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Anbe Sivam

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Anbe Sivam

Anbe Sivam
Promotional Poster
Directed by Sundar C
Produced by K. Muralitharan
V. Swaminathan
G. Venugopal
Written by Kamal Haasan
Madhan (dialogues)
Starring Kamal Haasan
R. Madhavan
Kiran Rathod
Santhana Bharathi
Music by Vidyasagar
Cinematography Arthur A. Wilson
Edited by P. Sai Suresh
Lakshmi Movie Makers
Distributed by Raaj Kamal Films International
Release dates
15 January 2003[1]
Running time
158 minutes
Country India
Language Tamil

Anbe Sivam (Tamil: அன்பே சிவம், English: Love Is God) is a 2003 Indian Tamil drama film written by Kamal Haasan and directed by Sundar C inspired by the Hollywood flick Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987). Kamal Hassan Plays similar role as John Candy and Madhavan Similar as Steve Martin.The film follows the events of an unexpected journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai which is undertaken by two men who are polar opposites, Nalla Sivam (Kamal Haasan) and Anbarasu (R. Madhavan). It also stars Kiran Rathod, Nassar and Santhana Bharathi, while Vidyasagar handled the music score. Arthur A. Wilson did the cinematography and the editing was by P. Sai Suresh.

The film addressed a series of themes including that of communism, atheism and altruism, bringing through the film writer Kamal Haasan's views as a humanist. The film released in January 2003 to critical acclaim, though it became a box office failure. Post-release, the film has garnered a "cult classic" status from critics and television audiences.[2][3]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Themes and influences 4
  • Soundtrack 5
  • Release 6
  • Legacy 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9
  • Bibliography 10


The film begins with ad filmmaker Anbarasu (R. Madhavan), who prefers the much-abbreviated alias A. Aras arriving at the Bhubaneswar Airport in Odisha, India. He is about to board a flight back to Chennai for his wedding. While waiting at airport, Aras watches the television news about a terrorist threat at an airport in Mumbai. Remarking to himself that the country is going to the dogs, he looks around and sees a bespectacled man with scars taking out something rolled up in a newspaper from his bag. He informs the authorities, only to learn that the man was simply taking out a cucumber rather than what he believed it to be a bomb.

The man, who is physically challenged, is Nallasivam (Kamal Haasan).Aras underestimates Nalla, ignoring his sage advice and friendly overtures, resulting in some comical events in the airport. Then, announcements are made that all flights have been canceled due to the inclement weather and Aras realizes he needs a room in a nearby hotel for the night. Since the five-star hotel where he was staying before is now fully booked, Nallasivam helps him find a place in a two-star hotel nearby, where Nalla and Aras are forced to share the same room. Aras selfishly trying to get rid of Nalla, at every juncture. Nalla does him a favor which leaves Aras with a guilt-ridden heart. The next morning, Aras takes a taxi without waking Nalla only to realize that the floods have blocked most of the roads, flooding the railway station. He was disguised by a man who offers to help him, to steal his money.By the time, Nalla reaches the station and helps Aras regain the wallet, sans the money. It is then revealed that Nalla is a trade unionist and is traveling with a cheque worth Rs. 3 million to be delivered to some people after fighting a court case for union workers.They go to another railway station, where Nalla begins to tell Aras his story, but a tired Aras falls asleep.

The film then flashes back few years in the past when a perfectly good-looking Nalla performs in street theatres protesting against the industrialization process which is marginalizing the labor force. He often gets into trouble due to this. Nalla is also a very talented painter. He is fighting mainly against the town's biggest business tycoon, the manipulative Kandasamy Padayachi (Nassar), whom he satirically imitates in many of his shows. However, an interesting turn of events sees Nalla and Kandasamy's daughter Bala (Kiran Rathod) fall in love with each other. Realizing Kandasamy's power would be too much to bear if they want to get together, Nalla and Bala decide to elope. While Nalla is on a bus on his way to meet Bala, the bus is in a terrible accident on a hillside which leaves him badly injured. Despite surgery, he is left partially paralyzed and badly scarred. Kandasamy informs his daughter Bala that Nalla is dead. It is also at this time that Nalla becomes a firm believer in kindness and love and, while suffering from an inferiority complex due to his scarred and paralyzed body, nevertheless engages with renewed fervour in performing community service and social work while continuing to fight for union causes.

