This category has been screaming for my attention for a very long time now and I am back with a post along with a note to myself to keep this category alive by updating it with more posts regularly.

Thalapathy is supposedly the story of the man fondly called by his friend as his Thalapathy. But, is it just the story of that man alone? This is yet another movie in which Mani Ratnam portrays the emotions felt by each and every character so beautifully! As far as Mani Ratnam’s movies are concerned, even if the movie itself does not have a great script (of course, this is not the case with this movie), most of the characters nevertheless, stand out and so do a lot of scenes.

Before I start focusing on the characters in this movie, let me write about the one thing that I can’t stand in this movie – the violence, the brutal murders. How can a man burn another man alive?! Is it necessary to show so much violence? Aren’t there other ways of bringing out the violent nature of the characters? I hate watching a man being beaten or tortured ruthlessly till he eventually dies. Anyway, this is what seems to be happening in the world today and the characters in the movie represent that part of the society where murdering someone isn’t considered a big deal at all. Hmmm.

Here’s first a look at some of the characters in the movie:

Surya/Thalapathy (Rajni)
Surya is a man who has no clue about his origin. He doesn’t hesitate to beat/kill anyone for a good cause. Once he gets the first ever friend, he is willing to even give his life for his friend. He falls in love with a girl and before he gets to experience the first real relationship in his life in the form of his lover, circumstances separates them. On his friend’s insistence, he marries the very lady whose husband he had killed. He does not try to justify to his wife, what he had done. Instead he repents. He showers affection on Tamizhazhagi and becomes something like a good friend to her. 🙂

He experiences new, never-before-felt emotions and feelings when he comes to know who his mother is and that he has a half-brother (Arjun). He is now a man caught between friendship and love for his mother and brother. Should he go ahead and kill Arjun for the sake of his friend’s happiness or should he let Arjun arrest Deva and see Deva suffer? Deva or Arjun? Rather, Deva or his mother?

Deva (Mammotty)
Deva is a man whose life undergoes a transformation when he gets the first-ever true friend in his life in the form of Surya. He is confident that his Surya will do anything for him. Thanks to his friendship with Surya, he experiences what it feels like to be liked and respected by the people. When he does not succeed in uniting Surya with his lover, he blames himself for the way things turned out to be and feels sad for his friend. Deva feels happy when he gets Surya married to Padma. Things go smoothly between the two friends only for sometime after Subbulakshmi’s marriage to the collector, Arjun. Could Surya place his ex-lover’s happiness above his friend, Deva’s? This is the thought that gets Deva worried.

Kalyani (Srividya)

Kalyani is a mother who early in her life, had been forced by circumstances to give birth to a child and abandon it on a train. She never fails to worry about how and where her elder son might be. On knowing who her elder son is, she rushes to meet him with joy only to end up worried about what the future holds, when she realizes the extent of hatred and enmity between both her sons. Should she tell Arjun that Surya is his brother? Did she get re-united to her elder son only to lose him once again now?

Kalyani’s husband (Jaishankar)

Male characters in Mani Ratnam’s movies can only be as understanding as Kalyani’s husband. How else can you explain the man’s reactions when he comforts his wife every time she worries about her long lost son or when he comes to know that his wife’s son is a murderer and still, doesn’t let him be caught by the police and later tells the son that he would not want his wife to know that she has a son who is in a state like this now.

Padma (Bhanupriya)

Padma is a widow who, forced by circumstances, marries her husband’s murderer for the sake of her daughter and her own protection. She gets to know more about her new husband through her little daughter’s conversations with him and realizes that he isn’t that bad a man after all. Once she comes to know who her husband’s mother is, she succeeds in uniting him with his mother.

Subbulakshmi (Shobana)

Subbulakshmi, a girl caught between respect for her father’s words and her love for Surya, eventually marries the boy of her father’s choice. She is a simple, sweet girl like some of the female characters in other Mani Ratnam’s movies like Roja or Nayagan.

