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The Legend of Bhagat Singh

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The Legend of Bhagat Singh
The Legend of Bhagat Singh.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi
Produced by Kumar Taurani
Ramesh Taurani
Written by Rajkumar Santoshi
Piyush Mishra
Anjum Rajabali
Starring Ajay Devgn
Sushant Singh
D. Santosh
Akhilendra Mishra
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography K. V. Anand
Edited by V. N. Mayekar
Distributed by Tips Industries Limited
Release date
  • 7 June 2002 (2002-06-07)
Running time
155 minutes
Country India
Language Hindi
Budget 200 — 250 million[a][b]
Box office 129.35 million[b]

The Legend of Bhagat Singh is a 2002 Indian historical biographical film directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. The film is about Bhagat Singh, a socialist revolutionary who fought for Indian independence along with fellow members of the Hindustan Republic Association. It features Ajay Devgn, Sushant Singh, D. Santosh and Akhilendra Mishra as the lead characters, with Raj Babbar, Farida Jalal and Amrita Rao in supporting roles. The film chronicles Bhagat's life from his childhood where he witnesses the Jallianwala Bagh massacre until the day he was hanged—23 March 1931.

Produced by Kumar and Ramesh Taurani under their Tips Industries Limited banner on a budget of 200 — 250 million (about US$4.15 — 5.18 million in 2002),[b] the film's story and dialogue were written Santoshi and Piyush Mishra wrote respectively while Anjum Rajabali drafted the screenplay. K. V. Anand, V. N. Mayekar and Nitin Chandrakant Desai were in charge of the cinematography, editing and production design respectively. Principal photography took place in Agra, Manali, Mumbai and Pune from January to May 2002. The film's soundtrack, composed by A. R. Rahman, was released on 4 May 2002 to positive reception, with "Mera Rang De Basanti" and "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna" being well-received in particular.

The Legend of Bhagat Singh was released on 7 June 2002 to positive critical reviews, with the direction, story, screenplay, technical aspects and the performances of Devgn and Sushant receiving the most attention. The film underperformed at the box office earning only 129.35 million (US$2.68 million in 2002).[b] It went on to win two National Film Awards — Best Feature Film in Hindi and Best Actor for Devgn — and three Filmfare Awards.


Bhagat Singh was born in British India in 1907. From childhood, he witnesses numerous atrocities committed on fellow Indians by the British, who came to trade under the guise of the East India Company and ended up controlling most of the nation. Bhagat takes a solemn vow to free India from British rule after witnessing the aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Soon after the massacre, he learns of Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha policies, and is especially impressed by his call to launch the non-cooperation movement, which saw thousands of people burning British-made clothing, giving up school, college studies, and government jobs. In 1922, Gandhi calls off the movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. Undaunted, Bhagat decides to be a revolutionary, and, as an adult, joins the Hindustan Republic Association in its struggle for India's independence, ending up in prison for it. Bhagat's father, Kishen, bails him out so that he can get him to run a dairy farm and marry a girl named Mannewali. Bhagat runs away from home leaving a note saying that his love for the country comes first.

When Lala Lajpat Rai was beaten to death by the police while protesting against the Simon Commission, Bhagat, along with Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandra Shekhar Azad, carry out the assassination of a police officer named Saunders. Later in 1929, when the British proposed the Trade Disputes and Public Safety Bills, Bhagat, along with Batukeshwar Dutt, initiates the bombing at Parliament House. He and Dutt throw the bombs on empty benches thereby not killing anyone. They are subsequently arrested and tried publicly. This is when Bhagat launches his much publicised ideas of revolution, becoming as popular as Gandhi among the masses, especially the younger generation, labourers and farmers.

In Central Jail Lahore, Bhagat and other fellow prisoners, including Thapar and Rajguru, undertake a 63-day fast unto death to improve the conditions of Indian political prisoners. Meanwhile, Azad, whom the British had repeatedly failed to capture, is ambushed at the Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931. The police surround the entire park leading to a shootout; refusing to be captured by the British, Azad commits suicide with the last remaining bullet in his Colt pistol.

The British re-open the Saunders' murder case, which leads to death sentences being imposed on Bhagat, Thapar and Rajguru. The Indians hope that Gandhi would use his pact with Irwin as a bargaining chip to save Bhagat, Thapar and Rajguru's lives. Irwin refuses Gandhi's request for their release. Gandhi reluctantly agrees to sign a pact which includes the clause: "Release of political prisoners except for the ones involved in violence". Bhagat, Thapar and Rajguru are hanged in secrecy at 7:33 pm on 23 March 1931.


