12 South Indian Films Inspired By Real-Life Events Before Manjummel Boys

From Visaranai to Pada, here are some of the best South Indian films whose origin stories trace back to a real incident
12 South Indian Films Inspired By Real-Life Events Before Manjummel Boys

Cinema is a reflection of society. And most stories we see on screen are those that began from some event the writer/director witnessed, experienced or read about. Besides biopics and historical films, there are several films made across industries that were inspired by real-life events. The recent release, Manjummel Boys, directed by Chidambaram S Poduval is one such film based on actual events that happened in the mysterious Guna Caves of Kodaikanal. The survival thriller narrates the story of a group of friends who are out exploring Guna Caves when one of them falls into the caves and is trapped. Here are 12 other South Indian films that were inspired by real-life events before Manjummel Boys.

12 South Indian Films Inspired By Real-Life Events Before Manjummel Boys
Manjummel Boys Uses A Nerve-Wracking Survival Thriller To Give Us One Of The Great Friendship Stories

Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru (2017, Tamil)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

The H Vinoth directorial is an edge of the seat thriller that also shows the struggles of police officers. In the film, Theeran (Karthi) and his police team set out to nab a group of dacoits who forcefully enter houses along the highway, steal valuables and kill people. They even travel to the north of India to arrest the head of the dacoit group. Although this sounds very fictional, this is based on a real incident that happened in Tamil Nadu. DGP SR Jangid headed the police team who travelled to Uttar Pradesh to put an end to the actual dacoit gang, known as the Bawaria criminal tribe. In an interview post the film's release, Jangid had praised Vinoth for the research he had done for the film. He had said that many small details like how the police encountered two dacoits while detaining 13 others were captured accurately in the film.

Ambajipeta Marriage Band (2024, Telugu)

Ambajipeta Marriage Band delves into the lives of siblings Malli and Padma from Ambajipet. Malli, a talented barber, and Padma, a teacher, find their lives intertwined with Venkata Babu, a businessman. However, their relationships face numerous obstacles, including societal biases and challenges. As the story unfolds, the film explores themes of caste discrimination, revealing unexpected twists and turns along the way. Half of this Suhas starrer is inspired by real events in director Dushyanth Katikineni’s life, while the other half is a fictionalised account set in the backdrop of Godavari district. The narrative combines these elements, blending reality with fiction to create a compelling take on caste discrimination.

19.20.21 (2023, Kannada)

Mansore is one of the only political filmmakers in the Kannada industry. The director's fourth film, 19.20.21 explored the region of Malekudia and the issues faced by the local tribe as they get tortured due to their connections with Naxals. Following the life of a student from the tribe, who is wrongfully arrested due to his communist ideologies, the film is based on a real member of the tribe who was arrested under the UAPA Act. Mansore's exploration of systemic oppression and identity politics was a much-needed expression from the industry which largely remained apolitical in films in the recent past.

A still from 19.20.21
A still from 19.20.21

Killing Veerappan (2016, Kannada)

Directed by Ram Gopal Varma, Killing Veerappan chronicles Operation Veerappan, the special operation devised by the Task Force to capture noted forest brigand Veerappan. The film puts Shiva Raj Kumar as the mastermind of the operation and follows the various plans the task force devises to capture the notorious poacher. Shivarajkumar's casting adds another layer of poetic justice in the film as his father, the legendary actor Dr. Rajkumar was famously kidnapped by Veerappan.

Traffic (2011, Malayalam)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

The film which marked a new phase in the resurgence of Malayalam cinema, is also based on a real-life event, involving a complicated heart transplant surgery that occurred in Chennai many years ago. The screenwriters Bobby and Sanjay used the kernel of the morally complex real scenario involving a heart patient awaiting transplant, and a family mourning their dead child, willing to give up their son’s heart within the genre beats of a road adventure film. Traffic, which was also revolutionary for its multiple-character approach and its non-linear screenplay, dramatized the lives of many seemingly unconnected people, connected by chance on a fateful day. 

Visaranai (2015, Tamil)

Streaming on: Netflix

Vetrimaaran’s Visaranai is a harrowing exploration of systemic oppression, which gained buzz at the time of its release due to its Oscar campaign. But there is more to this film. Based on the novel Lock Up by M Chandrakumar, the film talks about an incident where four non-native labourers in Andhra Pradesh are wrongfully arrested and forced into a confession. What follows is a depiction of the tortuous prison system and corruption in the justice and police systems. M Chandrakumar wrote the novel based on his own life experiences when back in 1983, he was arrested and tortured in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh for a crime he never committed. The film was India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2017 although it was not nominated.