Once all the secrets about Surya and his mother are revealed to everybody in the movie, Mani Ratnam as usual doesn’t use unnecessary dialogues and instead brings out how much friendship means to the lead character with just these few words, ‘Yaenna nee en naNban’, summing up everything! But after that I feel the movie becomes too melodramatic. Deva telling Surya that Surya’s mother is like his own mother etc. and rushing in to surrender letting his emotions rule him, Arjun repenting the fact that he was fighting against his own brother forgetting everything that his brother is doing, all these make it a bit too sentimental. These scenes make you wonder how selfish people are. They don’t want to see their kith and kin suffer but, when they kill someone else, they forget that the victim too has kith and kin. In the climax when Arjun tells Surya that there are no cases against Surya, this point is highlighted even more. But, considering the way Kalivardhan (Amrish Puri) ensured that Deva was destroyed at all costs, would you say he deserved to be killed by Surya? After all, muLLa muLLaaladhaan edukka mudiyum and that justifies the violent crimes committed by Deva and Surya?

A scene that I like very much in this movie is the one when Surya, Kalyani and her husband are at the temple. On hearing the sound of a train horn, the three of them turn towards it. You see a mother’s longing for her long-lost son and a son’s longing for his unknown mother etched on the faces of Rajni and Srividya. Though Jaishankar remains a mute spectator to this, his face shows his understanding of how Surya and Kalyani must be feeling at that time since he knows that Surya is Kalyani’s son.

One more scene is when Padma goes to meet Kalyani. The look on Banupriya’s face each time Srividya goes near the yellow cloth shows the anxiousness that the character Padma must be feeling at that time.

Was it because of the fact that Thalapathy is a rehash of Mahabharata where Surya is an important character, that not only the lead character of the movie representing Surya’s son (Karna) is named so but, the sun itself is shown in quite a lot of scenes? 🙂

When Surya promises to his mother’s husband that he won’t tell her that he is her son, the sun is shown prominently. A wonderful shot! Was the Sun acting as the witness there? 😉

One more scene which shows the early morning sky during sunrise so beautifully is Subbulakshmi/Shobana’s introduction scene. River bank, Bharatanatyam, Carnatic Music, Sunrise. Superb!

Again in the scene where Subbulakshmi sings Yamunai aatrile at the bank of the river, you see the sun. Even on the scene when Rajni, Srividya and Jaishankar are at the temple, the sun’s rays peek into the temple.

Moving on to the songs of Thalapathy, my favourite songs are Rakkama, Yamunai aatrile and Kaattu kuyilu (has good lyrics too). Though I do like Sundari, the song is too lengthy and the picturization is boring especially the scenes where Rajni is shown fighting in a war.

Though this movie won’t feature in my Top 5 favourites of Mani Ratnam’s movies, the powerful characterization and some scenes makes it one of the memorable movies by Mani Ratnam. 🙂

36 thoughts on “Thalapathy

  1. sreekrishnan

    wooooooooowwww .. thank god – atalast !! nalla buthi vandhadhey

    ok coming to thalapathy : Scene where Arjun repents going after his brother is not melodramatic. Its pretty real. You dont mind going against someone whom you dont know ..but you wouldnt want to go against your brother. and btw: the point he says is – if you get a perspective of the scene -Arjun feels he could have solved it much simpler,… and thats how it is solved… by the means of brotherly affection..

    Next Shobana for once and last time – she looked gorgeous.

    The relationship with Subbulakshmi and Surya is fantastic, matured and So deep – i think maniratnam will not be able to develop such a chemistry again.

    Yes, Aun stands witness to every scene and So is the mahabharatha – Surya Bagavan is the witness for Karnan’s every action and emotion. Its subtle coverage in this movie is mindblowing.

    Btw: Mani likes to shoot early in the morning or evening as he says its the”GOlden hour” So you would mostly see such scenes every where … Also dont you think Rising and Sun Set is the most picturesque and scenic shot.