  • Nakshdeep Singh as young Bhagat Singh



In 1998, Rajkumar Santoshi read some books on the socialist revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, and felt that a biopic would help revive interest in him.[4] Although Manoj Kumar made an earlier film in 1965, titled Shaheed, Santoshi felt that despite being "a great source of inspiration on the lyrics and music front", it did not "dwell on Bhagat Singh's ideology and vision".[5] Later in August 2000,[6] Anjum Rajabali mentioned to Santoshi about his work on Har Dayal, whose revolutionary activities inspired Udham Singh. Santoshi then persuaded Rajabali to draft a script based on Bhagat’s life as he was inspired by Udham Singh.[7]

Santoshi gave Rajabali a copy of K. K. Khullar's biography of the revolutionary titled Shaheed Bhagat Singh.[8][9] Rajabali said that reading the book "created an intense curiosity in me about the mind of this man. I definitely wanted to know more about him." His interest in Bhagat intensified after he read The Martyr : Bhagat Singh Experiments in Revolution (2000) by journalist Kuldip Nayar. The following month, Rajabali formally began his research on Bhagat Singh while admitting to Santoshi that it was "a difficult task" for him. Gurjal Singh, a Film and Television Institute of India graduate, and internet blogger Sagar Pandya assisted him.[8] Santoshi received inputs from Kultar Singh, Bhagat's younger brother, who told the director he would have his full co-operation if the film accurately depicted Bhagat's ideologies.[10]

Rajabali wanted to "recreate the world that Bhagat Singh lived in", and his research required him to "not only understand the man, but also the influences on him, the politics of that era.”[8] In a 2000 interview with Sharmila Taliculam of, Rajabali said that the film would "deal with Bhagat Singh, the man, rather than the freedom fighter.”[7] Many aspects of Bhagat's life, including Mannewali, were derived from Piyush Mishra's 1994 play Gagan Damama Bajyo; Mishra was subsequently credited with writing the film's dialogues.[11]

A. G. Noorani's 1996 book, The Trial of Bhagat Singh: Politics of Justice, provided the basis for the trial sequences. Gurpal obtained additional information from 750 newspaper clippings of The Tribune dated from 1928 to 1931, and from Bhagat's prison notebooks. These gave Rajabali "an idea of what had appealed to the man, the literary and intellectual influences that impacted him in that period.”[8] By the end of 2000, Santoshi and Rajabali completed work on the script and showed it to Kumar and Ramesh Taurani of Tips Industries Limited; both were impressed by it and agreed to produce the film under their banner and commence filming after Santoshi had finished his work on Lajja (2001).[12][13]


Sunny Deol was initially cast as Bhagat, but he left the project due to schedule conflicts and differences with Santoshi over his remuneration.[14] Santoshi then preferred to cast new faces instead of established actors, but he was not pleased with the performers who auditioned.[7][15] Ajay Devgn was finally chosen for the lead character because Santoshi felt he had "the eyes of a revolutionary. His introvert nature conveys loud and clear signals that there is a volcano inside him ready to burst."[5] After Devgn performed a screen test dressed as Bhagat, Santoshi was "pleasantly surprised" to see Devgn's face closely resembled Singh's and cast him in the part. The Legend of Bhagat Singh marked Devgn's second collaboration with Santoshi after Lajja.[16] Devgn called the film "the most challenging assignment" in his career at that point.[5] he had not watched Shaheed before signing up for the project. To prepare for the role, Devgn studied all the references Santoshi and Rajabali had procured to develop the film's script. He also lost weight to more closely resemble Bhagat.[15][17]

Whatever we have read in school and learnt in history is not even 1% of the kind of person he [Bhagat] was. I don't think he got his due ... When Rajkumar Santoshi narrated the script to me, I was taken aback because this man had done so much and his motive was not just independence of India. He had predicted the challenges that we face in our country today. From riots to corruption, he had predicted that and he wanted to fight that.[18]

