Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mani Ratnam|
|Produced by||G. Venkateswaran|
|Written by||Mani Ratnam|
|Edited by||Suresh Urs|
G. V. Films Ltd
|Distributed by||G. V. Films Ltd|
|5 November 1991|
Thalapathi (lit. The Commander) is a 1991 Indian Tamil-language crime drama film written and directed by Mani Ratnam, and produced by G. Venkateswaran. It stars Rajinikanth, Mammootty and Shobana in the lead roles, with Arvind Swamy, Srividya, Amrish Puri, Bhanupriya, Nagesh, and Charuhasan playing supporting ones. The theme is based on the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. The score and soundtrack of the film was composed by Ilaiyaraaja. The film, which features the last collaboration of Mani Ratnam and Ilaiyaraaja, was dubbed and released in Telugu and in Hindi as Dalapathi. The film emerged as a critical and commercial success during its theatrical run. It was later remade in Kannada as Annavru.
A 14-year-old forlorn Kalyani delivers a boy in seclusion, fearing societal backlash and incapacity. She abandons him, heavy-hearted, placing him inside a moving goods train, which a slum dweller finds. The slum procures him as their common child, naming him Surya and they collectively raise him honest. He grows up, intolerant of injustice especially to the poor, though he wonders why his biological mother had impetuously abandoned him. A yellow shawl was the only identity he had of his mother, which she had placed him in when casting him away.
Devaraj, a powerful don who is kind yet feared by most in the society, also fights injustice, but by violent means. Ramana, an auxiliary of Devaraj's, whose abusive demeanour led Surya to attack him, succumbs to his death. Surya gets apprehended for this. An exasperated Devaraj soon perceives Ramana's felony, realises Surya's cause was genuine and bails him out. Thus, Surya and Devaraj get to understand each other as both share similar social ideologies despite getting off on the wrong foot. Devaraj declares Surya his "Thalapathi", a best friend.
Arjun, a new district collector, arrives in the city. He wants to end violence by lawful means. Arjun is the second son of Kalyani, now a doctor. After the abandonment of her first offspring, she wed a man (Jaishankar) who accepted her, despite knowing her past. Never did Kalyani let Arjun know the ordeal she faced as a teen, but is constantly grieved by thoughts of her long-lost first child. Meanwhile, Surya gets wooed by a Brahmin girl, Subbalakshmi who is smitten by his transparent nature, restraining crimes. Surya's appraisal to Devaraj leads the people in the locality to pay utmost respect to both. Both of them continue objecting to societal incongruencies, which other dons, like Kalivardhan, incite through moles in governance.
While Devaraj leads Surya to help curb those unlawful discrepancies, Subbalakshmi initially despises Surya's use of violence and tries to persuade him against it. Devaraj tries to get an alliance between Subbalakshmi and Surya. However, he fails because her father, an Orthodox priest, was uninterested in having her married to Surya, an orphan. Her marriage subsequently gets arranged with Arjun.
Arjun turns to target Devaraj and Surya as they inflict violence, in the name of fighting organised crime. His attempts to chain them are futile. Meanwhile, Padma, Ramana's widow, makes Surya feel guilty for the sufferings he brought her by killing Ramana. Devaraj, understanding the pain a widow and a single mother bears, shelters them. Padma, however, confesses that she is constantly troubled by the men surrounding her with dishonourable intentions, who concoct reasons to make advances towards her. Devaraj, considering Padma and her daughter's safety and Surya's future, requests both of them to accept each other. A guilt-ridden Surya marries Padma, and wins her child's affection eventually.
Later, at a medical camp, Kalyani meets Padma and her daughter along with the same shawl in which she wrapped her child she rejected. Jaishankar, too, indicates that Surya was actually Kalyani's long lost son during a suspect identification. Jaishankar secretly meets Surya and reveals the truth of his origin to him. Surya asks Jaishankar to promise not to let his mother know of him as it would pain her to know that her son has grown to be a vigilante.
Regretful Kalyani, though, eventually finds Surya and meets him. Surya vows that he will not harm Arjun for her sake. The long-standing feud between Devaraj and Kalivardhan, who is Deva's main rival, in due course of time, makes Surya admit the truth about his family when Devaraj doubts Surya's intentions after learning of his secret meeting with his stepfather and mother. Deva is pleased to know that despite knowing Arjun was his own half-brother, Surya still preferred to stick with him and supported him during unforeseen situations, thus valuing Deva's friendship more than family. Devaraj, as an outcome of this, decides to surrender. They both go meet Arjun, who is now aware of who Surya is because mother has revealed it to him. Suddenly, Kalivardhan's men retaliate, and during the fight, Devaraj is killed. Enraged, Surya avenges Devaraj by killing Kalivardhan and surrenders to the police, but is released due to lack of evidence. Arjun is later transferred and relocates to another city with Subbalakshmi, while Kalyani prefers staying with Surya.
