The film was released on 12 January 1995 to positive feedback and became one of the highly successful films in the career of Rajinikanth. Rajinikanth won Filmfans Association Award and Cinema Express Award for the Best Actor for his performance in the film. At the time of its release, it became the highest grossing Tamil cinema movie, beating the collections of Apoorva Sagodharargal, before Baashha broke its record. This film was dubbed into Telugu with the same title and released on 12 January 1995. This film which was based on the 1991 movie Hum was later remade in Kannada as Kotigobba starring Vishnuvardhan and Priyanka Upendra in the lead roles. A digitally restored version of the film was released on 3 March 2017.
Manikam is an auto driver who lives with his family consisting of mother Vijayalakshmi, brother Shiva, sister Geetha and one more sister. Manickam is innocent and kindhearted who goes to any extent for the well being of his family members.
Manikam gets his sister married in a good family. Shiva manages to become a sub inspector of police. On seeing Manikam's photo, DIG Dinakar who interviewed Shiva wants to meet Manikam. Manikam hesitatingly comes to meet Dinakar in his office. Dinakar is reminded of a don on seeing Manikam. Geetha gets admission in a medical college but the college chairman hesitates to give seat as she is poor. Manikam interferes and discloses that his name is "Baasha", hearing which the chairman is scared and gives him seat.
Meanwhile Priya, the only daughter of a rich businessman Kesavan travels in Manikam's auto frequently and develops a liking towards him seeing his good character. Priya discovers that her father is a smuggler and decides to maintain a distance with him. Priya proposes her love to Manikam but Manikam does not accept at first as he knows that she is the daughter of Kesavan (with whom Manikam has some issues). But later accepts her love.
Indiran is a local rowdy who uses his henchmen to collect "commission" from all business owners; one day an elderly man was not able to pay commission and one of Indiran's henchmen started to attack him; Shiva gets involved and beats the two men; Indiran finally steps out the van and explains to Shiva that he runs that area and his laws apply. Shiva and Indiran fight only to be stopped by Manikam. Afterward, Manikam interferes and requests Indiran to beat him and not to disturb Shiva. Manikam is tied to a pole and is severely beaten by Indiran and his men. But Manikam bears it for the sake of his brother without any retaliation. Later Shiva once again takes action against Indiran by submitting an arrest warrant which makes him furious again. This time after his release from jail, Indiran kidnaps Geetha and tries to molest her in front of the public. To everyone's surprise, Manikam finally snaps and hits back Indiran and his men badly thereby saving his sister. The beating of Indiran and his henchmen was so severe that it shocked Shiva and he asks about Manikam's past lifestyle in Mumbai when they were young.
The film enters a flashback where Manikam lives with his family in Mumbai while his siblings are young and they are studying in Chennai. Manikam's father is Rangasamy, an honest person but employed with gangster Mark Antony. Rangasamy works with Antony as he helped him during initial days and Rangasamy in turn decided to stay loyal to Antony throughout his life. Manickam and his close friend Anwar Baasha protest against the ridiculous behaviours of Antony's men which angers Antony and he kills Anwar. Manikam is spared as he is the son of Rangasamy. Manikam decides to take the same path to destroy Antony.
Manikam in turn kills Antony's hit men to avenge Anwar's death. Manikam gets the support of local people in Mumbai who feared for Antony. Manikam transforms into a gangster and changes his name to Manick Baasha and frequently interferes in Antony's activities which create enmity between the two. Manick Baasha's command over the city increases and Antony decides to kill Baasha during a function. But Baasha escapes from Antony's plan. Enraged, Antony kills Rangasamy which shocks Baasha. Before dying, Rangasamy requests Baasha to leave everything and return to Chennai to start a new peaceful life for which he accepts. Baasha creates a fake accident and makes everyone believe that he is dead and secretly leaves to Chennai along with his mother where he starts a new life as Manikam, an auto driver.
Antony gets arrested by police; meanwhile Kesavan kills Antony's family and steals the money to settle down in life. In the present, Kesavan arranges Priya's wedding against her wishes. Manikam comes to the wedding hall and Kesavan is shocked to see Baasha alive in the form of Manikam. Kesavan is feared and permits Priya to go along with Manikam.
