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Anniyan poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Shankar
Produced by V. Ravichandran
Written by
  • Shankar (story, screenplay)
  • Sujatha (dialogue)
Music by Harris Jayaraj
Edited by V. T. Vijayan
Oscar Films
Distributed by
  • Oscar Films (Tamil Nadu)
  • Megha Films (Andhra)
  • Thameen (Kerala)
Release dates
  • 17 June 2005 (2005-06-17)
Running time
181 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil
Budget 264 million
Box office 570 million

Anniyan (English: Outsider or Stranger) is a 2005 Indian Tamil psychological thriller film written and directed by Shankar and produced by V. Ravichandran of Oscar Films. The film attempts to highlight increasing social apathy and public negligence. The plot centers on a disillusioned "everyman", whose frustrations at the sorry state of affairs leads him into developing a split personality which attempts to cleanse the system. Vikram stars as Ramanujam, an idealistic, law-abiding lawyer who suffers from multiple personality disorder and develops two other identities: a metrosexual fashion model Remo and a vigilante serial killer Anniyan. Sadha plays his love interest Nandini. Vivek, Prakash Raj, Nedumudi Venu and Nassar also feature.

Shankar conceived the film in mid-2003 during the post-production of his previous film, Boys. He based the film on his own life experiences during his growing up years, when he was disturbed by the societal happenings, and his eventual displeasure with the society. While pre-production began in November 2003, principal photography commenced in March 2004 and the film was in the making for 14 months due to numerous production delays. The film was shot at Hyderabad, Thanjavur, Villupuram and Chennai while the song sequences were filmed in Amsterdam, Mumbai, Malaysia and Tenkasi. The film was notable for its recreation of the Tyagaraja Aradhana music festival and the extensive use of time slice photography in an action sequence.

Cinematographer V. Manikandan abandoned the project partway through as the unexpected delays affected his other commitments; he was replaced with Ravi Varman. The technical departments consist of editing by V. T. Vijayan, production design by Sabu Cyril and stunt choreography by Peter Hein while the soundtrack was composed by Harris Jayaraj, making his maiden collaboration with the director. The film was touted to be the director's magnum opus and was budgeted at 263.8 million, making it the costliest South Indian film made during the time of its release. Notably, it was the first South Indian film to avail institutional finance and the largest insurance cover available for films at that time.

Originally filmed in Tamil, the film was dubbed and released simultaneously in all the four South Indian states on 17 June 2005 while a Hindi version titled Aparichit was released a year later on 19 May 2006. Further, the film was also dubbed into French and released in French-speaking countries worldwide by Columbia Tristar. While the film was commercially successful across South India, the Hindi version received lukewarm response and was a box-office failure. Anniyan received overall positive response from critics and audience alike and, together with its dubbed versions, grossed 570 million in its lifetime run. The film won a National Award for its special effects apart from winning eight Filmfare Awards and six State Film Awards.


Ramanujam Iyengar alias Ambi (Vikram), is an orthodox Brahmin and a straightforward consumer protection advocate who expects everyone to follow rules and files cases against those who break the law. However, his efforts fail as the circumstantial evidence always favour the accused. His efforts to raise civic awareness among the public fail, due to their lack of seriousness and pervasive corruption. Ambi is frustrated at his inability to bring about a change. Suppressed over a period of time, his anger manifests itself creating an alter-ego named "Anniyan", a violent and deranged grim reaper-themed serial killer who punishes indifference towards social commitment. Anniyan creates a website and sends out postal cards to random people urging them to file complaints against violators. He compiles a database of wrongdoers from his site and executes them in succession using punishments written in the Garuda Purana. On receiving a card, Ambi lodges the details of the perpetrators and moves on with some hope.

Then Ambi transfers into Anniyan and starts killing people. He murders a delinquent landlord in a cave full of buffalo, who tries to escape, but Anniyan kicks him. He falls into crowd of buffaloes which results his death. he was punished for not helping others and thinks of his wealth.the second homicide was railway catering caterer by applying sauce in his whole body and puts him in boiling oil which damages his body.he was killed for not caring of people.the third murder was brake cable company owner.tied in a tree,he puts leeches in his body which sucks his blood and makes his body into mummy. The reason was not providing good quality of materials. the fourth and fifth homicide was covetous landlord and wastrel. he make the landlord to eat money because he had crush on poor people's money.the wastrel was murdered in museum while anniyan brokes the glasses which was full of snakes.the wastrel died of a snake bite. the reason behind his death was his indisciplinary activities.later anniyan reveals about this in nehru stadium.

Ambi is secretly in love with his neighbour Nandini (Sadha), a medical student and an aspiring carnatic singer, but never expresses his love due to fear of rejection. When he does get the courage to propose her during the annual Tyagaraja Aradhana at Thiruvaiyaru, she rejects him outright as she cannot bear his strict adherence to rules. Distraught, Ambi attempts suicide, almost drowning himself before ultimately changing his decision. Subsequently, he develops another personality named "Remo", a fashion model. Nandini is smitten by Remo and his personality and falls in love with him. Soon, Nandini's family arranges for her marriage with Remo.

While purchasing a plot of land for her dowry, Nandini decides to undervalue the property to evade stamp duty. Ambi, who accompanied her for registration, refuses to help her. Later, when Nandini and Remo are on a date, Remo transforms into Anniyan and attempts to punish her for corruption. When he is about to kill her, an appalled Nandini calls out for Ambi. With a need arising for both his personas simultaneously, a confusion sets in and Ambi collapses and loses consciousness. Nandini takes Ambi to NIMHANS where he is diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Through recovered-memory therapy, the psychiatrist (Nassar) uncovers Ambi's past to discover that he had witnessed the tragic death of his younger sister Vidya when he was fourteen years old due to civic apathy. The incident left deep scars in his mind and Ambi cites this as the reason for his lofty ideals. It is also discovered that while Anniyan and Remo are aware of Ambi as a separate person, Ambi is completely oblivious to such personalities within him. The psychiatrist declares that Remo will cease to exist if Nandini accepts Ambi's love, but Anniyan would cease to exist only if the society reforms. Nandini accepts Ambi's love and Remo disappears.