- Rajinikanth as Surya
- Mammootty as Devaraj (Deva)
- Arvind Swamy as Arjun IAS
- Jaishankar as Krishnamoorthy (Arjun's father)
- Amrish Puri as Kalivardhan
- Srividya as Kalyani
- Bhanupriya as Padma
- Shobana as Subhalakshmi
- Geetha as Selvi
- Nagesh as Panthulu
- Charuhasan as Sreenivasan (Subhalakshmi's father)
- Kitty as Police Commissioner Sundaram
- Sonu Walia (special appearance in the song "Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu")
- Manoj K. Jayan as Manoharan
Rajinikanth was a friend of Mani Ratnam's brother G. Venkateswaran, and they were talking about a film together. Ratnam had met him twice because he had expressed interest in working with him, although Ratnam did not have anything for him then. He needed a film that would have scope for Rajinikanth's stardom but yet remain Ratnam's film. He wanted something right for both himself and Rajinikanth. He wanted something that Rajinikanth could not say no to and something that Ratnam really wanted to do. And then the concept came up, of the story of Karna from the Indian epic Mahabharata, who Ratnam considers "one of the best characters in the Mahabharata". Ratnam wanted to present a realistic Rajinikanth, which he saw in Mullum Malarum minus all his style elements. Rajinikanth recalled that he had tough time while shooting for the film as "[Mani Ratnam] was from a different school of film making and asked me to feel emotions even when taking part in a fight scene". Thalapathi remains the only collaboration between Mani Ratnam and Rajinikanth.
Mammooty's character Deva was the equivalent of Duryodhana, while Rajinikanth played Surya, the equivalent of Karna. Shobana played the equivalent of Draupadi, while Arvind Swamy and Srividya played characters based on Arjuna and Kunti respectively. Jayaram was initially considered for the role of Arjun, but rejected the offer due to scheduling conflicts. It was Mammootty who suggested Jayaram to Ratnam. Krishna was chosen to play the younger version of Surya, although the character was later scrapped because it affected the film's length. Cinematography was handled by Santosh Sivan, the film being his first with Ratnam. Ratnam chose to shoot the beginning sequence in black and white instead of colour, because according to him, "Black and white gives the sense of this being a prologue without us having to define it as a prologue." He has also refused to state who was the father of the protagonist, citing that the film "consciously avoids the who and the how of the underage girl's first love. It was the child, the son of Surya, who formed the story". Aravind Swamy made his acting debut with this film. Malayalam actor Manoj K. Jayan was cast after Ratnam was impressed with his performance in the Malayalam film Perumthachan, thus making his acting debut in Tamil cinema.
The songs "Rakkamma" and "Sundari" were filmed at Rayagopura, Melukote and Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura in Karnataka respectively. For the latter song, Rajinikanth donned Samurai apparel; according to The Hindu's S. Shiva Kumar, this was the closest Mani Ratnam came to doing something like his idol Akira Kurosawa.
|Soundtrack album by|
The music score for the film was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, in his last collaboration with Mani Ratnam. According to the film's cinematographer Santosh Sivan, Ilaiyaraaja finished composing the entire soundtrack in "half a day".
Lahari Music acquired the audio rights by paying ₹7.2 million. The soundtrack was included in The Guardian's 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die  . The song "Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu", performed by S. P. Balasubramanyam and Swarnalatha, was placed 4th amongst the songs listed in a BBC World Top Ten Popular Songs of All-time. It was also featured in the 2012 Bollywood film Agent Vinod, and Lahari took "legal action" against the producer of the film Saif Ali Khan, because he used the song without permission. The recording for the song "Sundari" had taken place in Mumbai with R. D. Burman's orchestra. When Ilaiyaraaja gave them the notes they were so moved and taken in by composition that all the musicians put their hands together in awe and gave a standing ovation as a mark of respect for Ilaiyaraaja. In July 2011, D. Karthikeyan of The Hindu singled out the film's background score and ranked it alongside the music director's other films such as Mullum Malarum, Uthiripookkal (1979), Moodu Pani (1981) Moondram Pirai (1982) and Nayakan (1987).