—  Devgn on his perception of Bhagat

Santoshi chose Akhilendra Mishra to play Azad as he also resembled his character. In addition to reading Shiv Verma's Sansmritiyan, Mishra read Bhagwan Das Mahore's and Sadashiv Rao Malkapurkar's accounts of the revolutionary. Because of his astrological beliefs, he even obtained Azad's horoscope to determine his personality. In an interview with's Lata Khubchandani, Mishra mentioned that while informing his father about his role, he revealed to him that they originally hailed from Kanpur, the same place where Azad's ancestors were from. This piece of information "became a driving force" for Mishra and encouraged him to play Azad.[19]

Sushant Singh and D. Santosh, who made his cinematic debut, were cast as Bhagat's friends and fellow members of the Hindustan Republican Association, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru.[20] Santoshi believed their faces resembled those of the two revolutionaries.[5] To learn about their characters, Sushant, like Mishra, read Sansmritiyan while Santosh visited Rajguru's family members.[21][22] The actors were chosen according to their characters' backgrounds as well. This was true in the case of Santosh and also Amitabh Bhattacharjee, who played Jatin Das, the man who devised the bomb for Bhagat and Batukeshwar Dutt. Santosh and Bhattacharjee were from Maharashtra and West Bengal like Rajguru and Das.[23] Raj Babbar and Farida Jalal were cast as Bhagat's parents, Kishen Singh and Vidyawati Singh, while Amrita Rao played Mannewali, Bhagat's fiancée.[24]


Principal photography began in January 2002 and was completed in May.[25][26] The first schedule of filming took place in Agra and Manali following which the unit moved to the Film City studio in Mumbai.[5] According to the film's cinematographer, K. V. Anand, around 85 sets were constructed at Film City by Nitin Chandrakant Desai who was in charge of the production design, and "99 percent of the background" featured in the film was sets.[27] Desai used sepia tint throughout the film to create a period feel.[28]

Additional scenes depicting the massacre of 1919 were filmed at Jallianwala Bagh; some of them were shot between 9 pm and 6 am. The scenes at Jallianwala Bagh and other surrounding locations in Amritsar at the beginning of the film feature Nakshdeep Singh as the younger Bhagat. Santoshi selected Nakshdeep after receiving photographs of the boy from his father, Komal Singh, who also played Mannewali's father.[29]

Kultar stayed with the production unit for seven days during the outdoor location shooting in Pune. Both Santoshi and Devgn appreciated the interactions they had with Kultar, noting that he provided "deep insights into his brother's life".[5][15] Kultar in turn was so pleased with the sincerity of the cast and crew that he shared private letters written by Bhagat with them.[30] The song "Pagdi Sambhal Jatta" was the last part to be filmed. A sequence in the song featuring Devgn appearing between two factions of backup Bhangra dancers took three takes to be completed.[5] The Legend of Bhagat Singh was made on a budget of 200 — 250 million (about US$4.15 — 5.18 million in 2002).[a][b]


The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Soundtrack album by A. R. Rahman
Released 4 May 2002 (2002-05-04)
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Length 42:04
Label Tips
Producer A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Kannathil Muthamittal
(2002)Kannathil Muthamittal2002
The Legend of Bhagat Singh

The soundtrack and score for The Legend of Bhagat Singh were composed by A. R. Rahman,[31] marking his first collaboration with Santoshi. Sameer wrote the lyrics for the songs.[32] In an interview with Arthur J. Pais of, Rahman said that Santoshi wanted him to compose songs that would stand apart from his other projects like Lagaan (2001) and Zubeidaa (2001).[32] Rahman took care to compose the tunes for "Mera Rang De Basanti" in a slow-paced manner to avoid comparisons with the songs in Shaheed, which he and Santoshi found to be fast-paced. Rahman followed the same procedure for "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna". He created a softer tune, saying that the "song is pictured on men who have fasted for over a month. How can I compose a high-sounding tune for that song?"[32] Despite this, Rahman admitted that "Des Mere Des" had "some strains" from Lagaan's music.[32] Rahman took "Santoshi's commitment to the film" as a source of inspiration to make an album that was "flavorsome [sic] and different." Rahman experimented with Punjabi music more than he had done before on his previous soundtracks, receiving assistance from Sukhwinder Singh and Sonu Nigam.[32] The soundtrack was completed within two months,[33] with "Des Mere Des" recorded in an hour.[34]