Meanwhile, DCP Prabhakar (Prakash Raj) and Sub-inspector Chari (Vivek), who is Ambi's friend, investigate the murders committed by Anniyan. In disguise, they discover clues left behind by Anniyan, which are the names of the punishments he meted out to the victims. Prabhakar is personally determined to bring Anniyan to justice as one of Anniyan's victims, Chockalingam (Shanmugarajan), an errant catering contractor with the Indian Railways, was his elder brother. Following a wide publicity stunt, Anniyan appears amidst the public and the press at the Nehru Stadium, donning face-paint to conceal his identity. Admitting to the murders, he explains the rationale behind them and appeals that only when every Indian is responsible and sincere will the country prosper on par with the developed nations. His methods draw both praise and criticism. Prabhakar tries to catch Anniyan, but he escapes.

On digitally investigating the recorded footage, Prabhakar discovers that Anniyan is actually Ambi and arrests him. Ambi is brutally interrogated by him and is almost killed, triggering Anniyan. Ambi's personality constantly changes between Ambi and Anniyan, resulting in ambiguity. He brutally subdues Prabhakar as Anniyan, but begs for mercy as Ambi. Using a CCTV, Chari records the interrogation and uses it as evidence of Ambi's condition during his trial. Ambi is sentenced to psychotherapy in a mental hospital and would be released when cured.

When Ambi is released after two years, his puritan adherence to protocol has diminished. He marries Nandini and while travelling on a train during their honeymoon, he notices a man (an electrician who was originally responsible for his sister's death several years ago) drinking amidst fellow passengers. Suffering a relapse, he transforms into Anniyan and throws the man off the train, killing him. However, he hides it from Nandini, indicating that he has successfully blended the personalities of Ambi, Anniyan and Remo into one instead of eradicating them.





During the making of his Bollywood debut directorial Nayak in early 2001, director Shankar had conceived a science fiction film titled Robot. A futuristic techno-thriller set in twenty-second century Chennai, the film was to feature Kamal Haasan and Preity Zinta in the lead roles.[a][3] However, after completing a photo-shoot featuring the two, the production was shelved due to various reasons: Haasan's unavailability of dates, creative differences with the director and lack of funding.[4][5][6] Shankar postponed the project indefinitely and made the coming of age film, Boys (2003).[b] When the post-production work of Boys was underway, Shankar was awaiting the return of its composer A. R. Rahman, who was then outside India, to complete the background score. In the meantime, Shankar had an idea for a storyline and called Vikram, who expressed enthusiasm in the subject.[7][8]

"As a common man, so many happenings in society disturb me. These leave scars on my mind. In fact, they are my creative spur. I react to social happenings on an imaginative plane."

 — Shankar, on how the film evolved.[9]

Following the release of Boys in August 2003,[10] Shankar began work on his next directorial venture entitled Anniyan. It was initially mistaken to be Shankar's pet project Robot revived with a new title but was later proven untrue.[11] Shankar said the film was his "dream project" and disclosed that it would be a racy, fantasy thriller.[12][13] When questioned on how the idea behind the film germinated, the director revealed, "The seeds of all my movies were sown when I was young, long before I started making movies. So many things disturbed me, and these stayed with me. Those were the seeds. I make films based on them."[7]

With the highest production value among Tamil films of its time, the film was touted to be the director's magnum opus and was labelled "the most eagerly awaited film of the year" by the media.[7][14] The film deals with a person suffering with dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as "multiple personality disorder" (MPD) or "split personality syndrome".[15][16] Incidentally, another psychological thriller film titled Chandramukhi (2005), which released two months before Anniyan, had one of its lead characters (played by Jyothika) developing a split personality.[17][18]


To portray the lead character, Shankar was in need of a performer who could play an action hero. He chose Vikram as he felt that the actor, in addition to being a performer, had the image of an action hero. While his casting was made public in a November 2003 news report announcing the project's inception, the director revealed that Vikram was added to the cast in mid-2003 and refuted theories that the actor's casting was to capitalize on his new found popularity following his success at the National Film Awards, where he won the National Film Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film Pithamagan (2003). Clarifying that Vikram was selected for the lead role much before the theatrical release of Pithamagan, Shankar stated, "I don't look at actors that way."[7][11][19] He further remarked that Vikram was the "life and soul" of Anniyan.[12]

Initially, it was speculated in the media that Trisha was being considered to play the female lead.[20] The heroine role of a "devoted Iyengar Brahmin girl" was originally offered to Aishwarya Rai, who was too busy to accommodate dates. After months of waiting for her call sheet, Shankar eventually offered the role to Sadha.[21] Sadha felt that a role visualised for Rai should be meaningful and accepted the offer, working in the film for 120 days. While expressing hope that it would be an "important movie" in her career, she said, "I have a major role to play in Anniyan. There are few heavy portions involving me in the movie that I have given my best." She considered being a part of a Shankar film, especially during the early stages of her career, as a "god's gift" and a "once-in-a-lifetime experience".[22][23][24] However, when offered with similar roles following the film's success, she refused to be typecast and stated, "I am now looking for roles where my creative potential is tapped. I don’t want to be part of such cinema where all one has to do is dance around trees."[25]

Vivek, Prakash Raj, Nedumudi Venu and Nassar appear in supporting roles.[26] Mohan Vaidhya, a carnatic vocalist and occasional actor, plays a minuscule role of Sadha's father Krishna.[27] Malavika Avinash was approached to play Vikram's mother; she rejected the offer stating "I am too young to do a screen mom and too old to be a heroine!"[28] Cochin Haneefa, Charle, Kalabhavan Mani, Shanmugarajan and Saurabh Shukla make cameo appearances as delinquent citizens.[29] Haneefa played an indifferent car owner who refuses to help an accident victim as he does not want his "brand new car" to be soiled with blood. Following his death in February 2010, Vikram recalled Haneefa's appearance in the film and said, "Though he’d come only in a few scenes no one could miss him. For roles that have some ambiguity about whether it’s a good guy or a bad guy, he is one of the best choices. Until the end, one cannot really guess if he’ll end up being good or bad."[30] Comedian and character artiste Charle played an unnamed wastrel and alcoholic, who extorts money from his ageing parents for his expenses and is considered by Anniyan as a liability to the society. Charle was instructed by Shankar, "People should see only the character. Only later should they realise that it was Charle."[31]

