For other uses, see Roja (disambiguation).

Film poster
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by K. Balachander (presenter)
Rajam Balachander
Pushpa Kandaswamy
Written by Sujatha (dialogue)
Screenplay by Mani Ratnam
Story by Mani Ratnam
Starring Arvind Swamy
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography Santosh Sivan
Edited by Suresh Urs
Distributed by Kavithalayaa Productions
Release dates
  • 14 August 1992 (1992-08-14)
Running time
137 minutes[1]
Country India
Language Tamil

Roja (English: Rose) is a 1992 Indian Tamil-language musical romantic thriller film written and directed by Mani Ratnam. It stars Arvind Swamy and Madhoo in the lead roles. The film was also dubbed in Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam and Telugu languages.

The film won three National Film Awards, including Best Film on National Integration, catapulting Ratnam to national acclaim. The film also gained international acclaim with its nomination for Best Film at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival. The film was later re-released for international audiences in light of the growing fear of terrorist attacks across the world. It is the first in Ratnam's trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics, including Bombay (1995) and Dil Se.. (1998).

The film's successful and acclaimed score and soundtrack were composed by A. R. Rahman, who debuted as a film composer with this film. He won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction, Filmfare Award for Best Music Director - Tamil and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Music Director for his work in his debut film. This soundtrack is among the "10 Best Soundtracks" of all time listed by TIME magazine, issued in 2005.


In Srinagar, a Kashmiri terrorist, Wasim Khan (Shiva Rindani), is captured by a team led by Colonel Rayappa (Nassar). In South India, 18-year old[2] Roja (Madhoo) is a simple village girl born and brought up in Sundarapandianpuram in Tirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu. Roja fervently wishes that her sister Shenbagam's (Vaishnavi) marriage proposal with Rishi Kumar (Arvind Swamy), a cryptologist working with the R.A.W. of India, goes smoothly. Unknown to her and her family, Shenbagam is in love with the son of her paternal aunt.

When Rishi wishes to speak to Shenbagam alone, she gathers enough courage to convey this and politely asks him to reject her in front of her parents, to which he obliges. To everyone’s surprise Rishi requests Roja's hand in marriage instead. Being unaware of Shenbagam's love affair, Roja is not willing to accept Rishi's proposal as she believes that he is the best match for Shenbagam but she marries Rishi, and the couple go to live in Madras while Shenbagam marries her cousin.

Initially Roja does not like what Rishi did, but when she learns of Shenbagam's love affair and consequent rejection of Rishi, she apologizes and starts seeing him in a new light. Love blossoms, and life is blissful for the couple for a short while. Meanwhile, due to the illness of his Chief, Rishi is assigned to an army communications center in Baramulla to intercept military intelligence. The couple find themselves in a beautiful yet alien land. Roja's world turns upside down when Rishi is abducted by terrorists whose agenda is to separate Kashmir from India and free their leader, Wasim Khan, from judicial custody.

Faced with the daunting task of rescuing her husband, Roja runs from pillar to post, pleading with politicians and the military for help. Further complicating matters is the communication gap: She can't speak their language, and they can't speak hers. Meanwhile, Rishi, held captive by a group of terrorists led by Liaqat (Pankaj Kapoor), an associate to Wasim Khan, tries to reason with the terrorists, about their misdirected motive for the liberation of Kashmir. Liaqat's sister shows a little compassion towards him. Initially, when Roja’s efforts fail, the Indian government denies any negotiations with the terrorists for the release of Rishi in the media.

The angered terrorists attempt to burn an Indian flag. Rishi risks his life to put out the fire and shows the terrorist how much the country means to him, a regular citizen. When Liaqat’s younger brother, who with a few other youths from his village sent across the border to Pakistan for training, is shot by the Pakistan Army, Liaqat’s strong belief is shaken, but he still manages to convince himself of the cause. Consequently, Roja’s efforts to apprise the politicians of her suffering and pain are successful as a minister pities her and offers to help.

Much to the chagrin of Rayappa, the government decides to release Wasim Khan in exchange for Rishi. Rishi, not wanting to be used as a pawn to release a dangerous terrorist, gets help from the sympathetic Liaqat’s sister and escapes — with Liaqat and his men chasing him. Rayappa, Roja and other army officers get to the hostage exchange spot with Wasim Khan, but Liaqat does not show up. The Army locks Wasim Khan up in the prison.

