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Over the next few weeks I’ll be reminiscing over the most memorable events in Tamil cinema which have happened in my lifetime. I’m no film historian so these will mainly be films and songs which have personal significance to me and of course nothing can be more significant than the year of my birth…

I’m going to be extremely biased and proclaim Thalapathi as the film of the year 1991, as apparently at 3 months old it was the first movie I was ever taken to see at the cinema.

Directed by Mani Ratnam (he won Filmfare Award for Best Director), starring Superstar Rajinikanth, introducing Arvind Swamy and debuting Shobana in Tamil, this is one of my all time favourite films!

Here are some great scenes, featuring the late Srividya who is iconic for her emotional roles (the tear jerkers start from 03:25):


Santosh Sivan won Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Cinematography for Thalapathi, so here’s what I think is one of the most beautifully shot scenes in the movie:


The soundtrack (also my soundtrack of the year) was the last collaboration between Mani Ratnam and Illaiyaraja, sad in a way since the Maestro had composed every Ratnam venture since his Kannada debut ‘Pallavi Anu Pallavi’ and the duo had churned out some great musicals in the 80s such as Mouna Ragam, Nayagan and Agni Natchathiram. (But then again, Ratnam went on to discover a new legend for his next film, so no-one’s complaining!)

‘Rakkama Kaiya Thattu’ is probably the most renowned song on the album – it was voted 4th most popular song of all time in a BBC poll in 2003 – but my personal favourite is the sad version of ‘Yamunai Aatrile’. It’s barely a full length song, only about a minute and a half, but I find the simple vocal (Mitali) and chords so mesmerising – it’s what I imagine a sunrise would sound like in musical form.


Lyrical highlight:

“Naan unnai neenga maatten, neenginaal thoonga maatten…”

– from ‘Sundari Kannal’, lyrics by Vaali.


Enough about my sentimental attachment to Thalapathi, I’ll leave you with some other musical highlights from 1991

‘Kanmani anbodu kathalan’ from Guna, sung by Kamal Hassan and Janaki, composed by Illaiyaraja, lyrics by Vaali

‘Maasi maasam aalana ponnu’ from Dharma Durai (don’t ask about the video), sung by K J Yesudas and Swarnalatha, composed by Illaiyaraja, lyrics by Panju Arunachalam

‘Atho mega oorvalam’ from Eeramana Rojave, sung by Mano and Sunandha, composed by Illaiyaraja, lyrics by Pulamaipithan