Antony escapes from prison and comes to take revenge. First he kills Kesavan for betraying him. He also kidnaps Manikam's family members and threatens Manikam to surrender to him failing which his family members will be killed. Manikam rushes to the spot and he fights against Antony and saves his family. Suddenly Antony tries to shoot Manikam with a gun but is shot dead by Shiva; Manikam marries Priya afterwards.Rajinikanth as Manikkam / Manik BaashhaNagma as PriyaRaghuvaran as Mark AnthonyJanagaraj as GurumoorthyDevan as KesavanAnandaraj as IndiranShashikumar as ShivaVijayakumar as RangasamyCharan Raj as Anwar BaashhaShenbaga as KavithaKitty as DIG DinakarDhamu as DhamuNarsing Yadav as Anthony's henchmanSethu Vinayagam as college chairmanThalapathy DineshMahanadhi Sankar
Mukul S. Anand had considered and discussed a potential scene for his directorial venture Hum (1991) with Rajinikanth, where Amitabh Bachchan's character would help Govinda get a seat in the Police Academy. Anand discarded the scene, because he did not find it suitable. But Rajinikanth felt the scene had the potential to develop into a script for a possible feature film.
On the sets of Annamalai (1992), Rajinikanth and Suresh Krissna discussed the scene, which Krissna also found to be interesting. The title of the film, Baashha, was suggested by Rajinikanth to Krissna, who suggested to Rajinikanth that a Muslim connection to the script was needed. Krissna brought up the subject again to Rajinikanth during the making of Veera (1994), but Rajinikanth wanted to discuss the script only after completing Veera. The discarded scene became the foundation for Baashha where Rajinikanth's character in the film, Manikkam, helps his sister get admission in the medical college she had applied for. Krissna planned to weave the rest of the film's story around the scene. Though Manikkam was initially considered to be written as a bus conductor, the "auto driver was the commonest man around. And Rajini liked the idea." R. M. Veerappan, who had earlier collaborated with Rajinikanth in Ranuva Veeran (1981), Moondru Mugam (1982), Thanga Magan (1983), Oorkavalan (1987) and Panakkaran (1990), was the film's co-producer, along with V. Rajammal and V. Thamilazhagan.
Development regarding the film's script commenced in the Taj Banjara hotel in Hyderabad. Eighty percent of the script, including the flashback portions of Rajinikanth as Baashha, were ready in ten days. Balakumaran was selected to write the film's dialogues. The entire team of technicians, including music director Deva, who had worked with Krissna in Annamalai, returned to work with him for Baashha. Actress Nagma was the first and only choice for the heroine's role after Krissna was impressed with her performance in Kadhalan (1994). Sathyapriya was cast as the mother of Rajinikanth's character. Rajinikanth's looks in the film were inspired by his own look in the film, Polladhavan (1980) and from Mammootty's looks in the Malayalam film Samrajyam (1990).
The film's muhurat shot took place at AVM Studios at the venue which later came to be known as the Rajni Pillaiyar Temple. Fans of Rajinikanth were invited for the shot. Choreography for the song "Naan Autokaaran" was done by Tarun Kumar, whose father, Hiralal, choreographed the song "Yaaradi Nee Mohini" from Uthama Puthiran (1958). Rajinikanth recommended Tarun to Krissna, who had initially wanted Raghuram to choreograph the song. Tarun completed the choreography in five days and the entire sequence was rehearsed at AVM Studios with fifty back-up dancers. As in the song "Vandhenda Paalakaaran" from Annamalai, the sequence was shot with Rajinikanth looking into the lens with a smile, which was intended to make the audience feel that he was looking directly at them, and then putting his hands together to greet them. The gesture, which was already effective in Annamalai, prompted Krissna to extend the screen time of the shot. Krissna wanted Rajinikanth to sport a dress that would make Rajinkanth look slightly unkempt in appearance, but Rajinikanth finished the sequence in a smartly-tailored uniform, and said to Krissna that the audience would not find it odd. The filming of the song took place at the open space at Vijaya Vauhini Studios in Chennai, the same area where Hotel Green Park is present; the song was completed with a hundred back-up dancers used for it in four days. Choreographers Kalyan and Ashok Raj were part of the back-up dancers for the song.