The role of younger Ambi was played by child actor Hari Prashanth alias Viraj.[32] When he came to the recording studio to voice his lines, he was accompanied by his father S. N. Surendar, a singer and dubbing artiste. Shankar recognised Surendar and asked him to lend his voice for Nedumudi Venu as the latter was a Malayali.[33] In the 2004 comedy film Aethirree which featured Sadha in the female lead, Kanika played the second lead role of a "naughty" Brahmin girl. Shankar, apparently impressed with Kanika's performance in the film, asked her to attend a voice test. When the makers liked Kanika's accent and modulation among the thirty females whose voices were tested, she was made to dub for Sadha's Brahmin role.[34]

Technical crew[edit]

The film was produced by V. Ravichandran under his film production and distribution company 'Oscar Films' (presently 'Aascar Film').[35] The screenplay was written by Shankar and the film had dialogue written by writer Sujatha Rangarajan.[36][37] Shankar retained Sabu Cyril, his production designer from Boys, to handle the set design;[38][39] the scenes were edited by V. T. Vijayan.[12] While the action sequences were orchestrated by Peter Hein and assisted by Stunt Silva, the dance sequences were choreographed by Raju Sundaram, Kalyan and Ahmed Khan.[40][41][42] Film institute student Prabhu Raja Chozhan, who would later turn director with Karuppampatti (2013), joined Shankar as his protégé and worked as his assistant.[43]

Shankar, who grew up admiring the works of cinematographer P. C. Sreeram in films like Nayagan (1987), Agni Natchathiram (1988) and Idhayathai Thirudathe (1989), desired to collaborate and was in talks with him to handle the photography.[c] While Sreeram was intent on working in Anniyan, he could not accept the offer due to prior commitments.[44] It was initially reported in the media that Sreeram had been recruited;[21] however, Shankar chose V. Manikandan as the director of photography, impressed with his work in Main Hoon Na (2004). Manikandan had earlier collaborated with Shankar when he shot the music video of the song "Secret of Success" in Boys. Manikandan gave six months of bulk dates for the project; but, when the production was troubled by delays, Shankar demanded three more months to complete the film. Manikandan walked out in October 2004 citing scheduling conflicts and Shankar replaced him with Ravi Varman.[45][46]

During the casting stage of Boys, the film's cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran was temporarily unavailable and his then-assistant Ravi Varman handled the camera to film Genelia D'Souza's makeup test. Subsequently, Varman nurtured a desire to work with Shankar. Before Shankar commenced work on Anniyan, Varman expressed his desire to work in the film and was hopeful of landing the assignment. He was disappointed when Shankar recruited Manikandan for the project. However, when Manikandan abandoned the project after completing almost half the film, Shankar asked Varman to shoot the remaining portions of the film. Varman had committed to work in Bengali director Buddhadeb Dasgupta's next directorial, work on which was scheduled to begin shortly; he dropped out of it to accept Shankar's offer and termed working in Anniyan "a dream come true".[47]

Preparation and character looks[edit]

"I observe a lot in life and it helps perform better. Illnesses like MPD have a clinical history and you will have to stick to it to avoid an 'atypical' performance. I studied the literature on MPD and was clear about retaining the identity of each character — be it the proverbial Ambi, the rampaging Anniyan or the cool Remo."

 — Vikram on the mental make-up and preparation required to portray the role.[15]
Vikram as the character Anniyan, a psychotic serial killer, which won him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.

Vikram allotted 18 months and 190 days of his call sheet for the film, including 165 days of bulk dates spread across six months.[16][21][48][49] Speaking on the extent of his involvement in the filmmaking process, Vikram said, "..before beginning the film, I was totally involved in the research and preparation, but once on the sets, I go by what the director says." He further clarified that he discussed every shot with Shankar, went for re-takes where necessary to make the scenes better and gave suggestions, but left the "ultimate verdict" to the director. Disclosing that, among the three shades to his character, he found playing Ambi to be the toughest, he reasoned, "... because as a hero you are not used to being a wimp on screen. It’s difficult digesting getting beaten up.” In contrast, being a graduate in English literature, he found playing Remo much easier and in his comfort zone.[49][50][51]

In an interview with Gulf News, Vikram spoke of the challenges in portraying all the three characters while wearing the same costumes. He said, "I love such challenges. [...] Although the costume defined each of the three characters in Anniyan, there were scenes where Ambi would suddenly become Remo and Remo would become Anniyan. There I made it dramatic to bring out each character."[52] He credited his wife Shailaja Balakrishnan, a psychologist, for helping him in fleshing the character of Ambi, a person who has multiple personality disorder.[51] In a conversation with film critic Baradwaj Rangan, Shailaja recalled the times the film was being made and spoke of Vikram, saying, "I felt we should live in two houses. It’s not easy to live with a man who can get that eccentric, an actor who wants to be that difficult on himself. I wouldn’t say he becomes the character, but there’s definitely some kind of internalisation."[50] Vikram confessed that he had a tough time during the film's making as playing different characters affected him and he found himself going mad. He added that he would take a break after a 15-day shoot and watch the pigeons in his terrace as a way of dealing with the pressure.[52]

Vikram grew a tummy to portray Ramanujam while he sported a "macho look" for Anniyan.[7] He also grew his hair long in preparation for his role and rejected other film offers to maintain the continuity in his looks.[19][48][53] Together with his character looks and those that he sported in the song sequences, Vikram appears in the film in 18 different getups.[54] Vikram's look in the film was created by make-up artiste Banu.[55] For those parts that show him as a metrosexual Remo, he coloured his hair in streaks of copper and blonde.[56] Unwilling to reveal his 'new look' until the film was ready, Vikram avoided the media despite winning the aforementioned National Award for the year 2003.[57] Meanwhile, Sadha's make-up and hair styling were done by Ojas M. Rajani, a celebrity stylist from Mumbai.[58]


