C for Chanakyan

Chanakyan is a revisionist revenge saga!


Not many people realise that Kamal Hassan has also acted in a fair number of Malayalam movies as well.

We have seen many one-film wonders who disappoint us with their subsequent efforts. Or they raise the bar so high with their first effort that everything else that follows pales in comparison. TK Rajeev Kumar knows this first-hand, his first film Chanakyan starring Kamal, Thilakan, Jayaram and the heart-breakingly beautiful Urmilla Matondkar who would go on to sway the hearts of many a teen and man in Rangeela’s songs!

Chanakyan is a revisionist revenge saga if I may use the phrase wherein Johnson a music teacher played by Kamal falls in love with Renu played by Urmilla. Renu is a politician’s daughter – Madhava Menon – played with finesse by Thilakan. The over-protective father attempts to dissuade the young musician’s love for his daughter; but things go awry as Menon ensures that Johnson’s family – aged mother and sisters are arrested in a flesh-trade/prostitution case. In humiliation the family commits suicide and Johnson is beaten and left to die on the railway tracks.

Johnson then returns after a number of years. In the interim Menon has become a highly successful and respected leader and is assured of a victory in the upcoming elections.

Johnson befriends Jayaram a mimicry artiste and uses the latter’s mimicry skills to destroy Menon’s career and credibility. how he does this is something that has to be seen to believed. This is one of the few movies which I feel definitely needs a reboot for the times. If Kamal plays Menon’s role in the reboot it would be icing on the cake!

Eventually a standoff ensues wherein Menon shoots Johnson in public view and destroys all his chances of political victory!

Noted for Jayaram’s mimicry, Thilakan’s calm brutality, Kamal in a uniquely restrained role, innovative plot-structure and a glimpse of Urmilla – the young starlet who would go on to blossom into a successful actress. Sadly she has been relegated to a reality television judge roles now!

A bit slow by today’s standards of action-paced thrillers; but a good watch on an idle evening!

5 thoughts on “C for Chanakyan

  1. Believe it or not but the Malayalam film industry was the first one which accepted Kamal Hassan as a leading man and till date he has a special place in the industry just for this reason alone 🙂

    To me, what stands out in my memories of Chanakyan are (1) Jayaram’s awesome mimicry skills being put on display and (2) a brooding Thilakan calling out “Johnson” to Kamal 🙂

    As you stated, this is also one of those grossly under-rated movies which surely deserves a reboot, and yes, Kamal in the role of Menon would be the icing on the cake for sure 🙂

  2. Yes, definitely a movie ahead of its times – I would say – sadly Kamal has reached a stage wherein he is so full of ‘hubris’ that he is not going to experiment with such movies again! I think he has set his heart on winning an Oscar and going all out for it! Still he is a gem of an artiste 🙂

    Urmilla – Bhoot, Satya and Ek hassena thi 🙂

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