Rishi has managed to get close to the exchange spot on his own after evading the terrorists. During his escape, Rishi kills two terrorists. Liaqat catches up with him and holds him at gun point. Rishi reasons with Liaqat further and convinces him that his war is immoral. Liaqat lets Rishi go and he goes to the exchange spot. Liaqat escapes from the Indian Army. Rishi and Roja are united once again.



The inspiration for Roja came to Mani Ratnam from a real-life incident reported; an engineer was kidnapped when he had gone on a project to Srinagar, Kashmir, and his wife was fighting for his release. She had written an open letter to the terrorist, which says to a large extent, what Roja says in the film to Wasim Khan in jail. Her appeal was to the goodness of the terrorist. According to Ratnam, it was her plight that the film was based on. The rest of the screenplay in Roja was just building up towards this jail scene.[3]

During the making of Anjali (1990), Ratnam told actor and director Kitty the outline of Roja and offered him to direct the film. Kitty declined, as he wanted to do something of his own. As Ratnam was telling him the outline, the subject became more crystallised. Kitty did not pick it up and when filmmaker K. Balachander asked Ratnam, he told him the outline. All the developments happened after that.[4] It was Balachander who approached Ratnam to make a film for his banner. As Balachander was the inspiration and the reason for Ratnam entering Tamil films, when he asked him to make a film for his banner, Ratnam wanted it to be one of the best films they have produced. Ratnam was keen that it needed to be of Balachander's standard. Balachander instantly approved the outline of the film when Ratnam narrated. However, he disliked the title Roja ("Rose") as he felt it sounded similar to the name of a local brand of crushed betel nut. Ratnam thought the title represented Kashmir because "the rose is something beautiful but with thorns". To satisfy Balachander, Ratnam suggested another title Irudhi Varai ("Till the end"), but Balachander preferred Roja, which was finalised.[5]

Roja was the first film for which Ratnam used a Steadicam, in the shot that introduces the terrorists' hideout to the audiences.[6] The film was made on a shoestring budget. The technicians worked for less money with the understanding that the film would also be sold for less money. It was not thought of as something that would work on a big scale. The film was composed mostly of newcomers, a new music director, and it was about Kashmir which, according to Ratnam, not much was known to Tamil people at that time. He called the film "a bit of an experiment".[7] It is also the first in Ratnam's trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics, including Bombay (1995) and Dil Se.. (1998).[8][9] Roja is a contemporary adaptation of the story of Savitri and Satyavan.[10][11]

Arvind Swamy made his acting debut in Ratnam's Thalapathi (1991). He was subsequently signed to play the lead role in Roja.[12] Actress Aishwarya was initially offered the female lead, but declined it due to date issues. The role went to Madhoo.[13] Vaishnavi was cast as Roja's sister Shenbagam.[14] Ratnam had planned to shoot Roja in Kashmir, but extreme terrorism there forced him to shoot the film in other hill stations resembling it.[15][16] Shooting locations included Coonoor,[17] Ooty,[18] and Manali, Himachal Pradesh.[19][20] The film's cinematographer Santosh Sivan said that a lot of images were written in at the script level. Even in the Kashmir sequences, the audience only sees the snow when Roja sees it for the first time. These things were written into the script.[21] The song "Chinna Chinna Aasai" was shot at Hogenakkal Falls in Dharmapuri and in the Banatheertham falls in Courtallam.[22][23] According to Ratnam, Roja was not originally planned as a political film: "It was a phase India was going through and these things affected me and found their way into my work."[24] Vairamuthu, who was signed as the lyricist, recalled in 2013 that he felt the film's "tense and action-packed" content was in sharp contrast to the "poetic" title.[25] Shaktee Singh dubbed for Arvind Swamy in the Hindi version of the film,[26] while Madhoo dubbed for herself.[27] The final length of the film was 3,750 metres (12,300 ft).[28]


Main article: Roja (soundtrack)


Roja was released on 14 August 1992.[29] In August 2015, it was screened at the 2015 London Indian Film Festival, in the retrospective series Politics as Spectacle: The Films of Mani Ratnam, along with Bombay and Dil Se.[30]

Critical reception

Roja received critical acclaim for its patriotic themes.[31] On 26 September 1992, K. Vijayan of New Straits Times wrote, "Under [Mani Ratnam]'s direction, [Arvind] and [Madhoo] gave their best ... The excellent photography by Santhosh Sivan [who was also the cameraman for Thalapathi] makes us appreciate the beauty we take for granted in the villages. The snow-capped mountains and flower-covered valleys of Kashmir are also an eyeful."[14] In 2016, Chetan Suryanarayana of called the Hindi version of Roja his "favourite patriotic movie".[32] The soundtrack by A. R. Rahman was included in the "10 Best Soundtracks" of all time listed by Time magazine, issued in 2005.[33][34]