The film was officially launched with a traditional puja and muhurat shot on 4 March 2004 at AVM Studios, Chennai. The studio was decorated with life-sized stills showing Vikram in three distinct looks, "a voodoo hunter, a pious 'sami' and a bubbling youth"; this led the media to speculate that Vikram would be playing either a triple role or a character with three shades. The film's caption was 'He who comes from hell is not afraid of hot ashes'.[13][26][59][60] During the launch function, Shankar expressed hope of completing the film in six months and releasing the film on 12 November 2004, coinciding with the Diwali festival.[61] However, the production, which began shortly afterwards in May 2004, was marred by several delays and took 14 months to complete.[12] The film was shot in Amsterdam, Malaysia, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Tenkasi, Thanjavur, Villupuram and Chennai.[57][62][63]

The film features a scene at the Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Utsavam. The utsavam is a week-long music festival which commemorates the 18th-century saint-composer Tyagaraja, revered as one of the greatest composers of carnatic music, and is held annually at his resting place in Thiruvaiyaru, Thanjavur.[64][65] For filming the scene, the crew recreated a performance of the famous kriti "Jagadānanda kārakā", the first of the five Pancharatna Kriti compositions of Tyagaraja, as performed during Tyagaraja Aradhana.[66][67] The aradhana, held on the fifth day of the festival, witnesses exponents of carnatic music from across the world converging at his samaadhi, where they sing his pancharatna kritis in unison as an homage to the saint.[68]

Shankar approached violin maestro Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, a regular participant at the actual event, to conceive and orchestrate the sequence. Vaidyanathan was serving as the secretary of Sri Thyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha, the committee which organises the aradhana.[69] The scene features him in a cameo and was shot in June 2004 at a studio in Chennai.[70][71] Realistic sets were erected to resemble the actual venue and leading carnatic vocalists Sudha Ragunathan, Sirkazhi G. Sivachidambaram, O. S. Arun, P. Unni Krishnan and instrumentalists such as violinist A. Kanyakumari, mridangam exponent Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman were recruited to add a touch of authenticity. The two-minute scene was brought to life in "painstaking detail". The sequence was much talked about and well appreciated.[72]

The camera setup employed for the time slice technique[d]

In a fight sequence, Anniyan encounters about a hundred martial artists inside the fictional International Martial Arts School, Vodao.[73] The stunt scene was shot at the JJ Indoor Stadium in Chennai over a period of 25 days.[74][75] Peter Hein, the stunt choreographer, is a native of Vietnam. 127 professionally trained fighters were brought in from Vietnam for the shoot.[75][76] During the rehearsals, the rope, to which the stuntmen were tied and hung upside down, gave in.[74] About a dozen stuntmen crashed down from the balcony injuring themselves badly.[77] The action sequence was shot using 120 cameras for employing the time slice photography technique, a visual effect known as "bullet time" and popularised by the American film The Matrix (1999), to achieve the frozen-time effect.[12] Shankar had earlier toyed with the idea of time-slice and tried it while filming the song "Ale Ale" in his Boys.[78] While the time-freeze sequence in Boys was achieved by the linking of 60-62 cameras to attain a 180° rotation, Anniyan employed 120-122 cameras for a 270° rotation.[79][80]

The scene where Anniyan addresses a huge gathering was shot in a stadium in Hyderabad. As he speaks to the audience, the lights turn on and off in the background. Speaking on how the sequence was filmed, Ravi Varman said that they decided not to light up the entire stadium as they felt it would have looked flat. As the sequence was important to the film, he juxtaposed the stadium with light and shadow so that it would look different.[47] During the pre-climax scene, when Ambi is held custody and enquired by Prabhakar, Ambi's persona keeps switching between the characters Ambi and Anniyan. Dubbed the "chameleon act" in the media, Vikram claims to have completed the sequence in a single take.[81][82]

An action sequence was filmed in a set erected in Campa Cola grounds, Chennai.[83] For the scene where Remo courts Nandini, a chemical tube brought from Malaysia was used to measure how hot a person is.[84] For filming scenes based on the punishments, buffaloes and snakes were transported in hundreds exclusively from Vellore and the sequence was shot for about three days.[85] The "Anthakoopam" punishment sequence featuring the buffaloes was filmed in a set erected in Chennai's Prasad Studios. The animals were transported in 15 lorries containing 20 buffaloes each. For another scene, the studio was filled with snake charmers who were brought in to handle the large number of snakes.[54]

Song sequences[edit]

The semi-classical song "O Sukumari" was the first of the scenes to be shot.[22] Filmed at the World Flower Show in May 2004, the sequence was picturised in a large tulip garden located in the city of Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam, Netherlands. The song was shot during the Netherlands International Flower Show called Floriade, a decennial event which was held between 10 April and 20 October 2004.[14][86][87] While the crew had planned to film another song at a garden in Keukenhof, they were denied permission by the authorities as a previous Indian film crew had damaged the habitat a few weeks before.[86][e]

The song features the lead pair singing amidst a flower farm as mridangam and flute players accompany them in the background.[f][14] It was choreographed by Raju Sundaram who also appears in a cameo, playing a harmonium. As part of their roles, the male supporting actors who appear in the song were required to wear a panjakkacham and angavastram, leaving most of their body exposed to the freezing cold. The shoot began as early as 5:30 AM and the locals, who thought they should be out of their mind to be dressed so, came up to them and warned that they might freeze to death.[90]

"Iyengaru Veetu", a semi-classical song, begins with a prelude of the Pancharatna Kriti "Jagadānanda kārakā". The actual song which follows later was picturised on a set erected at AVM Studios made to look like an old traditional Iyengar home in Thanjavur. The song was shot extravagantly with the lead pair and the dozens of support dancers sporting rich, colourful costumes.[14]

In December 2004, a ten-day shoot was held in Mumbai for the item number "Kadhal Yaanai" featuring Vikram alongside a top model, whose identity was initially undisclosed to generate curiosity.[91] It was later revealed to be Czech-based model Yana Gupta.[92][93] Filmed by Ravi Varman and choreographed by Ahmed Khan, the song was filmed like a fashion show where Vikram and Yana Gupta wear fashionable clothes and sashay along a ramp.[42] The song was filmed in a set erected in a studio to resemble a famous night-spot in London.[14]