In one of the action sequences involving the protagonist in a face-off against the antagonist's henchmen, the iconic dialogue Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna madhiri. (English: Saying it once is equal to my saying it a hundred times.) The first half of the film was shot for twenty-three days at a stretch. Regarding the dialogue's development, Rajinikanth said to the film's dialogue writer, Balakumaran, that the dialogue had to be simple yet effective, as it would be used in a sequence where another side of the protagonist was revealed. On the day when the sequence which featured the dialogue was to be shot, Rajinikanth came up with the dialogue, which was originally spoken by him as Naan oru vaatti sonna, nooru vaatti sonna madhiri., which impressed Balakumaran and Krissna. Before the take, Rajinikanth, who repeatedly rehearsed the dialogue, told Krissna that the word "thadava" sounded more effective than "vaatti", and suggested Krissna to use "thadava" instead of "vaatti". Balakumaran initially did not agree with Rajinikanth and Krissna as he felt that the word "vaatti" was "fine" and that there was no need to change the dialogue. Rajinikanth then spoke both the versions of the dialogue and convinced Balakumaran to change the word "vaatti" to "thadava". The dialogue had such an impact on everyone present at the set that, in the break that followed, everyone started using it one way or another. The dialogues occurs only five times in the film. According to The Times of India, it was potentially inspired by a line in Jane Austen's novel Emma, which read, "If I've told you once, I've told you a 100 times." The scene where Rajinikanth's character, Manikkam, gets beaten up to protect his sibling and the following sequence where he beats up the antagonist in turn, was suggested to Krissna by Raju, the choreographer for both the stunt sequences.
Ramalingam, the son of the film's producer, R. M. Veerappan, informed Krissna that Veerappan wanted to meet him. Krissna had finished shooting the sequence where Rajinikanth's character, Manikkam, gets beaten up after trying to protect his younger brother. When Veerappan enquired Krissna about how the film was shaping up, Krissna spoke about the scene which he had shot before his meeting with Veerappan. Veerappan wanted the scene to be deleted from the film as he felt that people wouldn't want to see an actor like Rajinikanth getting beaten up.. Rajinikanth offered to show a sneak preview of the film to Veerappan on 15 December 1994, and if Veerappan did not want the scene to be in the film, the scene would be re-shot, and Rajinikanth offered to bear the costs for re-shooting the scene himself. Shooting was stalled for five days after Krissna's meeting with Veerappan. Later, Krissna, Raju, the choreographer for the stunt sequence, and cameraman Prakash concluded that the scene would be tweaked in such a way that it would be as if Mother Nature is angry at the treatment being meted out to a peace-loving person like Manikkam; it was also planned that backlighting and a poignant background music would be used as well.
Twenty-five scenes, including those which show Rajinikanth's house and neighbourhood were shot at Vijaya Vauhini Studios. The set at the studio was designed by Magie, the film's art director. The set also consisted of a tea stall, a cycle stand and a theatre. The scenes featuring the comedy sequences, interludes featuring actress Nagma and some of the action sequences featuring actor Anandaraj were also filmed at Vijaya Vauhini Studios. Krissna wanted to complete the scenes scheduled to be filmed there before dismantling the sets. According to him, filming for Baashha was completed in less than five months.
The film's soundtrack was composed by Deva, with lyrics by Vairamuthu. Due to the popularity of the rap genre at that time, Deva and Krissna wanted the introduction song to be in the Boney M. group style of music, but the method was not successful. Then Deva tried the gaana Genre and sang a couple of lines to Krissna, which were — "Kappal paaru, kappal paaru, Kappal meledora paaru, Dora kezhey aaya paaru, Aaya kayila kozhandahai paaru" (English: See the ship sailing, See the Englishman on it, Also see the poor native woman on board, With a baby in her arms). This tune, originally done by Deva, laid the foundation for the song, "Naan Autokaaran". After Rajinikanth and Vairamuthu heard Deva's rendition, Vairamuthu composed the lyrics for the song in ten minutes. Recording for the song was done by Deva in collaboration with Sabesh-Murali. Vairamuthu revealed that he had completed the lyrics of the song "Ra Ra Ramaiya" in eight minutes.