Box office

Roja emerged a commercial success in the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi markets.[31][35]


1993 National Film Awards (India)[36]

Madhoo's performance took her close to winning in the category of Best Actress, but she eventually lost to Dimple Kapadia.[37]

1993 Filmfare Awards South[38][39]

1993 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards (India)[40]

1993 Shantaram Awards[40]

1993 Moscow International Film Festival (Russia)[41]

Bite the Mango Film Festival (United Kingdom)[42]

Wangfujing Film Festival (Beijing)[43]

Indian Film Week (Moscow)[44]

See also


  1. The Cinema of Mani Ratnam. Cine Central. p. 23.
  2. Rangan 2012, p. 128.
  3. Rangan 2012, p. 124.
  4. Rangan 2012, p. 125.
  5. Rangan 2012, pp. 123-124.
  6. Rangan 2012, p. 112.
  7. Rangan 2012, p. 131.
  8. Padua, Pat. "FROM THE HEART – The Films of Mani Ratnam". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  9. Pillai, Sreedhar (29 June 2008). "Tryst with terrorism". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  10. "'When you start making films for commerce alone, you start getting into problems'". 4 April 1997. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  11. Rangan 2012, p. 126.
  12. Sashidhar, A. S. (21 December 2012). "Arvind in Kadal". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 12 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  13. "Madhu not first choice for Mani Ratnam's 'Roja'". The Times of India. 12 July 2012. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  14. 1 2 Vijayan, K. (26 September 1992). "Superb, Uncensored Songs Make Roja A Splendid Movie". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  15. Raina, Muzaffar (13 May 2008). "Valley back on silver screen". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  16. "It's lights, camera, action in Kashmir". The Times of India. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  17. "20 days schedule for Mani Ratnam's next in Nilgiris". Sify. Archived from the original on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  18. "An evening in Ooty". The Economic Times. 18 April 2016. 19 October 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2015.
  19. "Kajol mesmerises you". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  20. "Want to travel to where Hrithik and Preity sang Agar Main Kahoon?". India Today. 19 November 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  21. Naig, Udhav (28 June 2014). "Behind the cameraman". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  22. Aishwarya, S. (3 July 2010). "Indian locations provide stunning backdrops for film shoots". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  23. Simhan, T. E. Raja (29 February 2008). "The Roja falls". The Hindu Business Line. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  24. Melwani, Lavina (26 September 2015). "Up close and personal with Mani Ratnam". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  25. "Vairamuthu compares Panivizhum Malarvanam with Roja". The Times of India. 30 April 2013. Archived from the original on 22 June 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  26. Ramnath, Nandini (22 March 2016). "'The Jungle Book' in Hindi is Hollywood's latest attempt to go local". Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  27. Rangan 2012, p. 133.
  28. "'ROJA' (Celluloid)". Central Board of Film Certification. 14 August 1992. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  29. "வெள்ளி விழா ஆண்டில் 'ரோஜா'" [Roja in it's Silver Jubilee year]. Dinamalar (in Tamil). 15 August 2016. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  30. "Dealing with morality in a changing India: Mani Ratnam speaks dil se". Firstpost. 14 August 2015. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  31. 1 2 "Guns and roses". India Today. 31 January 1994. Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  32. Suryanarayana, Chetan. "Why Roja is my favourite patriotic movie". Archived from the original on 20 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  33. Corliss, Richard (12 February 2005). "All-TIME 100 Movies - Roja". Time. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  34. "'Roja' on Time magazine's 10 best OST list". Daily News & Analysis. 6 November 2007. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  35. "Films Released In 1992 And Their Box Office Success". CineGoer. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  36. "40th National Film Festival" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. 1993. pp. 34, 52, 78. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  37. Vijayan, K. (14 August 1993). "Catchy songs pep up Gentleman's story". The New Straits Times. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  38. Data India. Press Institute of India. 1993. p. 804. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  39. The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. Taylor & Francis Group. 2002. p. 420. ISBN 9781857431612. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  40. 1 2 Rangan 2012, p. 291.
  41. "18th Moscow International Film Festival (1993)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  42. "King of Bollywood at the Bite the Mango film festival". Sify. 14 September 2004. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  43. "A gold mine waiting to be tapped". The Hindu. 22 August 2006. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  44. "Russian belles swoon over Big B". The Times of India. Press Trust of India. 10 October 2003. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.

Further reading

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