Indian (1996 film)

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Indian (1996 film) poster.jpg
Directed by S. Shankar
Produced by A. M. Rathnam
Written by Sujatha
Screenplay by Shankar
Story by Shankar
Starring Kamal Haasan
Manisha Koirala
Urmila Matondkar
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography Jeeva
Edited by B. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Distributed by Sri Surya Movies
Release dates
  • 9 May 1996 (1996-05-09)
Running time
185 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Indian is a 1996 Indian Tamil vigilante film directed by S. Shankar and produced by A. M. Rathnam. The film stars Kamal Haasan in dual roles with Manisha Koirala, Urmila Matondkar, Sukanya and Goundamani appearing in other pivotal roles. The film's score and soundtrack are composed by A. R. Rahman, while cinematography was handled by Jeeva.

The film focuses on an ex-freedom fighter turned vigilante bent on rooting out corruption and his son, who is at the other end of the spectrum by facilitating corrupt practices leading to unfortunate events.

The film opened to positive reviews from critics on the way to becoming a commercial blockbuster in the Tamil film industry. Indian was selected by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1996, but was not nominated.[1][2] The film also went on to win three National Film Awards including that of Best Actor for Kamal Haasan's portrayal, while his performance also saw him win at the Filmfare Awards and the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. The film was dubbed and released in Hindi as Hindustani with a few scenes reshot and also in Telugu as Bharatheeyudu. It was also the highest grossing Tamil film upon its release, until surpassed by Padayappa, three years later.


A cat and mouse game ensues between Senapathy (Kamal Haasan), referring to himself as Indian, a 70-year-old vigilante, who is on a killing spree of corrupt bureaucrats and Krishnaswamy (Nedumudi Venu) a CBI officer is hell bent on tracking down Indian.

Chandra Bose aka Chandru (Kamal Haasan),(whom we later on find out to be Senapathy's son) is a small-time bribe-broker stationed outside a Regional Transport Office, who aids people in greasing the right officials inside the RTO for getting permits and licenses. His assistant Subbiah (Goundamani) and Paneerselvam (Senthil), a RTO official, are engaged regular tiffs while Aishwarya (Manisha Koirala), Chandru's love interest and an avid animal rights activist also battle it out with Sapna (Urmila Matondkar), the daughter of a RTO official Chandru is trying to hobnob to secure a job for himself at the RTO. Aishwarya is irked by the fact that Sapna (as well her mom) is exploiting Chandru's situation and gets him to do grocery shopping and even the laundry.

Meanwhile, Krishnaswamy manages to trace his way to Senapathy's house and finds Senapathy, posing as an ex-freedom fighter. Archived newspaper reports say that Senapathy was a soldier in the Indian National Army who was an extremist. Senapathi's wife Amirthavalli (Sukanya) details the story on their struggles during pre-independence India, the discrimantion by British officials and the Indian Freedom Movement Rebellions against the British, atrocities etc. are shown, culminating in Senapathy marrying Amirthavalli but leaving for Singapore to join Subhas Chandra Bose to be part of the INA. He returns after independence. Krishnaswamy tries to arrest Senapathy, but his attempt is foiled, and Senapathy escapes with his expertise in the art of hitting marmam or pressure points.

Senapathy then goes on to commit a murder in front of television audiences by killing a corrupt doctor(Nizhalgal Ravi) who refused to attend immediately to Senapathy's daughter (Kasthuri), who was suffering from third degree burns because he insisted on a bribe, which Senapathy refused. Chandru parts ways with his father because of his excessive insistence on honesty etc. and considers these values to be dead and worthless. How Senapathi evades the police and escapes arrest forms a major portion of the remaining part of the story. Public support is very high for the Indian because he exposes so many corrupt people. Senapathy does not do his son any favours either. Chandru had earlier taken a bribe and given a safety certificate to a bus with faulty brakes. The bus has an accident, killing forty school children it was carrying and thus Chandru is held responsible. Senapathy is bent on giving Chandru the same punishment as he gives others, i.e.death. After a few chase sequences, in the climax sequence in an airport Senapathy kills Chandru and apparently dies in an explosion. Krishnaswamy discovers through a video that Senapathi escaped moments before the jeep is exploded killing his son in the explosion.

The epilogue shows Senapathy calling Krishnaswamy from a foreign land (Hong Kong), indicating that he will be back should the need for him arise.



Sydney Harbour Bridge seen in the song "Telephone Manipol".

In June 1995, producer A. M. Rathnam signed on Shankar, who had directed two blockbusters in Gentleman (1993) and Kaadhalan (1994), to make a new venture featuring leading actor Kamal Haasan in the lead role. The film was reported to be loosely based on the life of prominent Indian freedom fighter, Subhas Chandra Bose.[3] Shankar tried to rope in Aishwarya Rai to make her debut and portray the leading female role but her commitment to her advertisement agency until October 1995 meant that she was unavailable to sign the film.[3] Subsequently Manisha Koirala, who appeared in the critically acclaimed 1995 Mani Ratnam film Bombay was selected as the lead heroine. The producers signed on Raadhika to play the pair of the older Kamal Haasan in the film, but her television commitments meant that she was unable to sign a contract. Urvashi's sister subsequently replaced her, only for Shankar to throw her out for missing a day's schedule to attend her wedding. The role was finally handed to Sukanya, who had previously appeared alongside Kamal Haasan in Mahanadhi.[3] Hindi actress Urmila Matondkar was signed to play a role in the film after the producers were impressed with her performance and the success of her 1995 Hindi film, Rangeela. Nasser was chosen to portray an important character in the film; however, as he was busy with other films he could not accept the offer. Then Shankar hired Malayalam famous character artist Nadimudu Venu to play the role. The producers engaged Hollywood make-up artistes Michael Westmore and Michael Jones to work on the designs for the senior Kamal Haasan's and Sukanya's look in the film.[4]

