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Gunaa poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySanthana Bharathi
Produced byAlamelu Subramaniam
Written bySab John
Balakumaran (dialogues)
StarringKamal Haasan
Music byIlaiyaraaja
Edited byB. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Swathi Chithra International
Distributed byRaaj Kamal Films International
Release date
  • 5 November 1991 (1991-11-05)
Running time
167 minutes[1]

Gunaa is a 1991 Indian Tamil-language psychological romance film directed by Santhana Bharathi and co-written by Sab John. The film stars Kamal Haasan, Rekha and newcomer Roshini. It revolves around a recently released psychiatric patient (Haasan) who kidnaps a rich woman (Roshini) to make her fall in love with him. He believes she is the avatar of Goddess Abhirami and it is his destiny to marry her.

Haasan and John initially planned to make a film set in Sri Lanka during a time of insurgency, but the project was dropped over story concerns. John later developed a new story Mathikettan Solai (which would be renamed Gunaa), inspired partly by a mentally-ill person he knew. The dialogues were written by Balakumaran, cinematography was handled by Venu and editing by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan. The film was mostly shot around Kodaikanal.

Gunaa was released on 5 November 1991, Diwali day. It was critically acclaimed for its unique theme and performances, but had an average run at the box office. The film won a Tamil Nadu State Film Award, a Filmfare Award, and two Cinema Express Awards. It acquired cult status in Tamil cinema and inspired similar films about mentally obsessed lovers.


Gunaa is an asylum inmate. His cellmate tells him a story, whose protagonist Abhirami gets registered in Gunaa's mind; he believes and dreams that she is an avatar of goddess Abhirami who would marry him on a full moon day. After his psychiatrist Ganesh sanctions his release, Gunaa keeps searching for Abhirami. His mother Manonmani runs a brothel for a living after his father deserted her. Her brother-in-law, addressed as "Chitappa", is her aide. Rosy, one of the brothel girls, loves and desires to marry Gunaa, but he keeps looking for Abhirami.

Gunaa is an expert at breaking open locks, and Chitappa regularly takes his assistance for stealing. Chitappa decides to break open a hundi at a nearby temple to pay Manonmani's overdue rent. When he takes Gunaa for a rehearsal, Gunaa spots a wealthy woman in the temple. Since her physical attributes match those of Abhirami as imagined by Gunaa, he approaches her and she smilingly gives him some sweets; her pleasant disposition convinces him that she is Abhirami.

On the scheduled day of heist, Chitappa, Gunaa and their men arrive at the temple. Gunaa opens the lock of the safe room and lets Chitappa's men inside. Seeing "Abhirami" again, he goes after her, accidentally locking Chitappa's men inside. They are caught by officials but manage to escape with some jewels and flee with Gunaa via car. One of them dies when the car crashes, the other seizes "Abhirami"'s car and starts driving it, with Gunaa also joining.

The wounded man succumbs to his wound, and the car falls into the sea. Ramaiah, a CBI officer, investigates "Abhirami"'s disappearance, and informs her guardian Suresh Kumar (SK). Having saved "Abhirami" and the jewels from drowning, Gunaa takes them to his house. Landlord Ismail's goons assume "Abhirami" to be a new prostitute brought in without paying their usual bribe and fight with Gunaa. To save her, Gunaa drives her to a dilapidated church on a hilltop.

"Abhirami" hates Gunaa for his weird nature and tries to escape, but fails every time. With Chitappa's help, SK and Ismail reach the church; SK coerces "Abhirami" to sign blank papers so he can control all her wealth. She does so to avoid being killed, but SK tries to kill her anyway. Gunaa intervenes, kills Ismail, knocks SK out and takes "Abhirami" to a cave for safety. "Abhirami", who first hated Gunaa, understands his deep love. She reveals her real name is Rohini, and accepts Gunaa's marriage proposal. Though Gunaa is adamant on marrying on a full moon day, Rohini convinces him it is that day and marries him.