Vikrithi (2019, Malayalam)

Streaming on: Netflix

Featuring a stellar cast including Suraj Venjaramoodu and Soubin Shahir, Vikrithi (2019) was a cautionary tale about the harrowing downsides of social media fame, inspired by a real-life incident. A few years back, Eldo, a speech-impaired middle-aged man was sleeping in a metro cabin and someone posted his video saying he was drunk, thus ruining his personal life and professional endeavours in the process. Director Emcy Joseph used this logline to make a low-key cautionary drama that explored the complexities of living in the aggressively insular online world, where everything and anything is fodder for news. Suraj Venjaramoodu stole the spotlight in a career-defining performance as a helpless mute man who evoked empathy without turning it into kitsch.

Virata Parvam (2022, Telugu)

Streaming on: Netflix

The film revolves around a young love stuck in between the depths of war and revolution. Vennala (Sai Pallavi) is a young woman deeply in love with Ravi Shankar, a Naxal leader, played by Rana Daggubati. Vennala grows up in a household filled with books and literature brought home by her father and stumbles upon the revolutionary poetry penned by Ravi. Convinced by the belief that love holds the ultimate power, she embarks on a quest to meet him, yearning to share her life with him forever. The character of Vennela was based on a woman named Thumu Sarala who was from Warangal district.

Aa Dinagalu (2007, Kannada)

Streaming on: Zee5

Kannada films have many gangster dramas that explore the nature of violence and the emerging underworld in the city of Bangalore. However, KM Chaithanya's Aa Dinagalu remains one of the most harrowing explorations of violence and crime in the city. Based on the famous assassination of the rowdy Kotwal Ramachandra, the film was written by Agni Sridhar, a reformed gangster who was reportedly involved in the assassination. The film is also a love story, with a relationship being the centre of conflict that leads to the assassination. The Bangalore underworld has some interesting lore that has been explored by multiple filmmakers, but Aa Dinagalu remains one of the best in the genre.

Pada (2022, Malayalam)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Kamal KM’s reactionary political thriller, was a cinematic rendition of a real hostage situation that happened on October 4th, 1996, where the District Collector of Palakkad was held captive in his office for close to nine hours by a four-man gang, belonging to the ‘Ayyankali Pada’, a pro-Maoist faction of the tribal rights group, citing the need for changes in the then proposed ‘Tribal Bill’ in the legislative assembly. The politics of Pada mirrored the dearth of efficient legislation governing the administration of tribal affairs, without resorting to ‘quasi-savior narratives’ and honky sentimentalism. Kunchako Boban was cast against the grain in this taut thriller that had great supporting performances from Vinayakan, Joju Goerge and Dileesh Pothan.

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (2012, Tamil)

Streaming on: YouTube

When a group of youngsters were playing gully cricket, one of them slipped trying to take a high catch. While he was supposed to get married in a few days, the fall led him to experience a case of retrograde amnesia. As he began to forget events that happened around him, his friends freaked out and tried to hide it from others. Balaji Tharaneetharan was one of those friends and years later, he decided to make a film based on this incident. Although his friend was back to normal the next morning, Balaji took creative liberties to make a chaotic comedy-of-errors where his friend suffers from amnesia even until his wedding day. This hilarious comedy is also one of the breakout films for Vijay Sethupathi, who played the protagonist.

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Skylab (2021, Telugu)

Streaming on: SonyLIV

Skylab might be set in a fictional Telangana village named Bandalingampally, but it revolves around the failure of the US satellite Skylab and the fears around the globe concerning its debris hitting the earth. But what Skylab does with this premise is far more interesting and beautiful. The film, directed by Vishvak Khanderao, uses this event to paint a pleasing portrait of a village, the innocent villagers, and naturally, the prejudices that exist in such a setting. In Skylab, there is a conscious attempt to create a Wes Anderson-esque world but the themes it touches are far more real, lending a unique blend to the film, both visually and thematically. The ending, when all its characters finally find their calling, as they cruise towards the earth, is simply beautiful because it reminds us of innate goodness in humanity, and it's hard to not be moved by its good-hearted nature.

A still from Skylab (2021)
A still from Skylab (2021)

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