|Original version (Tamil)|
|1.||"Yamunai Aatrile"||Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik||1:22|
|2.||"Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Swarnalatha||7:10|
|3.||"Sundari Kannal"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki||7:14|
|4.||"Kaattukuyilu"||Yesudas, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam||5:32|
|5.||"Putham Puthu Poo"||Yesudas, S. Janaki||5:00|
|6.||"Chinna Thayaval"||S. Janaki||3:23|
|7.||"Margazhithan"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Swarnalatha, Chorus||2:39|
All lyrics written by P. K. Mishra; all music composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
|Track listing (Hindi)|
|1.||"Yamuna Kinare"||Sadhana Sargam||1:22|
|2.||"Jaaneman Aaja Aaja"||Kumar Sanu, Sadhana Sargam||7:10|
|3.||"Sundari Yeh Jeevan Tera"||Suresh Wadkar, Sadhana Sargam||7:14|
|4.||"In Aankhon Ka Tu Tara"||Kavitha Krishnamurthy||5:32|
|5.||"In Aankhon Ka Tu Tara – II"||Kavitha Krishnamurthy||3:23|
|6.||"Aayi Holi"||Udit Narayan, Abhijeet||2:39|
All music composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
|Track listing (Telugu)|
|1.||"Yamuna Thatilo (sad)"||Swarnalatha||1:22|
|2.||"Chilakamma Chitikeyanga"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K.S. Chitra||7:10|
|3.||"Sundari Nuvve"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, K. S. Chitra||7:14|
|4.||"Singarala"||K. J. Yesudas, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam||5:32|
|5.||"Mudda Banthi Puvvulo"||Mano, Swarnalatha||5:00|
|6.||"Ada Janmaku"||P. Susheela||3:23|
|7.||"Yamuna Thatilo"||Swarnalatha, Chorus||1:47|
|Track listing (Malayalam)|
|1.||"Yamunayaattile (Sad)"||K. S. Chithra||1:22|
|2.||"Raakkamma"||M. G. Sreekumar, Swarnalatha||7:10|
|3.||"Sundari Kannal"||S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki||7:14|
|4.||"Kattukuyilin Manasinullin"||M. G. Sreekumar, KG Markose||5:32|
|5.||"Putham Puthu Poo"||K. J. Yesudas, S. Janaki||5:00|
|6.||"Kannippaal Nilaa Vettam"||K. S. Chitra||3:23|
|7.||"Seethaakalyaana Vaibhogame"||Swarnalatha, Chorus||1:47|
On 8 November 1991, The Hindu said, "Moving his pieces with the acumen of an international grandmaster, the director sets a hot pace". The same day, N. Krishnaswamy The Indian Express said, "One reason why Thalapathi, despite its visual grandeur is not as riveting as it should have been is that it does not have a strong antagonist." On 1 December 1991, the review board of Ananda Vikatan praised Ilaiyaraaja's music, and called the film a mountain of a masala entertainer, adding that Rajinikanth had several scenes in which he could emote in a film and looked a caged lion left in the open.
Film historian Randor Guy called it a "superbly crafted movie", saying "Even though Rajinikanth is the main protagonist, the movie is entirely the film-maker's." Critic Nandini Ramnath wrote for the website Upperstall, "Thalapathi underlines Ratnam's skill in reinventing genre cinema to extract new pleasures out of old stories. The movie is tightly plotted, and doesn't feel overlong despite its running length (137 minutes), the presence of several songs, a romantic sub-plot as well as a handful of action sequences to keep Rajini fans happy."
C. S. Amudhan said Thalapathi was "really ahead of its time" and called it "intellectual entertaining cinema". Karthik Subbaraj said that he watched the film during his childhood. Several references to the film are made in Subbaraj's 2015 blockbuster gangster film Jigarthanda. Rajinikanth's daughter, director Soundarya recalled, "I remember Thalapathy most vividly as that was the first time I went for a first-day-first-show ever". Thamizh Padam (2010) parodied Thalapathi by featuring scenes with characters under dim light and one-word dialogues. Atlee who directed Raja Rani (2013) cites Thalapathi was the main inspiration for him to consider cinema as a career. Soundarya has stated that Rajinikanth's hairstyle in her directorial venture Kochadaiiyaan (2014) was inspired by his appearance in Thalapathi. Baradwaj Rangan compared Kadal (2013) to Thalapathi as they both feature a character "who yearns for a lost mother and who is coerced into a life of crime".
In November 2011, Bollywood producer Bharat Shah acquired the rights to remake Thalapathi in Hindi.
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