The next morning, Gunaa realises that Rohini has contracted fever; he approaches a doctor to treat her. The doctor's assistant, having seen Gunaa on a newspaper, informs Inspector Moovendhar. When Moovendhar arrives, Gunaa forcibly takes the doctor to get Rohini treated. Near the cave, both men are surrounded by numerous policemen led by Moovendhar; with a stolen gun, Gunaa accidentally shoots a policeman before retreating the cave where the doctor treats Rohini. Moovendhar seeks more forces and issues a shoot-at-sight order against Gunaa.

Gunaa's kin including Ganesh, Manonmani, Rosy and Ramaiah reach the spot and tell Moovendhar not to kill Gunaa. Rosy enters the cave and requests Gunaa to return the gun which he does. Moovendhar then orders Gunaa to surrender. Rohini informs Moovendhar that they are fine and coming out. SK overhears this and, to prevent Rohini from telling the police about his crimes, shoots her. Infuriated, Gunaa kills him. When Gunaa returns, Rohini succumbs in his arms. Gunaa then angrily tells his kin they will not understand his love for Abhirami, and jumps off the cliff with Rohini's corpse.




The director Sibi Malayil, cinematographer Venu and actor Kamal Haasan had planned to make a film set in Sri Lanka during a time of insurgency, written by Sab John. The trio met Cho Ramaswamy to learn more about the various issues in the country, but he criticised their decision to tell such a story, resulting in the project being dropped. John later told Haasan about a person nicknamed "Pottan" (Fool) who he knew in his childhood. This led to the development of the screenplay of a film titled Mathikettan Solai, with the protagonist named Gunaa, based partly on Pottan. By this time, Sibi Malayil was no longer available, resulting in Santhana Bharathi replacing him.[10][11] The film was produced by Alamelu Subramaniam under Swathi Chithra International,[12] and the dialogues were written by Balakumaran.[1] Venu remained cinematographer, and editing was handled by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan.[12] The film was later retitled Gunaa after its protagonist due to commercial reasons and belief that the original title will give negative impact to the film.[13]


In portraying the title character, Haasan went on a diet and lost a substantial amount of weight,[14] besides applying makeup to darken his complexion.[15] Newcomer Roshini was selected as the female lead Rohini / Abhirami, and Gunaa was the only film she ever acted in.[16] Her voice was dubbed by actress Saritha.[9]


The pre-credit scene where Gunaa walks around in circles in an asylum with the camera following him was a shot in a single take after a day of rehearsing.[6] The dilapidated church where Gunaa initially keeps Rohini captive was a set designed at a forest named Mathikettan Solai.[3] The caves which the film was shot in were then called Devil's Kitchen, Kodaikanal.[9] It was here that the song "Kanmani Anbodu" was shot.[17] Sathy who worked as production controller for the film revealed that "the cave was about 500 to 600 deep [..] we tied ropes with pulleys and transferred all the production equipments in and out of the 500 feet cave".[18] According to Santhana Bharathi, Haasan insisted to have a dummy used for climax portions similar to his face and physique.[14]


Gunaa has been compared to films like Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990),[19] First Blood (1982) and Rain Man (1988).[20] Haasan said the tracking shots in the early portions of the film were inspired from films directed by the German filmmaker Max Ophüls.[21] He also said that he had written a scene where he fights with police and his gun goes off which was meant to be a tribute to his favourite actor Dilip Kumar's 1961 film Gunga Jumna.[22] Hari Narayan of The Hindu compared Guna to Moondram Pirai (1982), saying that in both films the protagonist's image of an ideal dreamgirl animate his antics.[23]


The music composed by Ilaiyaraaja, and the lyrics were written by Vaali.[24] While releasing the audio cassette of Guna in 1991, Haasan included some audio recording sessions with Ilaiyaraaja. The song "Kanmani Anbodu" remains one of the famous songs from the film.[25] The song "Paartha Vizhi" is set in Pavani raga.[26][27]