The film then returns to the present, as Aras and Nalla prepare to board the train they have been waiting for. But as the train arrives, they get into an argument about communism, Karl Marx, and so on.The argument turns heated, causing a short-tempered Aras to punch Nalla. After initially looking calm, Nalla punches Aras back even harder, causing Aras to bleed. Pretending to be cool, Aras deceives Nalla, locks the train door, leaving Nalla stranded outside as the train moves.

On the train, Aras meets a well-dressed corporate-type individual, Uthaman (Yugi Sethu), who seems to share the same interests as Aras, pretending to be a good guy steals all his belongings. The train comes to a halt because a previous train has had an accident and it has to be cleared up first. There, Aras witnesses a slew of dead bodies and suffering people, causing him to suffer emotionally. To his surprise, he meets Nalla again at the treatment camp nearby. He apologizes to Nalla, who forgives him. Nalla proposes that he donate blood to a dying boy in need of AB blood, while Aras mentions that he is bloodsick. Nalla convinces him, and Aras donates. Aras also retrieves his belongings as he finds that the thief is around the camp. Nalla proposes that Aras travel with him in an ambulance which will be carrying the injured boy on its way to Chennai.

While on the journey the boy passes away causing Aras to cry. He calls God 'unjust' for giving the boy hope in the form of Aras' blood and then taking away his life. Nalla, who is an atheist, tells Aras that Aras himself is God, that the sadness he feels and the tears he sheds for the boy makes him God. Aras comes to terms with using his full name Anbarasu, a name he previously despised because he apparently doesn't like 'anbu' (love). On reaching Chennai, they go their separate ways, but Aras realizes that Nalla's union cheque is still with him and returns to the address Nalla had given him.

He realizes that Nalla had lied to him previously when he said that he had a wife and a son named 'Sangu'. The address is a place where injured labourers from Odisha camp while waiting for their legal funds (being brought by Nalla) and that 'Sangu' is the name of Nalla's dog, which incidentally had caused Nalla's accident. After giving the cheque to the office, he goes to the nearby shop to meet Nalla and scolds him for not telling him the truth. He asks Nalla to come with him for his marriage, but Nalla says he will 'come later'. In an emotional moment, Aras recounts the story of how his brother died from a freak accident when he was young (a story he had told Nalla before). He says that Nalla is his new-found brother and should stay with him as long as life permits. A clearly emotional Nalla accepts the invitation.

At the marriage, Nalla realizes that the girl Aras is about to marry is Bala. He takes this opportunity to appear in front of Kandasamy and threaten that he will stay on and make Bala realize what a cheat her father is unless Kandasamy signs all related documents for pay increment and bonuses for his company's labourers. Sacrificing himself for the workers, Nalla leaves after Kandasamy signs, leaving behind a letter for his 'brother' that he has missions to complete in this world, and that he'd rather travel as a free bird than be caged and tied to one place. He thanks Aras for the love and affection he has shown. Kandasamy meanwhile orders his assistant (Santhana Bharathi) to kill Nalla. As Nalla walks away, the assistant approaches him from behind. Hearing Sangu bark, Nalla turns around and sees his would-be assailant with a sickle in his hand. Requesting him not to hurt Sangu, who is barking and growling, he tells the assistant that he cannot fight like he used to and is ready to accept death. The assistant drops his weapon, weeps, and apologizes to Nalla as he believed his wrongdoings cost his daughter's life. He tells Nalla that he has read his letter to Aras and asks him to leave and God will protect Nalla. Nalla refutes, saying that the assistant himself is God. He says that there is no greater God than the person who comes with the intent to kill but instead apologizes to the person he aimed to kill.

The film ends with Nalla walking away in the monsoon rains with his dog, Sangu.



