Kaalapani (English: Black Water) is a 1996 Indian Malayalam language epic historical period drama film co-wriiten and directed by Priyadarshan, set in 1915 it focus on the lives of Indian freedom fighters incarcerated in prison during the British Raj. The film stars Mohanlal, Prabhu Ganesan, Tabu, Amrish Puri, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenivasan, Tinnu Anand, Annu Kapoor, Alex Draper, and Vineeth. Kaalapani is regarded as one of the classics in Malayalam cinema. Originally produced in Malayalam, the film was dubbed and released in Hindi as Saza-E-Kala Pani, Tamil as Siraichalai, and in Telugu as Kaala Pani. Amitabh Bachchan bought the Hindi dubbing rights, besides narrating the prologue for the Hindi version.
The film is about the lives of prisoners in British India who are brought to Kālā Pānī, the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The name Kalapani is derived from the mode of imprisonment in British India. Ilaiyaraaja composed the music, the cinematography was by Santosh Sivan, and the editing by N. Gopalakrishnan. The film introduced Dolby Stereo into Malayalam cinema. It was made on a budget of ₹2.5 crore, making it the costliest Malayalam film made until then. the film was a failiure in box office due to huge budget.
Kaalapani was released on 12 April 1996 in 450 theaters worldwide, which was the largest release for any Indian film until then. The film won three National Film Awards. including the awards for Best Art Direction (Sabu Cyril), Best Special Effects (S. T. Venky), and Best Cinematography (Santosh Sivan). Along with that it won six Kerala State Film Awards.
In 1965, G. S. Sethu (Vineeth) of the Indian Army goes to Ross Island, Kaalapani to find the whereabouts of his aunt Parvathi's (Tabu) husband, Govardhan Menon(Mohanlal) who has been sent to jail in the year 1916 during the British Rule. In an old room containing record of prisoners held at the jail, Sethu comes across Govardhan's records and learns his story.
Govardhan, a doctor as well as an Indian nationalist, is wrongly accused of bombing a train carrying 55 people including British officials. On his marriage day with Parvathi, he is deported to a cellular jail at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There, hundreds of Indian prisoners are incarcerated in the cellular jail, including leading participants of the freedom movement. The extremely inhumane conditions faced by the prisoners in the jail are depicted.
David Berry (Alex Draper) is a sadistic jailor who is of Irish descent, while Len Hutton (John Kolvenbach) is a kindhearted English doctor. Veer Savarkar (Annu Kapoor) is incarcerated and tries his best to keep the spirit of the prisoners going despite unbelievable torture.
Parvathi is Govardhan's lover who keeps waiting for him to come back. Due to the efforts of Len, the government decides to investigate the matter of the torture meted out to the prisoners. 14 people are ordered to be released. One of them is Mukundan (Prabhu Ganesan). David Berry and the jail warden, Mirza Khan (Amrish Puri), hatch a plan and shoot down 13 prisoners while they are escaping. Mukundan refuses to escape. He is forcibly taken on the pretext of meeting the Chief Commissioner and is shot and killed. Seeing the dead body of his friend, Govardhan is angered to the greatest extent and throws down David Berry from one of the towers and then kills Mirza Khan by strangling him. Govardhan is hanged to death. All this is shown in interminnent flashbacks. Sethu, after knowing that Govardhan has already been hanged to death 45 years ago, decides to not tell the truth to his wife, as her wait of 50 years will be spoiled. The film ends with Sethu lying to her that he met Govardhan and talked to him about her, indicating that she will never come to know about Govardhan's death and will keep waiting for him for the rest of her life.Mohanlal as Govardhan MenonPrabhu as Mukund IyengarAmrish Puri as Mirza KhanTabu as Parvathi (Voice dubbed by Bhagyalakshmi)Vineeth as G.S. SethuAlex Draper as David BerryJohn Kolvenbach as Len HuttonAnnu Kapoor as Veera SavarkarNedumudi Venu as Sreekandan NairDelhi Ganesh as PandiyanSreenivasan as MoosaCochin Haneefa as Ahmmed KuttyManiyanpilla Raju as NairSankaradi
Director Priyadarshan co-wrote the screenplay with screenwriter T. Damodaran. The basis for the story were existing accounts of life in cellular jail, particularly excerpts from biographies of political leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. Most of these excerpts covered the ruthless routine of prisoners in jail, under the command of Jailer David Barry, Major James Pattinson Walker and Petty officer Mirza Khan.
While the Pre-World War I ports were recreated on the Andaman Islands, several huge sets were built on a 1.5 acres space in Murugalaya Studio, Chennai to replicate the Cellular Jail. In Madras, the sets of Cellular Jail cost about Rs 12 lakh to build on 1.5 acres at the Murugalaya Studio. Apparently, director Priyadarshan was adamant and determined to be faithful to the details of the era. He says: "The Andamans had not seen a horse in 20 years. We had to carry four horses there at a cost of about Rs 3 lakh. When the filming was over, we presented them to the Andamans administration." Prior to the making of the film, Prabhu had broken his knee and during his recovery phase, put on considerable weight. In order to accommodate his physique into the script, Priyadarshan altered the character to make him eat constantly in the film.
Despite having the grandeur of Hollywood and French classics, director Priyadarshan efficiently managed to complete the film at an unbelievably small budget of ₹2.5 crore (equivalent to ₹9.6 crore or US$1.5 million in 2016). The shooting was completed in 72 days at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, several parts of Kerala and Madras. Post production took more than four months to complete. Composer Ilaiyaraaja completed his symphonic score in 16 days; audiographer Deepan Chatterji completed the sound design and mix in 90 days. This is the first Malayalam film to record in Dolby soundtrack.
The film is shot in the Malayalam language. However, numerous portions contain dialogues in Hindi, English, Tamil, Bengali, and German.
The music was composed and conducted by Ilaiyaraaja. K.S.Chitra was the only female singer in all the versions, while male singers kept changing from version to version & the soundtrack was highly popular & appriciated.Track list
All lyrics written by Gireesh Puthenchery, except where noted..
All lyrics written by Arivumathi.
All lyrics written by P. K. Mishra, except where noted.National Film AwardsBest Art Direction – Sabu CyrilBest Cinematography – Santosh SivanBest Special Effects – S. T. VenkyKerala State Film AwardsSecond Best Film – Mohanlal (producer), Priyadarshan (director)Best Actor – MohanlalBest Art Director – Sabu CyrilBest Music Director – IlaiyaraajaBest Processing Lab – Gemini Coulour LabBest Costume Designer – Sajin Raghavan