The soundtrack was released on 4 May 2002 in New Delhi under the label of Tips.[35] The songs, especially "Mera Rang De Basanti" and "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna", received favourable reviews.[28][36][37] A review carried by The Hindu said that while "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna" had a "forceful" impact, "Mera Rang De Basanti" and "Pagdi Sambhal Jatta" were "not the boom-boom types but subtly tuned". The review praised Rahman's ability "to impart the sombre and poignant mood" in all the album's songs "so well that despite being subdued, it retains the patriotic fervour".[38] Seema Pant of said that "Mera Rang De Basanti", "Mahive Mahive" and "Jogiya Jogiya" were "well rendered" by their respective singers and called "Shora So Pahchaniye" an "intense track, both lyrically as well as composition wise". Pant praised Sukhwinder Singh's "exquisite rendition" of "Pagdi Sambhal Jatta" and described the duet version of "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna" as having "been beautifully composed". She appreciated how the "tabla, santoor and flute gives this slow and soft number a classical touch."[36] A critic from Sify said the music is "good".[39] While Pant and the Sify reviewer concurred with Rahman that "Des Mere Des" was similar to Lagaan's music,[38][39] the review in The Hindu compared the song to "Bharat Hum Ko Jaan Se Pyaara Hain" ("Thamizha Thamizha") from Roja (1992).[36]

1."Mera Rang De Basanti"Sonu Nigam, Manmohan Waris05:07
2."Pagdi Sambhal Jatta"Sukhwinder Singh04:45
3."Mahive Mahive"Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan05:28
4."Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna"Sonu Nigam01:47
5."Dil Se Niklegi"Sukhwinder Singh03:31
6."Shora So Pahchaniye"Karthik, Raquib, Sukhwinder Singh01:22
7."Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna" (Sad)Sonu Nigam, Hariharan06:44
8."Kasam Tumko Watan"Sukhwinder Singh02:15
9."Jogiya Jogiya"Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan05:41
10."Des Mere Des"Sukhwinder Singh, A. R. Rahman05:24
Total length:42:04


The Legend of Bhagat Singh was released on 7 June 2002 coinciding with the release of Sanjay Gadhvi's romance, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai,[40] and another film based on Bhagat, 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, which featured Bobby Deol as the revolutionary.[1][41]

A week before the film's release, Article 51 A Forum, a non-governmental organisation in Delhi, believed The Legend of Bhagat Singh to be historically inaccurate, criticising the inclusion of Mannewali as Bhagat's widow, and stating the films were made "without any research or devotion" and the filmmakers were just looking at the box-office prospects by "make spicy films based on imaginary episodes".[42] Kumar Taurani defended his film saying that he did not add Rao "for ornamental value", noting he would have opted for an established actress instead if that were the case. A press statement issued by Tips Industries Limited said: "This girl from Manawale village loved Bhagat Singh so totally that she remained unmarried till death and was known as Bhagat Singh's widow."[43] The chief operating officer of Tips Industries Limited, Raju Hingorani, pointed out that Kultar had authenticated the film, stating: "With his backing, why must we be afraid of other allegations?"[44]

On 29 May 2002, a 14-page petition was filed by Paramjit Kaur, the daughter of Bhagat's youngest brother, Rajinder Singh, at the Punjab and Haryana High Court to stay the release of both The Legend of Bhagat Singh and 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, alleging that they "contained distorted versions" of the freedom fighter's life. Kaur's lawyer, Sandeep Bhansal, argued that Bhagat singing a duet with Mannewali and wearing garlands were "untrue and amounted to distortion of historical facts". Two days later, the petition came up for hearing before the judges J. L. Gupta and N. K. Sud; both refused to stay the films' release, observing that the petition was moved "too late and it would not be proper to stop the screening of the films".[45]

Reception and accolades[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Ajay Devgn promoting his 2009 film, All the Best.
Sushant Singh at a Cine and Television Artists Association event, 2018.
The performances of Devgn and Sushant were particularly praised by critics.[46]

The Legend of Bhagat Singh received positive critical feedback, with praise for its direction, story, screenplay, cinematography, production design and the performances of Devgn and Sushant.[2][46][47] Chitra Mahesh praised Santoshi's direction, noting in her review for The Hindu that he "shows some restraint in handling the narrative". She appreciated the film's technical aspects and Devgn's rendition, calling his interpretation of Bhagat "powerful, without being strident".[28] Writing for The Times of India, Dominic Ferrao commended Devgn, Sushant, Babbar and Mishra, saying that they all come "off with flying colours".[37] A review carried by Sify labelled the film "slick and commendable"; it also termed Devgn's execution of Bhagat as "fabulous" but felt he "overrides" the character and that "the supporting characters make more impact than him."[39]