After finishing a script, Kamal Haasan approached Priyadarshan to direct the film in early 2002.[4] The pair had been looking out for a storyline to work together since the late 1990s and Priyadarshan felt that Kamal Haasan's script had great value to be an 'emotional love story'.[5] R. Madhavan was added to the cast in January 2002 and revealed his elation at working with the pair, while noting that a human drama film like Anbe Sivam was important for his career as an actor as it came after a successful masala film, Run.[4] Cartoonist Madhan wrote the film's dialogues as Kamal Haasan continued writing the script, revealing that it would be a road film between two polar opposite characters. Madhan also appeared in a small role in the film.[4] Kamal Haasan went to Los Angeles to test and select prosthetic make up for the film and was notably detained at a Toronto airport security centre in April 2002.[6][7] Pre-production work commenced soon after but a difference of opinion between the director and the actor mean that Priyadarshan opted out of the project in June 2002.[4] Following this sudden setback which led to the whole crew being put off their schedule, the producers selected Sundar C. to direct the venture and filming started in July 2002.[4][8] Kiran Rathod who earlier appeared in Gemini (2002) was selected to portray the leading female role, while Uma Riyaz Khan was also signed on to play a role and described the film as her "magnum opus".[9][10] Dubbing voice for Kiran was provided by playback singer Anuradha Sriram.[4]

The first scene the team shot was at a railway station in Pollachi with actor R. S. Shivaji, portraying a station master, joining the lead actors. Kamal Haasan and Madhavan interacted closely during the initial stages of the shoot in order to ensure that the on-screen chemistry between the pair was apparent.[11] The film was shot on a restricted budget, with only the train disaster scenes involving the use of extensive art direction. The team also shot in relatively empty locations meaning that the time allotted for shooting was flexible, with one day being cancelled due to dialogues not being ready.[12] Further schedules were held in Chennai, Visakhapatnam and on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border.[13] Post-filming, Kamal Haasan revealed that he was impressed with Madhavan's enthusiasm and concentration during the making of the film and thus subsequently signed him on to appear in his production venture, Nala Damayanthi (2003).

Themes and influences

The film follows the events of an unexpected journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai which is undertaken by two men who are polar opposites, Nalla Sivam (Kamal Haasan) and Anbarasu (R. Madhavan). The film addressed a series of themes including that of communism, atheism and altruism, bringing through the film writer Kamal Haasan's views as a humanist. The film also explores topics such as compassion, globalisation and rationalism in today’s world.[14] The first half of the film resembles Hollywood film Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and characterisation of Hassan is said to be inspired from noted communist playwright and actor Safdar Hashmi who is still considered an important voice in Indian political theatre.[4][15][16] The painting portrayed in the film is said to be inspired from Diego Rivera’s representation of the state of the world in the 1930s.[17] G. Dhananjayan in his book Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013 mentioned that the film talks about "importance of love in life and projects the value of love even bigger than god" and the film criticises "mechanisation and computerisation".[18]

The movie also named after the two important roles, ANB-arasu and nalla-SIVAM. The thing to be noted here is ANB-arasu hates ANBU (He calls himself as A.Ars) and nalla-SIVAM hates SIVAM (He calls himself as Nallan). Arasu in Tamil is known as Government or ruler, where-as Nallan means being good human.


The music for the film was composed by Vidyasagar, while lyrics were written by Vairamuthu. The titular song was initially written to be sung in a third person tone and thus Kamal Haasan was reluctant to do perform the track to avoid his character being reflected in the song. Subsequently after being convinced by Vidyasagar, he agreed to render the version.[19] The song "Mouname Paarvayai" was not included in the film.[20] The song "Poovaasam" is based on Shuddh Sarang raga and it marked the debut of playback singer Vijay Prakash in Tamil.[21]