The track "Kannum Kannum Nokia", a peppy and trendy love duet choreographed by Raju Sundaram, was picturised on the lead pair and had them wearing costumes made entirely of designer labels. The song was picturised in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Petronas Towers. The song, filmed during the night, was reportedly the first song to be shot at the airport.[14][42][49][94] Ravi Varman revealed in an interview that the song was shot like a commercial.[47] The song was also filmed at the Nokia Headquarters in Espoo, Finland.[95]

The folk song "Andangkaaka" was shot in a village near Sengottai.[96] For filming the song, a huge set was erected to resemble a village.[12] The sets were visualised and created by Sabu Cyril, the film's art director. Shankar adopted a village near Tenkasi and Sabu Cyril painted all the houses, roads, rocks and even a bridge in varied colours. They then hired hundreds of lorries and old model ambassador cars and painted faces on them. The lead pair were joined by hundreds of dancers and the total cost of the song worked out to 10 million.[14][39] In all, 350 houses were painted.[97]


In the narrative, Ambi is referred to the website, Shankar envisioned that the website would take visitors through all the punishments that await sinners in hell. For designing the website, Shankar wanted to recreate hell and approached the Visual Computing Labs (VCL) of Tata Elxsi, a Mumbai-based company with which he had collaborated earlier for the song "Girlfriend" in Boys. The team at VCL conceptualised and created a 'hell' in 3d animation with the punishments taken from ancient scriptures. They also designed a grim reaper astride his bull who guides visitors through hell. Pankaj Khandpur, creative director of VCL said, "We tried to stay true to the scriptures, while creating imagery that wasn’t too gory. [...] an interesting project since we had to visualise it all without any reference point." The animation was done in a span of three months.[98]

VCL also did the CGI for a "cosmic zoom" scene, where the camera zooms from beyond the clouds to the streets of Chennai city, which no real camera can achieve. Aerial views and paintings of the city were stitched together along with computer generated images (CGI) of clouds to create the long, one-piece camera zoom.[98] Animator and special effects designer L. I. Kannan, who would later turn director with the long-delayed period film Karikalan with Vikram in the lead, also worked on the special effects.[99][100] Meanwhile, the special effects for the time-slice sequence were rendered by Big Freeze, London.[80]

The scene where Anniyan addresses a packed audience in Nehru Stadium was filmed with the space empty. The crowd was created through visual effects using crowd multiplication methods. The VFX for the sequence was done under the supervision of visual effects consultant Zameer Hussain of Land Marvel Animation Studios, Chennai.[101] The scene, in which hundreds of buffaloes chase down a delinquent car owner into an abandoned sand quarry and trample him to death, was accomplished through CGI using just one buffalo. The CG work was supplied by Jayakumar and V. Srinivas Murali Mohan of the Chennai-based firm, Indian Artists Computer Graphics. Srinivas and his team had earlier worked with Shankar in Boys. Speaking of the sequence, Srinivas quipped, "The animals are lethargic and listless in their movements. Nothing can make them agile."[102][103]

Themes and influences[edit]

The storyline in Anniyan is typical of Shankar's yen for showcasing society's ills and targets the inept, rules-flouting public.[36] The film sheds light on the increasing social apathy and public negligence, and attempts to address these issues which plague the society and hamper the development of India.[104] S. Anand of Outlook noted that most of Shankar's films portrays the hero as a "one-man agent of change" and cited, "From the neo-Nazi character Kamalahaasan plays in Indian to his last film Anniyan, featuring a schizophrenic Brahmin serial killer who butchers 'wrongdoers', Shankar has always offered fascist-fantastic solutions to what he perceives as social ills resulting from typical governmental inertia."[105]

In an interview with The Hindu, Shankar elaborated on the message he conveys through the film:[12]

Following the release of the trailer on 7 May 2005, the film was believed to be inspired by the 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.[106][107] Upon the film release, The Hindu drew parallels between it and the 1998 novel Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon.[108] Shankar however denied that the film was inspired by Tell Me Your Dreams, claiming that he knew of the novel only after completing the script.[109] The character of Ambi has often been compared to the protagonist of The Mask (1994), which is also about a "mild mannered guy changing into a one-man army, craving to see natural justice realised".[42][110]

The methods of punishment meted out to the sinners by Anniyan in the film is based on Garuda Purana, a Vaishnavite purana which speaks of life after death and punishments for wrongdoers. Shankar pointed out that he "worked tirelessly day and night and intense research was done with the help of a professor in department of Vaishnavism in Madras University."[111] Some punishments featured in the film were Andhakoopam (the car owner who refused to help the accident victim is killed when Anniyan drives a herd of buffaloes into stampeding him), Kumbipakam (the food contractor is killed when Anniyan boils him alive in an oil pot) and Krimibhojanam (the owner of the brake cable company is punished when Anniyan dumps leeches onto his body which suck out his blood).


Anniyan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Digital Soundtrack Cover Art
Soundtrack album by Harris Jayaraj
Released 26 April 2005
Genre Film soundtrack
Length 31:38
Language Tamil
Label Star Music
Ayngaran Music
An Ak Audio
Hit Music
Producer Harris Jayaraj
Harris Jayaraj chronology
Ullam Ketkumae

The film's soundtrack album and background score were composed by Harris Jayaraj. The lyrics for the songs were written by Vairamuthu, Na. Muthukumar and Kabilan. The album was released on 26 April 2005.[112][113]

The album marked Shankar's first collaboration with Harris Jayaraj; all his previous directorial ventures had A. R. Rahman composing the music.[12] As Rahman was busy with his debut Broadway musical Bombay Dreams and had also signed up for another musical Lord of the Rings, Rahman and Shankar decided to part ways.[11] In early 2004, Harris Jayaraj went on a trip to Phuket Islands in Thailand for some inspiration for the album; he was accompanied by Shankar and Vairamuthu. Eventually, the three songs penned by the lyricist were composed in the island. The visit took place much before the tragic 2004 tsunami struck the countries bordering the Indian Ocean and wreaked havoc.[114] In a chat with Shankar, Harris Jayaraj said "the music was a challenge because the film was a mix of genres – action, comedy, thriller. In essence, it was a cock-mocktail .."[9] Harris Jayaraj commenced the film's re-recording in April 2005 and took more than a month to complete, delaying the film's release.[115]

