Indian is the 1996 blockbuster vigilante film directed by Shankar starring Kamal Haasan, Manisha Koirala, Urmila Mantodkar, Nedumudi Venu and Sukanya.

The movie is about Senapathi (Kamal Haasan), an ex freedom fighter, who took the law in his hands when the corruption level increased beyond tolerance; he resumes his weeding process, something he did during the British rule. With the help of his dagger, he kills every corrupt individual he finds. He is an expert in Martial arts and a rare art form called “Valai Karma”, set of skills that helped him during a tough fight. He has a son Chandru (Kamal Haasan), a corrupt who works in RTO. Chandru and Senapthy don’t get along well and they have been estranged for years. Chandru is love with a a blue cross volunteer named Aiswarya (Manisha Koirala) and his lack of loyalty is highlighted when he befriends Sapna (Manisha Koirala) to get a job as the brake inspector. With the clever police officer Krishna Swamy (Nedumudi Venu) chasing him, Senapthy and his wife (Sukanya) goes on to live in hiding.

Memories you’ve had when you were below 10 years of age is less, but there are some things that you’ll never forget no matter how old you become, my experience of watching this movie in the theater is one of such memories. I was just 4 years old when I watched this blockbuster. I remember grabbing my mother’s hands whenever the spine chilling moment where the old man, Senapathy, pulled the knife out of his belt to kill. I was terrified every time he appeared on screen in white jubba and dhoti. My mom asked me several times “Are you okay? Do you want to go out?” I grabbed her hand during the scene where Senapathy killed a man in the godown. He was so nerve racking that I didn’t even look at his photograph in magazines or his image on TV, closed my eyes or looked away. Everything about Indian reminded me of that daunting old man, except the song “Telephone manipol”, loved that song.

Now, after seeing it again in DVD I realized that this movie is a masterpiece by director Shankar. Indian is about a man who stood up against injustice, and has a powerful message against corruption and on how it is ruining the development of this country. Senapathy in a way represents the mindset of the director and those who want to address the mass and speak his/her mind. Senapathy’s determination and merciless nature created quite an impact and youth population see him as an icon. Kamal Haasan’s performance as Senapthy earned him a well deserved national award. He is spectacular with his gestures and body language, resembling to that of an aged individual. The only issue is with some of the unbelievable action sequences where a 75-year-old individual was able to pull off better than a 40-year-old. Sukanya stood along with her co star with her controlled performance. Manisha Koirala didn’t have that much to do in terms of acting and she is just there as a pretty face. Urmila Mantodkar’s sex symbol role is completely unnecessary that affected the flow of the plot, especially her rivalry scenes with Manisha Koirala. At one point, she just disappears from screen altogether. The most annoying aspect is the comedy scenes, which were completely unnecessary for a movie that dealt with a very serious topic. Kamal Haasan himself has cheesy moments with love triangle storyline and his chemistry with Senthil makes it more unpleasant. And, of course there is yet another unnecessary macho man moment, young Tamil audience can never be satisfied without including a sequence where heroine’s clever backfires on her, thus she is in need of her macho hero, a role that is undertaken by Chandru making it the only noble deed from his part.

A. R Rahman composed memorable melodies and haunting soundtrack that find it’s place in the hearts of the mass. Shankar’s direction created the desirable effect that makes Indian a masterpiece in its own right. The effect are done well, but compared to the technology today, the CGI looked too cheesy. But, kudos to the makeup department for their outstanding work. The movie also gives an insight on Subhash Chandra Bose and freedom fighters during the struggle against the British rule.

Bribery is a disease due to which the country is still suffering. I remember my friend (who lives in a poor financial background) was asked for bribe by a government official. She described that incident, highlighting several times how disgusted she and her parents were. Of course, everyone ranging from police officers, doctors, IT department etc. all over the country is involved in corruption. People like Anna Hazare and others have taken a stand. But still, there are traces of like mindedness here and there. School/ college capitation, demanding sexual favors and dowry are equivalent to bribery. “Indian” is a great movie that should be watched at least once by everyone, and to those who ask/give bribe, the ones who are indirectly making their own respective nooses in the form of social boycott. This is also a must watch film for all Shankar and Kamal Haasan fans.



Disclaimer: This is a modified review that was first published in author’s personal blog.

Featured image: youtube

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