Anbe Sivam
Soundtrack album to Anbe Sivam by Vidyasagar
Released 2002
Genre Feature film soundtrack
Language Tamil
Producer Vidyasagar
Vidyasagar chronology
Anbe Sivam
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Anbe Sivam "   Kamal Haasan, Karthik 4:18
2. "Ela Machi"   Kamal Haasan, Udit Narayan, 4:35
3. "Mouname"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Chandrayee 4:36
4. "Naatukkoru Seithi"   Kamal Haasan, Chandran 8:08
5. "Poo Vaasam"   Vijay Prakash, Sadhana Sargam 4:27
6. "Poo Vaasam - 2"   Sriram Parthasarathy, Sadhana Sargam 4:27


The film was released on 14 January 2003 coinciding with the Thai Pongal festival and opened alongside five other films at the box office, including the Vikram-starrer Dhool and the Vijay-starrer Vaseegara.[22] Anbe Sivam won primarily positive reviews from reviewers. The Hindu praised the film, noting that "well-defined characters, a strong storyline and intelligent screenplay are the other vital ingredients of Anbe Sivam". The critic revealed "Kamal Haasan's diligence that has gone into the chiselling of the story and screenplay is only too evident", while calling the film a "milestone"[23] A reviewer from noted "with a perfect script, screenplay, direction and music, 'Anbe Sivam' is sure to take its viewers for a roller coaster ride of all ages".[24] Another critic also added "the wonderfully acted movie manages to be both touching and entertaining, while conveying a strong social message", adding it is a "movie that is difficult to pigeonhole into a genre".[25] A reviewer from, in comparison, labelled the film as "average" and noted that "despite the good performances the outcome is still stressful on the nerves."[26] Similarly a reviewer from praised the film's lead performances but wrote the film "suffers from the disease of excess" and "tries to do too much".[27] Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan in its review dated 26 January 2003 has given 47 marks for the film and mentioned that the film "deserves respect for the subject it has chosen [..] like an oxygen cylinder to Tamil cinema and the response it gets will set a new trend".[18]

The Telugu dubbed version of the film, Satyame Sivam, was released on 28 February 2003 to positive reviews, with a critic claiming "this film is strictly for the elite audience who does not mind having a look at the philosophical films" adding that the "story of the film is just wonderful".[28] The producers of the film sold the Hindi dubbing rights at a low price and the film was released as Shivam in Hindi in 2005, much to irking of the lead actors.[29]

The film did not perform well commercially and lost the producers significant investment. An estimated Rs 6.5-crore loss was made through the film by Lakshmi Movie Makers, effectively stopping the production house from investing in other ventures during the period.[30][31] Director Sundar C also revealed that the failure of the film meant that he went unpaid for his work, and producers were unwilling to fund his other ventures.[32] It was later screened at the 2003 International Film Festival of India.[33] In September 2013, producer V. Swaminathan announced his plans of digitally converting the film and re-releasing it to cash in on the post-release cult classic status.[34][35]


Post-release the film has garnered critical acclaim from belated critics and television audiences and is considered as one of the "cult classics" of Tamil cinema.[36][37] The film's DVD also sold well and was made widely available in North India, earning the film more critical acclaim.[38] Film critic Baradwaj Rangan wrote that the film "was leagues ahead of the average Tamil and Indian film", though felt that "the masses were unwilling to accept the experimental nature of the film", while talking about the film's box office failure.[39] During his acceptance speech after winning the Vijay Award for Best Director in 2010 for Naan Kadavul (2009), director Bala revealed that a scene in Anbe Sivam had inspired him to make his film, referring to a scene where Kamal Haasan states to Madhavan that "when we love others unconditionally without any expectation, we become Gods".[40]


  1. ^ Dhananjayan 2014, p. 417.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Dhananjayan 2014, p. 418.
  5. ^ "Movies: No regrets, No remakes: Priyadarshan". Rediff. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Movies: Kamal Haasan on Panchatantiram". Rediff. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Kamal Haasan and Madhavan on their film Anbesivam". Rediff. 9 January 2003. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Dhananjayan 2014, p. 419.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Anbe Sivam". The Hindu. 17 January 2003. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Time To Re Release Kamals Classics". Behindwoods. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^

External links


  • Dhananjayan, G. (2014). Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013. Blue Ocean Publishers.  
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