The soundtrack album has five songs set to tune by Harris Jayaraj apart from a theme music.[12] The album marks the playback singing debut of Nakul, Andrea Jeremiah and Saindhavi. The first song to be composed was "Kumari", a semi-classical folk melody sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Harini.[14] "Iyengaaru Veetu Azhage", written by Vairamuthu is a pure carnatic song sung by Hariharan and Harini. The track begins with "Jagadananda Karaka", one of the famous Pancharatna Kritis by Saint Tyagaraja.[14][66][116] "Kadhal Yaanai", a peppy club song, was sung by G. V. Prakash Kumar and Nakul. Kumar, who would later turn a composer, was working as a keyboard programmer for Jayaraj when Shankar noticed him and made him sing.[117] While Kumar had already sung a few songs as a kid under Rahman (his maternal uncle), this was his first song as an adult.[118] Again, it was Shankar who recommended using Nakul's voice to Jayaraj. Nakul had earlier sung for the backing vocals of Shankar's Boys which also marked his acting debut.[119] Na. Muthukumar's lyrics for the song predominantly contains Tanglish words interspersed among Tamil words.[14] The music of "Andangkaka", an aesthetic folk number, took three days to compose while the singers rehearsed for another five days to get the words right.[9][120] The lyrics by Vairamuthu is written in pure Tamil in a dialect spoken in the region surrounding Theni and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu.[14] The song was rendered by Jassie Gift, Shreya Ghoshal and Saindhavi. The song "Lajjavathiye" from the soundtrack of the Malayalam film 4 the People (2004) was composed and sung by Gift; it was a viral hit in Kerala. Jayaraj was impressed with him and made him sing, making it his first song in a Tamil film.[121] The song also happens to be Saindhavi's maiden attempt at playback singing.[122]

Critical response[edit]

The album earned generally positive reviews from critics. T. Krithika Reddy of The Hindu remarked, "Harris has steered clear of dreary conventions in music making. Anniyan too proves his relentless quest for freshness."[9] Sreedhar Pillai of The Hindu said that the audio was impressive, with a combination of peppy songs and semi-classical numbers that will appeal to all. Another music critic pointed out that songs in Shankar's films become a rage only after the release of the films, as his lavish picturisation enriches the music.[113] IndiaGlitz said in its review, "When a hit combination separates, the new one replacing it is always under extreme pressure. [...] And the truth of the matter is Harris passes the test with flying colors. Anniyan songs pack an all-hearted wallop. On first hearing, they pass muster. On the whole, Anniyan has both flavor and fervor. Now it remains to be seen how they measure up on screen."[123]

Comparing the music with those of Rahman's in Shankar's previous films, Krishnakumar of said, "Jayaraj doesn't disappoint, but while ARR wafted and lingered, Jayaraj explodes and fizzles away. Kumaari and Iyengar veetu azhage try to seep into your head and Randakka tempts you to tap your feet. But only momentarily. [...] you won't recollect them once the songs are over."[124] The music was received well by the audience and the tracks "Kadhal Yaanai" and "Kannum Kannum" topped the charts.[125]

Original Tracklist[126]
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "O Sukumari"   Vairamuthu Shankar Mahadevan, Harini 05:56
2. "Iyengaaru Veetu"   Vairamuthu Hariharan, Harini 06:10
3. "Kadhal Yaanai"   Na. Muthukumar Nakul, Melvin, G. V. Prakash Kumar 05:48
4. "Kannum Kannum"   Kabilan Lesle Lewis, Andrea Jeremiah, Vasundhara Das 05:25
5. "Andangkaka"   Vairamuthu Jassie Gift, Kay Kay, Shreya Ghoshal, Saindhavi 05:35
6. "Stranger in Black (Theme)"   Febi, Nina Sunitha Sarathy, Chennai Chorale 02:44
Total length:

All lyrics written by Mehboob Kotwal


The film cleared the censors without any cuts and was rated "U" (Universal) by the Central Board of Film Certification.[129] While Shankar had hoped to release the film on Diwali 2004, there were numerous production delays which postponed the release date through early 2005.[59] While production was completed in March 2005, the re-recording which began in April took more time than anticipated lasting nearly 45 days with Harris Jayaraj being blamed for further delays.[130] After the film was postponed from 20 May 2005, and later, from 27 May 2005,[106][131] the film was finally scheduled for 10 June 2005.[132] But, Shankar released it a week later on 17 June 2005 as he considered 8 as his lucky number (1+7 yielding 8).[133]

The film was dubbed into other South Indian languages and was released simultaneously in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.[82] The film was also released in key overseas countries like the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany, Malaysia and Singapore. The film was released with 404 prints in Tamil and Telugu alone.[35] Later, the film was dubbed into French by Paramount Pictures.[134] Reportedly, Anniyan is the first Indian film to be dubbed into French and released in French-speaking countries worldwide by Columbia Tristar.[104] The film was further dubbed and released in Hindi as Aparichit: The Stranger on 19 May 2006.[135] It is the first film featuring Vikram in the lead to have a theatrical release in Hindi.[136] At a private screening held a day before its Hindi theatrical release, the film received a "warm reception".[51]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Malathi Rangarajan of The Hindu said that the film works as it melds an interesting screen line with racy action. She also noted that the story resembled Shankar's Indian (1996) a lot while also bearing semblance to his Gentleman (1993). She remarked that the story and screenplay deserved to be lauded for its "ingenious sparks in narration" but problems arose with respect to its plausibility. She then declared, " [...] some of the best camera shots, stunts and locations on a mind-boggling scale have been showcased. If you enjoy magnificence in cinema you will like this Anniyan."[36] Krishnakumar wrote for that learning from the debacle of Boys, the director went back to his strength by taking a social theme, spicing it up and serving the perfect commercial fare. He added that in trying to explain multiple personality disorder in the simplest of terms, the director has only succeeded to a certain extent as a majority of viewers who are not that well informed might not even comprehend what is being said.[124]

Labelling the film as a "must see", a reviewer at Sify acclaimed that the film holds the viewers riveted with its racy narration, a relevant message backed with technical wizardry, never-seen before colourful song picturisation and particularly the performance of Vikram. Yet, he criticised that the film was too lengthy and the story too thin on logic.[42] The editorial board at IndiaGlitz called the film 'breathtaking' and wrote, "Anniyan in one word is brilliant. A film that is big in conception, immaculate in execution and totally stunning in its entirety. Anniyan is almost a surreal and phantasmagoric dream woven on an ambitiously expanded canvas that has never before seen on Indian films. Its technical sorcery (yes, that's the word) just takes your breath away."[137] Ramaa of summarised by saying that the film is "a good entertainer and worth the money."[138]