For production work, Shankar visited Las Vegas to learn about new technology and purchased cameras for the production. Furthermore, the director visited Australia alongside cinematographer Jeeva and music director A. R. Rahman to location hunt and to compose tunes.[3] The film's unit were given strict orders to maintain privacy, with Hindi actor Jackie Shroff being notably turned away from visiting the shooting spot. A song for the film was shot at Prasad Studios featuring Kamal Haasan and Urmila Matondkar alongside 70 Bombay models.[5] This led to a protest from the Cine Dancers Union who argued that Tamil dancers should have been utilised instead, with Shankar opting to pay them off to avoid further hassle. Another duet between Kamal Haasan and Manisha Koirala was shot near the Sydney Opera House in Sydney and Canberra for fifteen days.[6] A flashback song was canned with four hundred dancers and a thousand extras at Gingee with Kamal Haasan and Sukanya, while another song featured shooting in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.[3][4] Graphic designer Venky noted that Indian was his most difficult project to date (in 1997) with a scene constructed to feature Kamal Haasan's character alongside freedom fighter, Subhas Chandra Bose. Venky had to remove blemishes on the film reel of Bose provided by the Film Division's archive before merging Kamal Haasan on to the shot to make it appear that the pair were marching in tandem.[7]


The film opened in May 1996 to predominantly positive reviews from critics and went on to become a blockbuster at the South Indian box office.[8] The film ran to packed houses for several months in Tamil Nadu and was dubbed and released in Telugu as ''Bharatheeyudu. Prior to the release of the film, the team also planned a Hindi version of the film, with a few re-shot scenes including Aruna Irani in place of Manorama. The Hindi version also fared well after its release in June 1996.

A critic from India Today praised Shankar's script, noting that "with the right mix of pop patriotism, anti-establishment diatribes and other commercial cinema ingredients, Shankar's latest creation has south India applauding" before adding that "the real triumph of the film is the effective make-over that believably transforms the actors".[9] Another film critic wrote that "Indian represents Shankar's best effort to date both in terms of the effectiveness of the message he conveys and the entertainment value of the movie as a whole", adding that "the movie features a hardhitting message as well as a great performance from Kamal as an old freedom fighter with a new agenda, impressive special effects and extravagant song sequences."[10] The film went on to win three National Film Awards: Best Actor for Kamal Haasan's portrayal, Best Art Direction for Thotta Tharani's pre-independence sets and Best Special Effects for Venky's graphics work. It also achieved regional success, winning Best Film and Best Actor awards at both the Filmfare Awards and from the Tamil Nadu State.[11] It also became the Indian submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1997, though eventually did not make the short list.

In 2011, producer A. M. Rathnam discussed the idea of a sequel to this project as anti-corruption leaders like Anna Hazare were becoming active.[12] Shankar's press relations team dismissed reports of a sequel in 2013, after news emerged that he was considering a follow up featuring Kamal Haasan and Suriya.[13]


1997 National Film Awards (India)
1997 Filmfare Awards South (India)
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
1997 Academy Awards (United States)


Main article: Indian (soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by A. R. Rahman
Released 1996
Recorded Panchathan Record Inn
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 30:05
Label Pyramid
Ayngaran Music
Aditya Music
Producer A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Love Birds
Kadhal Desam

The soundtrack album includes five tracks composed by A. R. Rahman[14] and was released on 1996 by Pyramid.[15] [16] The soundtrack proved hugely popular upon release and was also released in Hindi as Hindustani by TIPS[15] and in Telugu as Bharateeyudu by T-Series.[15] The lyrics were written by Vaali and Vairamuthu for the original version, P. K. Mishra for Hindustani and Bhuvanachandra for Bharateeyudu.

The soundtrack was also magnificent in sales and sold about 600,000 records within days of release.[17]

Track listing
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Akadanu Naanga" (Lyrics: Vaali) Swarnalatha 5:52
2. "Maya Machindra" (Lyrics: Vaali) S. P. Balasubramaniam, Swarnalatha 5:37
3. "Pachai Kiligal" (Lyrics: Vairamuthu) K. J. Yesudas 5:50
4. "Telephone Manipol" (Lyrics: Vairamuthu) Hariharan, Harini 6:15
5. "Kappaleri Poyaachu" (Lyrics: Vaali) S. P. Balasubramaniam, P. Susheela 6:28


  1. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  2. ^ "39 Countries Hoping for Oscar Nominations". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 13 November 1996. Archived from the original on 9 February 1999. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Google Groups". Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  4. ^ a b "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition(Cont.) - soc.culture.tamil | Google Groups". 29 March 1996. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition - soc.culture.tamil | Google Groups". 3 February 1996. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "Rediff On The Net, Movies:An interview with Shankar". 1997-04-04. Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  7. ^ "Rediff On The Net, Movies: An interview with special effects whiz Venky". 1997-11-04. Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  8. ^ "Kamal - Shankar (Indian) | The Best One-time Partnerships". Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  9. ^ "Movie review: Indian (Hindustani), starring Kamalahasan, Manisha Koirala : FILMS". 1996-08-15. Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  10. ^ "INDIAN". Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Shankar to work on Indian sequel?". Behindwoods. 3 September 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Shankar's PR denies Indian 2 reports - Filmibeat". 2013-04-23. Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  14. ^ "Indian soundtrack by Rahman". A.R.Rahman Official Website. 
  15. ^ a b c "Indian release history". Tripod. 
  16. ^ "Indian tamil movie songs lyrics". tamilsonglyrics. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  17. ^ "Singing a different tune". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 July 2003. 

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