    Why isnt there a mention of the cinematography??

    Relationship. Thala pathi woves such a complex relationship of Mahabharata in such a down to earth manner. Mother Son, Father Son, Brothers, Lovers, Your enemy (The Kalivardhan Meet) every single relatioship between each char is fantastically woven. Can you imagine the amount of char. you have and the still no confusions in the relationship.

    second movie (Apart from Swades) that makes me feel every time i see. When Srividya meets Rajni after she comes to know abt him.

    CHinna thaayaval is way too god, Ethereal. And Re recording at its best. Its a Bhagvad Gita (not bible 😉 ) for every other music director….

    Rakkamma Features a r r’s keyboard with Violin!!

    Perfect Rajni movie. A classic Mani. Deadly Ilayaraja. Stunning Santhosh Sivan.

    En Nanban da, En thalapathi !!

  2. sangs

    Nice post ! i knew it was a rehash of Mahabharata but I didn’t realise there were so many subtle references to that through the sun .And lovely pics ! how did u manage to get these ?? Did u get them from the video itself ?

  3. Dinesh T.U.

    i liked the pics u’ve used … especially the series – arjun-surya and deva-surya …

    why dont u add it to wikipedia or imdb, both have nothing in detail on thalapathy

  4. Mahesh

    An eagerly awaited Deepavali 1990 release. I still remember going out of home at 6 in the morning to catch the first screening 🙂 Was worth the three hours with my BSA SLR bycycle on my shoulders. Solaimalai theatre Madurai had this system of issuing one ticket along with a cycle stand pass! And boy that was a dog fight, but good things comes to those who wait!

    The interlude [Kunitha puruvamum kovvvai chevvayum ..] in Rakkamma, was in the 10th stand matriculation Tamil syllabus. *And* it was a question in the final exams. In the mock exams, Kannathal Krishan [our *evil* Tamil teacher] was suprised that even no-gooders like me got this one right, till some do-gooder told her that the verse appeared in a Rajini movie. Hehehe.

    Still amuses me to think back at the abuse that was showered on Arjun for that Aachamillai Aachamillai speech. Us Madurai folks have our own colourful words!

    I feel that it should have been Surya that was killed in the end Deva. Would have made perfect sense. But no, this is a Tamil movie and Rajini dying? Nooo. Never.

    And Sundari Kannal Oru Sedhi, is a sublime masterpiece in Kalyani. Ilayaraja excels himself.

    God, it’s been 17 years!!

  5. Girish

    Wow…good one…this is my first Rajni and Mani movie in theatre…and I was amazed by the performances, by cinematography, by the music….Yamunai Aatrile is one superb song with beautiful Shobana sitting with all the young children near a pond…man I love that scene…keep them coming Aparna 🙂

    @Sreekrishna…was it ARR’s keyboard for Ilayaraaja???

  6. sreekrishnan

    Sangs: Nayagan is a brilliant movie – But i would say Iruvar is the best !!

    Girish: Yes thats what I heard from one of his interviews and one of my frnd who plays keyboard !! Lot of people have confirmed it as well … So going by that – yes its true !!

    Aparna: sorry for hogging your space

  7. Hari Prasad

    Hi, did a Google for Mani Ratnam and landed on your blog! Looks like you are an ardent fan of Mani sir. Guess what, yesterday I met him, got his autograph and posed for a snap with him too!!!! Check out my blog

  8. Siva

    good one.. very nice slicing and dicing of the characters and the emotions around them..
    Thalapathi is truly a fantastic picture and Maniratnam had brought out the acting in Rajini more than the Rajini factor itself..
    each character is portrayed so strongly and make a mark.. thats the mark of Manirathnam..

  9. Aparna

    F e r r a r i,
    Thank you! 🙂 That scene is one of my favourites too

    >Sorry post within a post
    No probs. You are most welcome to write many more posts within posts 😉

    >You dont mind going against someone whom you dont know
    Yeah I have also written the same thing. All said and done, I still find the climax a bit too melodramatic.