Reviewing Aparichithudu, the Telugu version of the film, The Hindu said that it was watchable.[139] Regarding the Hindi version of the film, Raja Sen of lambasted the pathetic dubbing though saying that it was refreshing and watchable, despite boasting of enough masala to make the viewers sneeze. Rating the film 2.5 out of 5 stars, he declared, "Overall, Aparichit is a slickly made, well-paced actioner that works quite well, despite the dub. The film is engaging and crisply scripted, and the action is never too excessive, lightened by jokes and general tomfoolery that never offensively interrupts the actual plot."[140]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Following the commercial success of the Telugu version Aparichitudu, which was a runaway hit in Andhra Pradesh, Shankar was felicitated by Sri Venkateswara Social and Cultural Organisation (SVESCO) of Tirupati and was conferred the title 'Darsaka Brahma'.[141] In a conversation with athlete Shiny Wilson, actor Jayaram remarked, "Anniyan was a runaway hit in Kerala. But if a Malayalam star had tried out an Anniyan-kind of role with a weird hairdo, it would have been a disaster!"[142]

The film received numerous awards and nominations. Although Vikram had hoped that the film would get him his second National Award,[143][144] the film won it's only National Award in the Special Effects category.[98][145] Anniyan became the fourth film directed by Shankar to receive the award; Kadhalan (1994), Indian (1996) and Jeans (1998) are the other films directed by Shankar to have previously won the National Award for special effects.[146] It also won eight out of the total 15 awards awarded by Filmfare for the best of Tamil cinema.

Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Outcome
National Film Awards 53rd National Film Awards[147][148] Best Special Effects Tata Elxsi Won
Filmfare Awards South 53rd Filmfare Awards South[149] Best Film Anniyan Won
Best Actor Vikram Won
Best Director Shankar Won
Best Lyricist Vairamuthu Won
Best Art Director Sabu Cyril Won
Best Music Director Harris Jayaraj Won
Best Action Director Peter Hein Won
Best Cinematographer Ravi Varman, V. Manikandan Won
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Tamil Nadu State Film Award – 2005[150] Best Film Anniyan Won
(Second Best)
Best Villain Prakash Raj Won
Best Director Shankar Won
Best Comedian Vivek Won
Best Music Director Harris Jayaraj Won
(also for Ghajini)
Best Male Dubbing Artist S. N. Surendar Won
Film Fans' Association Award 55th Annual Film Fans' Association Award
Cine bests of 2005[151][152][153]
Best Film Anniyan Won
Best Actor Vikram Won
Best Director Shankar Won
Best Music Director Harris Jayaraj Won
Best Cinematographer Ravi Varman Won
Asianet Film Awards 8th Ujala Asianet Film Awards - 2005[154][155] Special Jury Award Vikram Won



By the time the production was nearing completion, the trade sources had estimated the film to cost around 120-150 million; but, as it happens in films directed by Shankar, the budget overshot.[12] Made at a cost of 263.8 million,[g] Anniyan was touted as the most expensive South Indian film to be ever made during the time of its release.[35]

IndiaGlitz estimates that the total production cost, excluding the remuneration cost of the cast and technicians, is 90 million.[54] It was also the first Tamil film and the first in South India to get institutional finance, a sum of 95 million from IDBI.[12][35][157] Moreover, the producer had insured the film for 295 million prior to its release.[35][158] Insured with United India Insurance for 150 million, it was the largest insurance cover extended to a south Indian film.[49]


With the amount of hype the film generated in the media, theatre owners eagerly came forward and offered hefty prices as Minimum Guarantee (MG).[h][61] In Tamil Nadu, funds amounting to 120 million were gathered as MG and advance.[35] The MG raised through audio rights and movie distribution to theatres in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and overseas fetched a combined sum of 224 million.[160] The film was distributed and released throughout Tamil Nadu by Oscar Films whereas in Kerala, it was distributed by Thameen.[160][161]

The rights for Aparichithudu, the Telugu-dubbed version, was bought by a producer for an all-time record price.[12][62] Meanwhile, the film was sold in Kerala for 13 million, which was again a record for a Tamil film there.[61] The US rights was bought by the distribution house Bharat Creations.[162] With the theatrical rights and pre-release booking, the trade circuit predicted that the film would recover its cost within ten days of its release.[35]

Box office[edit]

The advance booking for the film began on 14 June 2005 across Tamil Nadu and received overwhelming response from the audience which the trade circuit felt was "phenomenal".[163] The film took a "historic opening" worldwide and set multiple records at the box office. A day after release, the film was touted as a hit. In its opening weekend (17–19 June), Anniyan grossed 5.024 million from only six multiplexes in Chennai and reached #1 position at the Chennai box-office. In Sathyam Cinemas alone, the film grossed 1.4 million, the highest ever three day opening from a single multiplex in South India.[164][165][166]

A week after release, the film grossed more than 10 million in Chennai, 2.7 million in Sathyam Cinemas, 7.1 million from 10 prints in Salem and netted 4.1 million in Coimbatore which were all box office records. And beyond Tamil Nadu, the film earned the distributors 12.7 million from Nizam in Andhra, 5 million in Karnataka and 1 million from 3 screens in Mumbai.[167] The film got a hundred percent opening and surpassed Chandramukhi as the top-grossing Tamil film of the week, a position occupied by the latter since its release on 14 April 2005. IndiaGlitz likened the Vikram-Shankar combo to that of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara batting together.[168] The trade pundits estimated that V. Ravichandran would get a distributor's share of 80-100 million in its first week from cinemas across Tamil Nadu. A week after its release, the Telugu-dubbed version Aparichithudu was declared a hit in Andhra Pradesh. Distributor Karunakara Reddy of Megha Films in Hyderabad quipped, "Aparichitudu has taken an opening just like a Telugu superstar film and should collect a distributor's share of Rs. 5-7 crores for the Nizam area alone."[164] In Kerala, Anniyan released in 35 screens across the state, receiving a "record opening" for a Tamil film and became the first Tamil film to get a distributors' share of 6.2 million in its first week.[169] A fortnight after its release, the film was labelled a "super hit" in Tamil cinema's half-yearly report compiled by film trade analyst for The Hindu Sreedhar Pillai.[170]

