Indian 1996 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byS. Shankar
Written bySujatha (Dialogues)
Screenplay byS. Shankar
Story byS. Shankar
Produced byA. M. Rathnam
Edited byB. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Music byA. R. Rahman
Release date
  • May 9, 1996 (1996-05-09) (India)
Running time
185 minutes

Indian (pronunciation ) is a 1996 Indian Tamil-language vigilante action film written and directed by Shankar and produced by A. M. Rathnam. The film stars Kamal Haasan in a dual role opposite Nedumudi Venu, Sukanya, Manisha Koirala and Urmila Matondkar. 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 some unfortunate events. He is well trained in Varma Kalai, an ancient lethal martial art used for close-quarters combat.[1][2][3]

Indian was released on 9 May 1996 worldwide and opened to critical acclaim on the way to becoming a commercial success in the box office.

The film was selected by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1996, but was not nominated.[4][5] 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 film fare award. It was the highest-grossing Tamil film upon its release, beating the collections of Baashha until surpassed by Padayappa three years later.[6]


A series of murders take place in Avadi, Chennai, in the same pattern; stabbing by a knife. Each time the victim is paralysed before being killed. The Chennai Police Department, led by CBI officer Krishnaswamy suspects several people, and they narrow down the killer by his age, which should be more than 70 years based on the writing style of a letter left behind by the killer while murdering his most recent victim, an officer in the government treasury. The officer is killed by an old man who is later known to be Senapathy, a veteran Indian freedom fighter who was a member of the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose, for threatening a poor old woman to bribe him to hand over compensation amount of 10,000 (US$130) given by the government as her husband was killed in a riot.

Chandrabose aka Chandru is a small-time broker stationed outside the Regional Transport Office at Chennai, who, along with his assistant Subbaiah, aid people in bribing the right officials inside the RTO for getting permits and licenses. Subbaiah and Paneerselvam, an RTO official, are engaged in regular conflicts with one another. At the same time, Aishwarya, Chandru's love interest and an avid animal rights activist, also comes into conflict with Sapna, a medical student and the daughter of an RTO official, Meanwhile, Chandru attempts to win over Sapna and her family to secure a job as a brake inspector at the RTO. Aishwarya is irked by the fact that Sapna, as well as her mother, are exploiting Chandru's situation, getting him to do household chores where Sapna realises that Chandru loves Aishwarya and gives up her love.

It is revealed that Chandru is actually Senapathy's son, who had fallen out due to Senapathy's excessive insistence on honesty and righteousness, which Chandru considers to be irrelevant. Meanwhile, Krishnaswamy manages to trace his way to Senapathy's house posing as a freedom fighter eligible for Swathantra Sainik Samman Pension Scheme. When he tries to arrest Senapathy, Senapathy and his wife Amirthavalli, a puppeteer, escape with his expertise in Varma Kalai and commits murder in front of television audiences by killing a corrupt doctor, who refused to treat Senapathy's daughter Kasturi, who was suffering from third-degree burns, because he insisted on a bribe which Senapathy refused, thus leading to her death. The public support surges for Senapathy as he exposes so many corrupt individuals. Senapathy does not any favours for his son either.

Chandru, who managed to bribe his way to a brake inspector job, takes a bribe and gives a safety certificate to a bus with faulty brakes, which eventually kills 40 school children, including the driver. Chandru tries to place the blame on the bus driver for drunk-drive and manages to bribe a police officer and a doctor. Senapathy is bent on giving Chandru the same punishment that he gives others. Despite pleas from Amirthavalli and Aishwarya to spare Chandru's life, Senapathy heads for the airport where Chandru is attempting to flee to Mumbai. A chase then culminates at the airport, where Senapathy tearfully kills Chandru and apparently dies in an explosion involving an aeroplane. However, Krishnaswamy, on investigating the recorded footage, discovers that Senapathy escaped moments before the jeep exploded. The epilogue shows Senapathy calling Krishnaswamy from Hong Kong indicating that he will be back whenever the need for his presence should arise.