The song "Style Style Thaan" starts with the James Bond Theme; in its music video Rajinikanth enters holding a gun, a reference to the gun barrel sequence from the James Bond films. The song "Azhagu" samples the Hindi song "Dilbar Dil Se Pyaare", composed by R. D. Burman for Caravan (1971). The theme music of Baashha is based on the theme of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The soundtrack was a large success, and all the numbers were chartbusters. A special function was held at Hotel Chola Sheraton to celebrate the success of the film's soundtrack. Rajinikanth was presented a platinum disc on the occasion.
Hindi version with lyrics by Indeewar & Gopal Ram. The Hindi version was repackaged by Prasad Rao as Baashha. Originally dubbed in Hindi as Manik Baasha in 1995.
All lyrics written by Gopal Ram unless noted.; all music composed by Deva.
All lyrics written by Vennelakanti.
Release and reception
Baashha was released on 12 January 1995, with 18 prints in North Arcot, South Arcot and Chengalpet areas, and took nearly 15 months to complete its entire run.
The film received critical acclaim upon release. On 13 January 1995, a review from The Hindu said, "Rajini blossoms fully to portray two different characters, a former dada of Bombay and a docile peace-loving auto driver in Tamil Nadu, trying not to fall back on his old ways and finding it difficult to do so when force of circumstances pressure him" and that Suresh Krishna "has fashioned his screenplay to suit the image of Rajini and the taste of his fans and the songs and sequences are fashioned to boost the image of the hero". On 29 January 1995, Ananda Vikatan said, "The director has intelligently created scenes to present Rajinikanth with full honour... Superstar has taken the majestic form in the film through his acting and action sequences, and that makes the film a treat to watch...". On 23 January 1995, K. Vijiyan of The New Straits Times said "If you are not a Rajini fan, go without expecting too much and you may not be disappointed".
In October 2008, Outlook included Rajinikanth's dialogue "Naan oru tharavai sonna nooru tharavai sonna madhiri [sic]" in its list, "13 Cheesiest, Chalkiest Lines in Indian Cinema". In December 2013, The Times of India ranked Baashha twelfth in its list of "Top 12 Rajinikanth movies", praising the "punch dialogues and the mannerisms of Rajini". In May 2007, K Balamurugan of Rediff ranked the film tenth in his list of "Rajni's Tamil Top 10" films.
When stand-up comedian and television anchor Bosskey launched a quirky play titled Dada (Don) in October 2005, he named the cast after famous characters in Tamil films. Accordingly, Anniyan (one of Vikram's character in the film), Baasha (Rajinikanth's character in the film) and Velu Nayakkar (Kamal Haasan's role in Nayakan) play the central characters of a family of brothers. International Business Times said in 2014, "Rajini did a commendable job in the film". Eros Now ranked the film at number four in its list "Top 5 Films of Rajinikanth". A dialogue from the film, "Enakku Innoru Per Irukku" (I have another name) was used as the title of a 2016 film starring G. V. Prakash Kumar, while another film titled Maanik is in production. The rivalry between Manik Baasha and Mark Antony became iconic, and was referenced in the song "Engadi Porandha" from Vanakkam Chennai (2013).
The Hindi-dubbed version of Baashha was released on 25 May 2012, after being digitally restored. A digitally restored version of the Tamil original was released on 3 March 2017.
After the release of Padayappa (1999), Rajinikanth and Suresh Krissna discussed the possibility of making a sequel to Baashha. Even later, they discussed the feasibility. They felt that Baashha was inimitable—not even a sequel could equal it. Rajinikanth does not believe that sequels work in Indian cinema. In 2015 however, Suresh Krissna said, "but Baasha can still be born again in a different avatar."