In a comparative analysis of The Legend of Bhagat Singh with 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, Ziya Us Salam of The Hindu found the former to be a better film because of the "clearly etched out" supporting characters, while opining Devgn was more "restrained and credible" than Deol. Salam admired Sushant's performance, opining that he has "a fine screen presence, good timing and an ability to hold his own in front of more celebrated actors".[48] In a more mixed comparison,'s Amberish K. Diwanji, despite finding The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Devgn to be the better film and actor like Salam, criticised the "constant shouting and mouthing of dialogues". He responded negatively to the inclusion of Bhagat's fiancée, pointing out the film took liberties in using this "slim" piece of information "just to have a girl sing." Diwanji, however, commended the narrative structure of The Legend of Bhagat Singh, saying that the film captured the revolutionary's life and journey well, thereby making it "worth watching and give[ing] it relevant historical background."[49]

Among overseas reviewers, Dave Kehr of The New York Times complimented the placement of the film's song sequences, especially that of "Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna" and "Mere Rang De Basanti". Kehr eulogised Devgn's interpretation of Bhagat calling it "glowering" while praising Sushant's "urbane" and unpredictable" rendition of Sukhdev.[50] Although Variety's Derek Elley found The Legend of Bhagat Singh to be "drawn with more warmth" and approved of Devgn's and Sushant's performances, he was not pleased with the "choppy" screenplay in the film's first half. He concluded his review by saying that the film "has a stronger lead [thespian] and richer gallery of characters that triumph over often unsubtle direction".[51]

Some of the criticism was also directed towards the treatment of Gandhi. Mahesh notes that he "appears in rather poor light" and was depicted as making "little effort" to secure a pardon for Bhagat, Sukhdev and Rajguru.[28] Diwanji concurs with Mahesh while also saying that the Gandhi–Irwin Pact as seen in the film would make the audience think that Gandhi "condemned the trio to be hanged by inking the agreement" while pointing out the agreement itself "had a different history and context."[49] Kehr believed the film's depiction of Gandhi was its "most interesting aspect". He described Surendra Rajan's version of Gandhi as "a faintly ridiculous poseur, whose policies play directly into the hands of the British" and in that aspect, he was very different from "the serene sage" portrayed by Ben Kingsley in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982).[50] Like Diwanji, Elley also notes how the film denounces Gandhi by blaming him "for not trying very hard" to prevent Bhagat's execution.[51]

Box office[edit]

The Legend of Bhagat Singh had an average opening in its first week, grossing 57.1 million (US$1.18 million in 2002) worldwide, with 33 million (US$684,221 in 2002) in India alone.[1][b] The film failed to cover its budget thus underperforming at the box office, collecting only 129.35 million (US$2.68 million in 2002) by the end of its theatrical run;[b] it was declared a "disaster" by Box Office India.[1] Shubhra Gupta of Business Line attributed the film's commercial failure to its release on the same day as 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, opining that "the two Bhagats ate into each other's business".[2]


At the 50th National Film Awards, The Legend of Bhagat Singh won the Best Feature Film in Hindi and Devgn received the Best Actor award.[52] The film received eight nominations at the 48th Filmfare Awards, and won three—Best Background Score (Rahman), Best Film (Critics) (Kumar Taurani, Ramesh Taurani) and Best Actor (Critics) (Devgn).[53]

Award Date of ceremony[c] Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
Filmfare Awards 21 February 2003 Best Film Kumar Taurani, Ramesh Taurani Nominated [46]
Best Director Rajkumar Santoshi Nominated
Best Actor Ajay Devgn Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Sushant Singh Nominated
Best Music Director A. R. Rahman Nominated
Best Background Score A. R. Rahman Won
Best Film (Critics) Kumar Taurani, Ramesh Taurani Won
Best Actor (Critics) Ajay Devgn Won
National Film Awards 29 December 2003 Best Feature Film in Hindi Rajkumar Santoshi, Kumar Taurani, Ramesh Taurani Won [52]
Best Actor Ajay Devgn Won


  1. ^ a b While the film's details on Box Office India state that the budget was 200 million,[1] Shubhra Gupta of Business Line says that 250 million was spent on the film's making.[2]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g The average exchange rate in 2002 was 48.23 Indian rupees () per 1 US dollar (US$).[3]
  3. ^ Date is linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.


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