Rajinikanth's 'Thalapathi' has a rich legacy

'Thalapathi' turns 30: Rajinikanth, Mammootty's movie has a rich legacy

The film was based on the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana

The official poster of 'Thalapathi'. Credit: IMDb

There's no denying the fact that Thalapathi is one of the most celebrated films of filmmaker Mani Ratnam's illustrious career. The evergreen classic enjoys a cult following due to its commercially viable yet 'classy' presentation and top-notch performances. On Friday, as this gem from Tamil cinema turns 30, here is a look at his enviable legacy.

A different take on Karna's tale

The film revolved around the relationship between a valiant man from the slums, played by Rajinikanth and a powerful don, played by Mammootty, and featured quite a few intense sequences between the protagonists. The storyline was inspired by the Mahabharata and focussed on the journeys of Karna and Duryodhana. The epic saga had previously been brought to life on the big screen as Karnan which featured Sivaji Ganesan in the titular role.

Telugu legend Sr NTR, who played Lord Krishna in the classic, later made Daana Veera Soora Karna which was his take on the same tale. Thalapathi was quite different from these attempts as it played out as a gangster saga rather than a mythological one. The characters were rooted in reality, which made it easy for the audience to relate to the reel action.  

Musical masterpiece

Thalapathi marked Mani Ratnam's final collaboration with ace music composer Ilaiyaraaja who had previously collaborated with him for films such as Nayakan and Mouna Ragam. The soundtrack attained cult status and secured a position in the Guardian's list of '1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die'. The Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu number song, in particular, garnered a fair deal of international attention as it secured the fourth position in 2002 poll conducted by  BBC to determine the ten most popular songs of all time in the world. Kaattukuyilu Manasukkulae too became quite popular as it brought together two powerhouse singers-- S P Balasubrahmanyam and Yesudas. The video emerged as a sensation due to Rajinikanth and Mammootty's crackling chemistry. 

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Gave many a break

Thalapathi marked Arvind Swami's big screen debut and helped him get a foothold in the industry. He later collaborated with Mani Ratnam for Roja and Bombay, which established him as a household name. The star took a break from films for personal reasons but eventually returned with Kadal and the blockbuster Thani Oruvan. He was last seen in Thalaivi, a film based on the life of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Amrish Puri, Bollywood's 'Mogambo', essayed a key role in Thalapathi and impressed fans with his performance. He reunited with Rajinikanth in 2002 for Baba, which did not do too well at the box office. Thalapathi also marked ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan's Kollywood debut. 

Strong female characters

A section of the audience had apprehensions about Srividya playing Rajinikanth's mother as she was younger than him. The actor, however, silenced her detractors as she bagged the Cinema Express Award for 'Best Character Actress' for her work in the film. Bhanupriya's character added depth to Rajini's character as their scenes didn't have the usual commercial elements that one associates with romance. 

The legacy lives on

Thalapathi was remade in Kannada as Annavru, which received critical acclaim. Rajinikanth's appearance in his daughter Soundarya's maiden directorial venture Kochadaiiyaan was based on his look in Thalapathi. Mammootty's work in the film helped him bag Yatra, a Telugu movie based on the life of the late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR. The Big B actor had incidentally used a Thalapathi reference to wish Rajini a speedy recovery some time ago.