    >once and last time – she looked gorgeous.
    I don’t agree. She looks good in many movies even now.

    >The relationship with Subbulakshmi and Surya is fantastic, matured
    The relationships portrayed by Mani Ratnam are always fantastic 🙂

    >Also dont you think Rising and Sun Set is the most picturesque and scenic shot.
    Yeah 🙂 I love watching sunset/sunrise

    >Why isnt there a mention of the cinematography??
    Missed out somehow! It’s brilliant no doubt

    >CHinna thaayaval is way too god, Ethereal.
    I find that one boring song

    >Rakkamma Features a r r’s keyboard

    >Perfect Rajni movie. A classic Mani. Deadly Ilayaraja. Stunning Santhosh Sivan.
    That was nicely put 🙂

  10. sreekrishnan

    >once and last time – she looked gorgeous.
    I don’t agree. She looks good in many movies even now.
    >>Name one ??

    >CHinna thaayaval is way too god, Ethereal.
    I find that one boring song
    >>Surprised.. it makes my heart heavy – esp when everyone turns around to that Train sound … too much !!

  11. Aparna

    Oh so you found the patience read the lengthy post? 😉
    >all joy in Sreekrishnan’s comment

    Thank you 🙂 Yeah all these pics are snapshots taken from the video itself.
    Will try to write post on Nayagan soon.

    Thanks for the suggestion. Maybe I will add it.

    Wow that was a nice flashback 🙂
    >In the mock exams, Kannathal Krishan [our *evil* Tamil teacher] was suprised
    I forgot to mention in the post. I don’t like Arvind Samy’s dialogue delivery during that achchamillai sequence.
    >this is a Tamil movie and Rajini dying?
    True. But the scene where Rajni tells that he is not hurt & later realizes that Deva is dying is too good. The impact would have been missing had it been Rajni who had died. Besides, this is not the exact story of Mahabharata 😉
    >is a sublime masterpiece in Kalyani

  12. Aparna

    🙂 Thank you! I too have heard that it was ARR who played the keyboard for Rakkamma

    Hari Prasad,
    Welcome to my blog. Great that you got to meet Mani Ratnam!

    Thanks. Hmmm yeah

    Hmmm watch it soon then 🙂

    >>Name one ??
    Not sure whether you will agree but she looked good in Mitr – My Friend. Btw, that movie is a very nice one too
    There are some songs like this one that are favourites of many but not my favourite 🙂

  13. Vijay Kumar

    You are right with the fact that this is a character-driven recreation of Karna’s Mahabaratha. I too found the violence a bit disconcerting as well.
    While still on Mahabharatha I would recommend Shyam Benegal’s 80’s Hindi move Kalyug starring Sashi Kapoor, Rekha and Victor Banerjee among others. It is the same plot as Thalapathy but is set in the corporate world rather than the underworld. Have you had a chance to see that one?

  14. Sami

    Superstar simply rocks in this movie…went on first day second show. not able to hear anything…just able to see rajini. mani had used rajini very wisely in this. brilliant songs, bgms by IR.

    yes i too like all the scenes u have mentioned. when it is thalapathy, the two scenes which comes to my mind immly are,

    1. Jasmine in rajini’s hand (pointed out by ferrari)
    2. When thalaivar and sreevidya turns back when the train comes and jai seeing them…great mani

    Great review…very well written. As sangs said, expecting a post on nayagan.

  15. Aparna

    Vijay Kumar,
    I have heard about Kalyug but haven’t watched it yet.

    Thanks 🙂

    I have watched the movie in TV channels only. So, never got to see the excotement of Rajni fans. Yeah excellent BGM.

  16. Krishnan R.S.

    Thanks for this posting. I”m sick of reading bash-maniratnam-blogs and bash-rajni-blogs. No matter what there are some movies that stick in my (your?) mind and this is one of them. A lot of the ideas are copied/recreated/reinterpreted but I think it’s done quite well.

