From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

DVD cover
Directed byPriyadarshan
Produced byMohanlal
R. Mohan (co-producer)
Screenplay byT. Damodaran
Story byPriyadarshan
Prabhu Ganesan
Amrish Puri
John Kolvenbach
Nedumudi Venu
Alex Draper
Music byIlaiyaraaja
CinematographySantosh Sivan
Edited byN. Gopalakrishnan
Pranavam Arts
Shogun Films Ltd. (in association with)
Distributed byShogun Films Ltd.
Amitabh Bachchan Corporation (Saza-E-Kala Pani)
Release date
  • 6 April 1996 (1996-04-06)
Running time
178 minutes
Budget2.5 crore[1]

Kaalapani (English: Black Water) is a 1996 Indian Malayalam language epic historical period drama film co-written and directed by Priyadarshan, set in 1915 it focus on the lives of Indian freedom fighters incarcerated in prison during the British Raj. The film stars Mohanlal, Prabhu Ganesan, Tabu, Amrish Puri, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenivasan, Tinnu Anand, Annu Kapoor, Alex Draper, and Vineeth. Kaalapani is regarded as one of the classics in Malayalam cinema.[2] Originally produced in Malayalam, the film was dubbed and released in Hindi as Saza-E-Kala Pani, Tamil as Siraichalai, and in Telugu as Kaala Pani. Amitabh Bachchan bought the Hindi dubbing rights, besides narrating the prologue for the Hindi version.[3]

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, making it the costliest Malayalam film made until then.[1]

Kaalapani was released on 12 April 1996 in 450 theaters worldwide, which was the largest release for any Indian film until then.[4] 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.


In 1965, G. S. Sethu (Vineeth) of the Indian Army goes to Ross Island, Kaalapani to find the whereabouts of his aunt Parvathi's (Tabu) husband Govardhan Menon (Mohanlal), who has been sent to jail in 1916 during the British Rule. In an old room containing record of prisoners held at the jail, Sethu comes across Govardhan's records and learns his story.

Govardhan, a doctor and Indian nationalist, is wrongly accused of bombing a train carrying 55 people, including British officials. On his wedding day with Parvathi, he is deported to a cellular jail at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There, hundreds of Indian prisoners are incarcerated in the cellular jail, including leading participants of the freedom movement. The extremely inhumane conditions faced by the prisoners in the jail are depicted.

David Berry (Alex Draper) is a sadistic jailor who is of Irish descent, while Len Hutton (John Kolvenbach) is a kindhearted English doctor. Veer Savarkar (Annu Kapoor) is incarcerated and tries his best to keep the spirit of the prisoners going despite unbelievable torture.

Parvathi keeps waiting for Govardhan to come back. Due to Len's efforts, 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), Govardhan's friend. David and the jail warden Mirza Khan (Amrish Puri) hatch a plan to incite a prison riot and shoot down 13 prisoners while they are escaping. Mukundan refuses to escape and is taken on the pretext of meeting the Chief Commissioner, and is shot and killed. Seeing Mukundan's dead body, Govardhan throws down David from one of the towers and kills Mirza Khan by strangling him. Govardhan is hanged to death.

All this is shown in interminnent flashbacks. Sethu, after knowing Govardhan has already been hanged to death 45 years ago, decides to not tell the truth to his wife as her wait of 50 years would have been in vain. The film ends with Sethu lying to her that he met Govardhan and talked to him about her, indicating she will never come to know about Govardhan's death and will keep waiting for him for the rest of her life.




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


While the Pre-World War I ports were recreated on the Andaman Islands, several huge sets were built on a 1.5 acres space in Murugalaya Studio, Chennai to replicate the Cellular Jail. In Madras, the sets of Cellular Jail cost about Rs 12 lakh to build on 1.5 acres at the Murugalaya Studio. Apparently, director Priyadarshan was adamant and determined to be faithful to the details of the era. He says: "The Andamans had not seen a horse in 20 years. We had to carry four horses there at a cost of about Rs 3 lakh. When the filming was over, we presented them to the Andamans administration."[1] Prior to the making of the film, Prabhu had broken his knee and during his recovery phase, put on considerable weight. In order to accommodate his physique into the script, Priyadarshan altered the character to make him eat constantly in the film.[8]


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 crore (equivalent to 10 crore or US$1.5 million in 2018). The shooting was completed in 72 days at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, several parts of Kerala and Madras. 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.[9]

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


Soundtrack album by
Released5 March 1996 (1996-03-05)
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Ilaiyaraaja chronology
Thedi Vandha Raasa
Nammoora Mandara Hoove

The music was composed and conducted by Ilaiyaraaja. K.S.Chitra was the only female singer in all the versions, while male singers kept changing from version to version.

Track list

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

Malayalam (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1."Aattirambile Kombile"M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra5:01
2."Chempoove Poove"M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra4:59
3."Kottum Kuzhal Vizhi"M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra, Chorus5:43
4."Marikkoodinullil"K. S. Chithra, Ilaiyaraaja5:07
5."Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar)Mano, Chorus6:06

All lyrics written by Arivumathi.

Tamil (dubbed version)
1."Alolam Kili Thopilae"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra5:01
2."Suttum Sudar Vizhi"M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra, Chorus5:43
3."Sempoove Poove"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra4:59
4."Maaman Kurai"K. S. Chithra, Gangai Amaran5:07
5."Ithu Thai Pirandha"Mano, Chorus6:06

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

Hindi (dubbed version)
1."Zindagi Mein Tum Mile"Hariharan, K. S. Chithra5:01
2."Bachpan Ke Saathi Mere"Hariharan, K. S. Chithra, Chorus5:43
3."Sandhya Ki Laali"M. G. Sreekumar, K. S. Chithra4:59
4."Baaghon Ki Bahaarein"K. S. Chithra, M. G. Sreekumar5:07
5."Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar)Mano, Chorus6:06
Telugu (dubbed version)
1."Chaamanthi Poove"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra4:59
2."Kannekommana"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra5:01
3."Mojullona"K. S. Chithra5:07
4."Vande Mataram" (Lyrics by Javed Akhtar)Mano, Chorus6:06
5."Yakshakanne"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chithra, Chorus5:43


National Film Awards 1995
Kerala State Film Awards


  1. ^ a b c M. G. Radhakrishnan (15 June 1995). "An epic gamble". Indiascope. India Today. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  2. ^ Roktim Rajpal (14 August 2015). "Mohanlal's 'Kaalapani' to Mammootty's 'Pazhassi Raja': Southern films that reminisce about the battle for free India". New Delhi. IBN Live. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  3. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fm3Lvoz7pU
  4. ^ http://www.filmaxreader.in/post/42.xhtml
  6. ^ Gönderen Yılmazzz. "Cellular Jail Port Blair — Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Ritemail.
  7. ^ Cathy Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy (23 June 2001). "Survivors of our hell". The Guardian.
  8. ^ http://www.rediff.com/chat/0310chat.htm
  9. ^ Ranjith Nair (1–14 September 2011). "ഈ സിനിമയെ ഞങ്ങൾ സ്നേഹിക്കുന്നു" (in Malayalam). Vanitha.

External links[edit]