Thalapathi is a 1991 Indian Tamil-language crime-drama film written and directed by Mani Ratnam and produced by G. Venkateswaran. The film is an adapted version of the mighty king and warrior Karna from the great indian epic Mahabharata. Surya (Rajinikanth) born as an illegitimate child is abandoned by his mom (Srividya) and left on a basket in a goods train. He is then raised by lower caste people living by a river side. He grows up to become a loyal friend and right hand for gangster Devaraj (Mammootty). Deva is a kind of Robin Hood figure, whom the slum dwellers admire, as he takes care of their needs in a way neither the officials nor the government officers do. Surya is in love with a Brahmin girl, Shubalakshmi ( Shobana), who also loves him in return, but does not like his violent ways. In the mean while, Surya’s real mother Kalyani( Sri Vidya) is now married to a Government officer, and her son Arjun( Arvind Swamy), is in the Civil Services. Kalyani herself is a doctor and soon Arjun is posted to Chennai as collector. In the meantime, a gang war breaks out between Deva and Kalivardhan( Amrish Puri), another gangster, and Deva’s arch rival. The attacks come to the notice of Arjun, who vows to take action against Deva.
The strong point in Thalapathy was the relationship between Deva and Surya, which was based on the Duryodhan-Karna friendship. The scenes between both of them are brilliantly shot. The first scene where Deva and Surya confront each other on the bridge, in a rainy night, is brilliantly captured. Another great scene is when Deva points to the wounds he received, while beaten up in the police station, and asks Surya to take revenge.
Rajinikanth as Surya is one of the best character oriented roles donned by the superstar in last two decades or so. His effortless style and rough looks sums up a role tailor made for him. Mammoty as Deva has given weight to the role and reacted well to the dialogue delivery. His calm and composed presence as a leader worked well. Shobana as Surya’s love interest did a good job. The likes of Jaishankar, Srividya, Arvind Saamy, Amrish Puri and other stars justified their roles though had limited screen space. The screenplay is woven tightly and disclosed with an exemplary narration made surrounding the protagonist. Maverick cinematographer Santhosh Sivan also delivers behind the lens for his first film with Mani Ratnam. His opulence and aerial shots are well etched and the experimental lightings give the feel of nostalgia.