  17. Bharath

    I didnt know the blog had moved – Kept going to the old site and saw there were no updates!

    I think along with Guru, Dalapathy is one of the movies where Mani Rathnam shows relationships beautifully – The best in this movie according to me is the Rajni-Bhanupriya relationship – I dont think any other filmmaker depicts relationships so beautifully, and delves into complex relationships… The camerawork is brilliant for a movie which was shot more than 15 years ago…

    I dont agree with you on the depiction of violence in Mani Rathnams movies – I think he has an art to show violence, which he may have taken more than his usual limits in this movie… To me he doesn’t believe in hanging around the scene too much or making a big hoo haa of violence – Maddy killing his brother in Ayutha Ezhuthu lasted no more than 5 seconds, Kamal going on a killing spree after his wife’s death in Nayagan is very well shot as well…

    Great performances by everyone including debutante Arvind Swamy…

  18. Aparna


    >I dont think any other filmmaker depicts relationships so beautifully, and delves into complex relationships

    >on the depiction of violence in Mani Rathnams movies
    Well I am saying not only about MR’s movies but also other movies. I don’t prefer watching such brutal violence like beating someone to death.
    >Maddy killing his brother in Ayutha Ezhuthu lasted no more than 5 seconds
    Yeah. As I have written in the post, I prefer watching violence like this one than those in Thalapathy.

  19. jillet

    hey, thalapathi is one of the movies that really spurred my interest in tamil movies. the music and the cinematography are extremely pleasing.

    Nice to see that you’ve pointed out the temple scene. I thought even the first song, chinnathayaval (?!) was done beautifully.

    I’ve heard that the ending of the movie was changed… i heard that in an earlier version, surya is supposed to die (which is the direction in which plot leads actually). However, due to opposition and protests by rajni fans the ending was changed and everyone lives and is absolved?!

  20. Fan

    In all of Mani’s movie there is a scene that somehow is the most emotional moment in the film where inevitably one of the characters breaks down..(atleast in the earlier ones)…….Thalapathy….Nayagan…..and that scene in Thalapathy when the mother and the son meet is probably the best of all such ones…Technically this has to be Mani;s and for harnessing Rajni power to the maximum without making him a caricature is an art which this movie did….definitely Mani’s best IMHO

  21. harsha

    i wana know the name of the singer who sang the song “Seetha Kalyana” …this song comes when rajanis x lover gets married to rajanis brother….pls help me find that exact verson of the song – Seetha Kalyana

  22. Deepak

    liked the analysis of dalapathi out here. i recently re=ran into the film thru the song sundari that played in the background jst yesterday and i went back in time, a good 18 years or so. intense.

    my memories of the song were strong in terms of my connections to the song.. the melody, i mean..and my pre-visual experience expectations- dont remember liking it much when i saw it. but now, when i did see it, it still definitely does not fit in to the pre-song conversation scene context- at the kovil Kolam..surya and the girl and their profession of love in the modern context of their lives…but it stands as a great music video by itself, disconnected from the film and context. (unfortunate for the film, but the song outside the film, a masterpiece)
    I however wanted some clarifications on the love ode and the backdrop used.. is there a particular reference to a king, a war, a situation and a gypsy girl turned princess? THERES a hell lotta strange costumes, gypsy looking, japanese looking, pallava/chola looking..etc…is this some specific story, reference, or just a mixed fantasy of war and love and king and tribal, indigenous and colonised (the enemy camp guy seems to be wearing red and white brit/euro looking attire)
    any thoughts on this?

  23. Aparna

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks.

    I am not a big fan of sundari and half the time, I just change the channel when it comes and I haven’t even thought about the picturization of this song as you have! I have not observed the costumes too. I don’t think it refers to any specific king. Anyway, if I come across anything about the picturization, I will let you know.


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