K. S. Chithra, Chorus 5:43
3. "Sandhya Ki Laali"   M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra 4:59
4. "Baaghon Ki Bahaarein"   K. S. Chithra, M. G. Sreekumar 5:07
5. "Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar) Chorus 6:06

Telugu (Dubbed version)

No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Chaamanthi Poove"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra 4:59
2. "Kannekommana"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra 5:01
3. "Mojullona"   K. S. Chithra 5:07
4. "Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar) Chorus 6:06
5. "Yakshakanne"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra, Chorus 5:43


National Film Awards
Kerala State Film Awards


  1. ^ M. G. Radhakrishnan (15 June 1995). "An epic gamble". Indiascope. India Today. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fm3Lvoz7pU
  3. ^ a b Ranjith Nair (September 1–14, 2011). "ഈ സിനിമയെ ഞങ്ങൾ സ്നേഹിക്കുന്നു" (in Malayalam). Vanitha. 
  4. ^ http://www.filmaxreader.in/post/42.xhtml
  5. ^ http://pib.nic.in/feature/feyr98/fe0898/f1808987.html
  6. ^ http://2013ritemail2014.blogspot.in/2013/04/cellular-jail-port-blair-andaman-and.html
  7. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2001/jun/23/weekend.adrianlevy
  8. ^ http://gopalhome.tripod.com/arrbio.html

External links[edit]