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

Soon after the release of Gentleman (1993), Shankar narrated a script titled Periya Manushan to actor Rajinikanth, but the pair did not end up collaborating.[7] He then considered making the film in Telugu with Rajasekhar in a leading role, alongside either Nagarjuna or Venkatesh, but the plans did not materialise. In June 1995, producer A. M. Rathnam signed on Shankar to make the venture featuring leading actor Kamal Haasan in the lead role. The film, retitled as Indian, was initially reported to be loosely based on the life of prominent Indian freedom fighter, Subhas Chandra Bose.[8]

Shankar tried to cast Aishwarya Rai to make her debut and portray the leading female role. Still, her commitment to her advertisement agency until October 1995 meant that she was unavailable to sign the film.[8] 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.[8] Bollywood 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. Nassar was chosen to portray an important character in the film; however, as he was busy with other films, he could not accept the offer instead, he provided a voice for Nedumudi Venu. Then Shankar hired Malayalam famous character artist Nedumudi 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.[9]

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.[8] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[8][9] 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.[12]

It was the most expensive Indian film at the time. According to an estimate by film critic G. Dhananjayan, the production budget was approximately ₹8 crore.[13] estimates the film's budget to be ₹15 crore ($4.23 million).[14][15] The music video for "Akadanu Naanga" directed by Padam Kumar and choreographed by Vaibhavi Merchant, cost about ₹1.5 crore[16] ($423,370),[15] equivalent to ₹7 crore ($940,355) adjusted for inflation.


Soundtrack album by
RecordedPanchathan Record Inn
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Ayngaran Music
Star Music
Sa Re Ga Ma
Aditya Music
ProducerA. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Love Birds
Kadhal Desam
External audio
audio icon Audio Jukebox (Tamil) on YouTube
audio icon Audio Jukebox (Telugu) on YouTube
audio icon Audio Jukebox (Hindi) on YouTube

The soundtrack album includes five tracks composed by A. R. Rahman,[17] and was released in 1996 by Pyramid.[18] [19] The soundtrack proved successful upon release and was also released in Hindi as Hindustani by TIPS[18] and in Telugu as Bharateeyudu by T-Series.[18] The lyrics were written by Vaali and Vairamuthu for the original version, P. K. Mishra for Hindustani and Bhuvanachandra for Bharateeyudu.

The Tamil soundtrack of Indian was a major success, having sold about 600,000 records within days of release.[20] The Hindi soundtrack, called Hindustani, sold a further 1.8 million units,[21] bringing total sales to at least 2.4 million units. Kappaleri Poyachu was shot at Gingee fort, Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu

Track listing for Indian (Tamil)
1."Akadanu Naanga"VaaliSwarnalatha5:44
2."Maya Machindra"VaaliS. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Swarnalatha5:37
3."Pachai Kiligal"VairamuthuK. J. Yesudas, Nirmala Seshadri5:50
4."Telephone Manipol"VairamuthuHariharan, Harini, Srinivas6:15
5."Kappaleri Poyaachu"VaaliP. Susheela, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam6:28

All lyrics are written by P. K. Mishra.

Track listing for Hindustani (Hindi)
1."Latka Dikha Diya Humne"Swarnalatha5:44
2."Maya Machindra"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Swarnalatha5:37
3."Pyaare Panchhi"K. J. Yesudas, Nirmala Seshadri5:50
4."Telephone Dhoon Me"Hariharan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Srinivas6:15
5."Kashtiyaan Bhi"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Sadhana Sargam6:28
6."Latka Dikha Diya Humne (version-2)"Suchitra Krishnamurthy5:48

All lyrics are written by Bhuvanachandra.

Track listing for Bharateeyudu (Telugu)
2."Maya Machindra"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Swarnalatha5:37
3."Pachani Chilukalu"K. J. Yesudas, Nirmala Seshadri5:50
4."Telephone Dhwani La"Hariharan, Harini, Srinivas6:15
5."Teppalelli Poyaka"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Sujatha Mohan6:28


Indian was released worldwide on 9 May 1996 and opened to predominantly positive reviews from critics.[22] Prior to the release of the film, the team also planned a Hindi version of the film. It was partially reshot in Hindi as Hindustani with Aruna Irani in place of Manorama. The Hindi version also did well after its release on 23 August 1996. The film was also dubbed in Telugu as Bharathyeedu and in Malayalam under the same title. In 2015, the Hindi version Hindustani was screened at the Habitat Film Festival.[23]


Box office

The film was commercially successful at the box office by breaking record for a Tamil film and earning over ₹65 crore in India.[13] The film ran to packed houses for several months in Tamil Nadu.

Critical response

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".[24] 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."[25] The film went on to win three National Film Awards: Best Actor for Kamal Haasan's portrayal, Best Art Direction for Thota 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.[26] It also became the Indian submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1997, though eventually did not make the shortlist.