Film score by
External audio
Audio Jukebox (Tamil) on YouTube
Audio Jukebox (Telugu) on YouTube
Tamil tracklist
1."Appan Endrum"VaaliIlaiyaraaja4:39
2."Unnai Naan"VaaliS. Janaki, Ustad Sultan Khan7:05
3."Paartha Vizhi"Abirami PattarK. J. Yesudas2:33
4."Kanmani Anbodu"VaaliKamal Haasan, S. Janaki5:27
5."Unnai Naan (Bit)"VaaliS. Varalakshmi0:38
6."Oyilala" Chorus1:57
7."Nayaki Nayakan"Abirami PattarChorus 

All lyrics are written by Vennelakanti.

Telugu tracklist
1."Pichi Brahma"Madhavapeddi Ramesh4:39
2."Unna Nekorake"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. P. Sailaja4:08
3."Sambhavi"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam & Chorus4:43
4."Kammani Ee Premalekhani"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. P. Sailaja5:27
5."Koilalo"Swarnalatha & Chorus1:49
6."Pelli Pelli" (Reprised Tamil old song – Kalyanam aaha kalyanam...)  


Gunaa was released on 5 November 1991, that year's Diwali day,[28] and faced heavy competition from another Diwali release, Thalapathi.[29] Despite receiving critical acclaim, it was above average at the box office due to its experimental nature.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

On 24 November 1991, Ananda Vikatan appreciated the film and mentioned that Haasan had expanded the boundaries of his acting and had achieved a landmark success in this film, concluding that only Haasan could play this role effortlessly.[30] The Indian Express wrote "One comes out with the impression that Kamal Haasan of the film is such a curious blend of Sylvester Stallone, Raj Kapoor and Dustin Hoffman."[20]


Event Award Awardee Ref.
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Film – Third prize Gunaa [8]
39th Filmfare Awards South Best Actor – Tamil Kamal Haasan [31]
12th Cinema Express Awards Best Actor (Special) Kamal Haasan [32]
Best Dialogue Writer Balakumaran


Gunaa acquired cult status in Tamil cinema,[16][33] and inspired similar films about mentally obsessed lovers such as Kaadhal Kondein (2003),[34] Chinna (2005),[35] and Kadhalil Vizhunthen (2008).[16] Actor Karthik Kumar revealed that he had watched Gunaa several times.[36] Santhana Bharathi listed it as one of the favourite films he has directed.[37] Malayalam director Sathyan Anthikad said that female character Kanmani from his directorial Rasathanthram (2006) was inspired from the song "Kanmani Anbodu".[38] Siddharth's de-glamorised look from Enakkul Oruvan (2015) is said to be inspired from Kamal's look from Guna.[39] Malathi Rangarajan in her review of Deiva Thirumagal (2011) says that the "film remind you of Kamal's Guna."[40] The Devil's Kitchen became a tourist spot after the film's release and it later became known as "Guna Caves".[41]

In popular culture[edit]

Gunaa was parodied many times in various films. In a comedy scene from Ullam Kollai Poguthae (2001), Arivu (Vivek) imitates Haasan's style of rounding from Gunaa revealing the difficulties he faced due to water, he utters "Sivagami" in the same way which Gunaa utters "Abhirami".[42] In Arul (2004), the title character's friend (Vaiyapuri) sings "Kanmani Anbodu" which results in him getting whacked by Kanmani (Jyothika).[43] In Thaamirabharani (2007), Meena (Aarthi) mistakes Bharani (Vishal) as Gunaa.[44] In the 2015 Malayalam film Premam, Shambu (Shabareesh Varma) sings "Kanmani Anbodu" as his friend George (Nivin Pauly) express his silent love interest for Malar (Sai Pallavi).[45]


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External links[edit]