In exactly a six-week theatrical run, Anniyan netted 10.5 million with a distributor's share of around 5.2 million. It was an "all India record for collections, the highest share in least number of days from any theatre in India." However, in Tamil Nadu, collections began dropping five weeks after its release and it was estimated that the film would earn a share of 160 million.[171] In September 2005, the film's gross earnings surpassed the US$2 million milestone.[172] At the completion of a 50-day run at Sathyam Cinemas, Anniyan "recorded the highest 50 days collection for a Tamil film from a single screen in the world" earning 11.29 million.[173]

Anniyan was declared a blockbuster at the close of the year and, together with Chandramukhi, earned an estimated gross of 1100 million worldwide.[174] The film also collected a distributor's share of 20 million.[175] In Andhra Pradesh, Aparichitudu was named the biggest hit of 2005.[176][177] The film did better business than straight Telugu films.[178] It was the highest grosser among all Telugu films released that year.[179] The film's success earned Vikram a big fan-following in Andhra.[180] It also prompted producers in the Telugu film industry, which had hit a rough patch following a spate of box-office duds, to acquire the dubbing rights to Vikram's previous Tamil films and release them in Telugu.[181][182]

In Kerala, the film ran for more than 150 days and grossed over 60 million, the most by a Tamil film there.[183] In Karnataka too, the film was a "big success" although the exact box-office figures are not known.[184] However, the film's Hindi version Aparichit opened to poor reception earning only 21 million across 150 screens and was declared a flop by Box Office India.[185][186] While acknowledging that the film underperformed at the box-office, Vikram stated that it nevertheless made an impact. He further added that the film got him recognition from people in the remote corners of India as the drama and the action sequences greatly appealed to them.[187] By the end of its theatrical run, the film had grossed 570 million in its lifetime.[188][189]

In popular culture[edit]

In an August 2005 seminar titled "Revisiting psychiatric disorders in Tamil films", where the discussion revolved around the films Chandramukhi and Anniyan, psychiatrist Asokan found many logical faults in both films. While acknowledging that Anniyan was a technically better film, he stated that it did not explain some of the medical theories.[190] In another August 2005 seminar conducted to mark the anniversary of the Quit India Movement, where participants were urged to actively fight corruption, the convener T. Hema Kumari referred to the films Bhaarateeyudu (the Telugu dubbed version of Indian) and Aparichitudu. She noted that while such films which depict a fight against corruption were appreciated, people were reluctant to join movements against such issues.[191]

During the 20th Vijayawada Book Festival held at Vijayawada in January 2009, Garuda Puranam, one of the 18 puranas of Hinduism, was a best-seller. Writing for The Hindu, G.V. Ramana Rao said that the book was made popular following several mentions in the film and sold like "hot cakes".[192] Following the stupendous success of Aparichitudu in Andhra Pradesh, the State Transport Corporation of Warangal named a bus Remo, after the character played by Vikram in the film.[177] When stand-up comedian and television anchor Bosskey launched a quirky play titled Dada (Don) in October 2005, he named the cast after famous characters in Tamil films. Accordingly, Anniyan (one of Vikram's character in the film), Badshah (Rajinikanth in Baashha) and Velu Nayakkar (Kamal Haasan's role in Nayakan) play the central characters of a family of brothers.[193] Similarly, in the 2013 comedy film Onbadhule Guru, in which the characters were named after popular protagonists of Tamil cinema, a member of the supporting cast was christened Anniyan.[194]

The characters played by Vikram were spoofed by Vadivelu in the Tamil film Aaru (2005); the comedy sequence also features four songs from the film's soundtrack album.[195][196] Aparichitudu, the film's Telugu version, was parodied by comedian Venu Madhav in the Telugu films Chatrapati (2005) and Seenugadu Chiranjeevi Fan (2005).[197][198] It was also parodied, along with Chandramukhi, in the film Rajababu (2006).[199] In the 2010 film Thamizh Padam, a full-length parody on stereotypical characters and clichéd sequences in Tamil cinema, the lead actor Shiva recreates the "Anthakoopam" punishment sequence to comic effect, where he tries to force a herd of buffaloes into stampeding a villain but fails in his attempt.[200][201] Later, the comedy sequence was reenacted by Allari Naresh in Sudigadu (2012), an official remake of Thamizh Padam.[202][203] In the 2012 Kannada film Yaare Koogadali, a remake of the Tamil film Poraali (2011), the long and unkempt hair sported by Puneeth Rajkumar was reportedly inspired by the look of Anniyan.[204]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to a 2004 report by The Hindu, the film was supposedly set in 2200 A.D. whereas a 2008 report by Sify claims that, according to the director's original one-line script, the film was set in 3000 A.D.[1][2]
  2. ^ He would later renew Robot as Enthiran (2010) with Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai featuring in the lead.[5]
  3. ^ Earlier, Sreeram had turned down Shankar's offer to work in Indian (1996) as he did not want to affect the career chances of his former assistant Jeeva, who was the cinematographer in Shankar's directorials until that point.[44]
  4. ^ In the words of director Shankar, time-slicing is about numerous stills on a camera system consisting of 120 cameras, a special ring and precise control in post-production to achieve a frozen-time effect.[12]
  5. ^ However, according to Aparna Karthikeyan of The Hindu, the song was shot in the tulip gardens of Keukenhof.[88][89]
  6. ^ Written as per sources. In the song however, the accompanying instruments include one each of a mridangam, harmonium, shruti box and kanjira.
  7. ^ The exchange rate in 2005 was 45.3 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$).[156]
  8. ^ The Economic Times defines 'Minimum Guarantee' as an initial sum that is paid to the producer by the distributor irrespective of how the film performs. A revenue sharing arrangement is worked out, whereby the producer will get a portion of the profits that the distributor makes.[159]


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  4. ^ Rajitha (7 April 2001). "Kamal fighting fit!". Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]