Indian was selected by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1996, but was not nominated.[5]

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
National Film Awards July 1997 Best Actor Kamal Haasan Won [27]
Best Art Direction Thota Tharani Won
Best Special Effects S. T. Venky Won
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards  – Best Film (First prize) A. M. Rathnam as a producer Won [28]
Best Actor Kamal Haasan Won
Filmfare Awards South 30 August 1997 Best Film – Tamil A. M. Rathnam as a producer Won [29][30][26]
Best Actor – Tamil Kamal Haasan Won
Cinema Express Awards  – Best Film A. M. Rathnam as a producer Won
Best Actor Kamal Haasan Won


Main article: Indian 2

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.[31] In September 2017, a sequel was announced jointly by Shankar and Haasan, with Dil Raju handling production.[32] It entered production after Haasan completed work on Vishwaroopam II and Sabaash Naidu as Indian 2.[33] The following month, Raju left the film which was then picked up by Lyca Productions.[34] The film has Haasan reprising his role as the titular character along with new addition of actors including Siddharth, Kajal Aggarwal, and many others. The soundtrack will be scored by Anirudh Ravichander, the first time for a film starring Kamal Haasan. Kabilan Vairamuthu will be rendering his service for dialogue.

See also


  1. ^ "Varmakkalai Choreography details". The Hindu. 28 April 2003.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Hindustani Movie". IMDb.
  3. ^ Ramanujam, Srinivasa (5 May 2021). "25 years of 'Indian': Meet 'Aasaan' Rajendran, who taught 'varmakkalai' to Kamal Haasan". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  5. ^ a b "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.
  6. ^ Dhananjayan, G. (3 November 2014). PRIDE OF TAMIL CINEMA: 1931 TO 2013: Tamil Films that have earned National and International Recognition. Chennai: Blue Ocean Publishers. p. 352. ISBN 978-93-84301-05-7.
  7. ^ "Rajinikanth was Shankar's first choice for Indian but Superstar turned it down".
  8. ^ a b c d e "Google Groups". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition(Cont.) - soc.culture.tamil | Google Groups". 29 March 1996. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  10. ^ "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition — soc.culture.tamil | Google Groups". 3 February 1996. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Rediff On The Net, Movies:An interview with Shankar". 4 April 1997. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Rediff On The Net, Movies: An interview with special effects whiz Venky". 4 November 1997. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  13. ^ a b Dhananjayan, G. (2014). Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013: Tamil Films that have earned National and International Recognition. Blue Ocean Publishers. p. 353.
  14. ^ Saraswathi, S (7 November 2014). "Birthday Special: Kamal Haasan's 60 years of excellence". Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Official exchange rate (LCU per US$, period average)". World Bank. 1996. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  16. ^ Chopra, Anupama (15 March 1997). "Film scripts demand extravagant song sequences to make box office jingle". India Today. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Indian soundtrack by Rahman". A.R.Rahman Official Website. Archived from the original on 13 September 2011.
  18. ^ a b c "Indian release history". Tripod.
  19. ^ "Indian Tamil movie songs lyrics". tamilsonglyrics. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Singing a different tune". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 May 2004. Retrieved 3 July 2003.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ "Music Hits 1990-1999 (Figures in Units)". Box Office India. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010.
  22. ^ "Kamal — Shankar (Indian) | The Best One-time Partnerships i love you". Behindwoods. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  23. ^ "The 10th Habitat Film Festival 2015" (PDF). Habitat Film Club. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  24. ^ "Movie review: Indian (Hindustani), starring Kamalahasan, Manisha Koirala : FILMS". India Today. 15 August 1996. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  25. ^ "INDIAN". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  26. ^ a b "Kamal wins 17th Film fare award for role in Indian". Economic Times. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  27. ^ "Award for the Best Actor" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. p. 22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  28. ^ "1996 State Awards". Dinakaran. Archived from the original on 3 February 1999. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  29. ^ "Filmfare - South Special". 3 November 1999. Archived from the original on 3 November 1999. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  30. ^ "Filmfare - South Special". 18 October 1999. Archived from the original on 18 October 1999. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  31. ^ "Shankar to work on Indian sequel?". Behindwoods. 3 September 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  32. ^ "Kamal Haasan, Shankar to reunite for 'Indian 2'". The Hindu. 30 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Kamal Haasan to wrap up Vishwaroopam 2 and Sabash Naidu before Indian 2". India Today. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  34. ^ "Dil Raju reveals the reason for handing over Indian 2 to Lyca Productions". 21 October 2017.