Dulquer Salmaan plays Lieutenant Ram in the period film Sita Ramam, which hits the theatres tomorrow. Also starring Rashmika Mandanna and Mrunal Thakur, the film narrates the love story of Ram and Sita Mahalakshmi (Mrunal) unfolding amidst a picturesque Kashmir in the 60s.
This is not the first time the actor has donned the army uniform. Dulquer played Rudra Ramachandran, an army officer in Solo. While Rudra’s portions did not detail his army experiences, the trailer of Sita Ramam hints at portraying Ram’s journey in the Madras regiment, set against the snowy mountains of Kashmir.
Over the years, several actors have played army officers in South Indian films. For instance, Mohanlal’s popular Major Mahadevan has appeared in a series of four Malayalam films between 2006 and 2017. On the other hand, late actor Puneeth Rajkumar’s swansong James, sees him play a robust Indian Army Major. As we await the release of Indian cinema’s latest period romance, let’s take a look at some of the finest films in the recent past that featured south actors in military camouflage.
Vijay in Thuppakki
The end credits of the film begin with the lines, “Dedicated to members of The Indian Army and Their Families.” Accompanied by the song ‘Poi Varavaa’, the film’s final sequences details the personal sacrifices of the Indian army. At the center of the story is Jagadish Dhanapal (Vijay), an intelligence officer in the Indian army. Perhaps, the title of its Hindi remake best describes the film – Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty.
The film takes you through the struggles of an army man who tries to destroy the sleeper cells in Mumbai city when he is back in town on a one-month break. With a well-crafted screenplay, the film manages to keep you hooked, especially in the sequences where Jagadish executes his plan to nab the sleeper cells. From small scenes such as the one where Jagadish narrates the story of a fellow army man who lost his life to Jagadish’s major decision of sacrificing his life in the climax, the film details the grit of army officers. Moments such as these arguably make Thuppakki one of the best commercial entertainers that is set against the Indian army backdrop.
Puneeth Rajkumar in James
Considered a fitting tribute to power star Puneeth Rajkumar, the film has him play an Indian Army Major. While he is initially introduced as Santhosh aka James, a bodyguard at a security agency, a flashback reveals his true identity as an army man. When his IAS officer friend is murdered in an attack by smugglers, James, who managed to escape death, pursues a secret mission to bring down a crime syndicate.
Allu Arjun in Na Peru Surya, Na Illu India and Sarainodu
Allu Arjun has played an army officer in not one but two films: Na Peru Surya, Na Illu India and Sarainodu. While his journey begins as an army man in both films, he leaves the military and takes on different pursuits. In Na Peru Surya, Na Illu India, Surya is a soldier in the army and dreams of being posted at the military control line between Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir. However, he has severe anger management issues because of which he is court-martialed. He then meets up with a top psychologist — who happens to be his estranged father — to get a signature of approval from him to join the army again.
In Sarainodu, he plays Gana aka Ganesh who leaves the army to punish crooks who escape justice. As a vigilante, his journey crosses paths with different politicians, and he goes on to locks horns with the Chief Minister’s son.
Mohanlal in the Major Mahadevan film series (Kirthi Chakra, Kurukshetra)
Mohanlal initially essayed the role of Major Mahadevan in Kirthi Chakra in 2006. He then appeared in its sequels Kurukshetra (2008), Kandahar (2010), and 1971: Beyond Borders (2017). The character of Major Mahadevan is well known for an honest portrayal of an army man.
The first film sees Major Mahadevan as part of the National Security Guards (NSG) in the Indian army, who leads a group of commandos in a counter-terrorism mission. When terrorists take hostage, he and his group of army men disarm the missile and kill them.
The second installment is set against the backdrop of the Kargil war and traces the face-off between Major Mahadevan and his Pakistani counterpart. The sequels follow his journey during different missions. The films are directed by Major Ravi, who is a retired officer of the Indian Army and a former NSG commando. The four films are said to have been inspired by his own expansive experiences in the army.
Adivi Sesh in Major
Major is a unique film in the list of army officers because it is a biopic of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was martyred in the Taj Mumbai attacks in 2008. Adivi Sesh, through his performance as Major Unnikrishnan, pulls in audiences to explore the soldier’s personal and professional tales of courage. Apart from acting in the film, Adivi Sesh has also penned the screenplay.
The film explores the passion and dedication Unnikrishnan held for the army, and details how he prioritized his duty over everything else in life. He was an NSG training officer and chose to fight the terrorists in the Taj Hotel, even when training officers hardly get involved in rescue missions.
Kamal Haasan in Vishwaroopam 2
Vishwaroopam 2 was both a prequel and sequel to Vishwaroopam. The film narrates Kamal Haasan’s RAW agent Major Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri’s army days and his take-down of Omar, a militant. Wisam is on an important mission to bust the sleeper cell of AlQaeda in the US.
And during the course of his mission, Wisam goes undercover and joins Omar’s group. Although he is caught red-handed sooner than later, Wisam manages to escape and stop several other attacks on New York City. Andrea Jeremiah and Shekhar Kapur also play army officials Ashmita and Colonel Jagannathan, respectively.
The army sequences in the film were shot at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai, which is said to have provided the team the required training and guidance.
Mahesh Babu in Sarileru Neekevvaru
Mahesh Babu plays Ajay Krishna, Para SF in the Indian army, among a group of special force battalions in the army. During one of the shootouts, when a fellow army man is injured, Ajay is sent on a mission to be the bearer of bad news to the injured man’s family. Here, the film pauses depiction of his army exploits, and the scene soon shifts to Kurnool as Ajay Krishna and another colleague of his take on the mission.
However, when he learns about a major scam in the city, Ajay decides to uncover the corrupt activities of an MLA in Kurnool. When the injured army man is declared dead, Ajay Krishna helps his family arrange for his sister’s marriage, before heading back to Kashmir to rejoin the army.
Sudeep in Hebbuli
Sudeep plays Ram, a Para Commando Captain in Hebbuli. The film begins with him rescuing three doctors from a relief camp captured by terrorists. However, it then shifts focus to Ram’s personal journey when his brother Sathyamurthy, an IAS officer is declared dead by suicide. But Ram is suspicious of the entire incident. He then goes on to uncover that his brother was actually murdered, and seeks revenge before returning to the Indian army.
Suriya in Vaaranam Aayiram
Suriya plays a dual role in Vaaranam Aayiram as Krishnan and his son Suriya. The latter goes on to become a commissioned officer in the Indian army. The film opens with Krishnan’s death. And Suriya is on his way to Kashmir on a rescue mission when he learns of his father’s demise. The film then takes us through Suriya’s memories as he gets nostalgic of his younger days and the impact his father had on them.
The last 30 minutes of the film show us glimpses of his missions in the army, which include defusing bombs, killing terrorists, and rescuing innocent people. Once the flashbacks ends, we see Suriya internalize his personal struggles and lead the rescue mission. He successfully saves a captured journalist before returning home.
Prithviraj in Picket 43
Written and directed by Major Ravi, the film narrates the tale of an Indian army soldier, Hareendranth Nair (Prithviraj), who is stationed on a defensive line forward (Picket) in Kashmir. His job is to provide a timely warning when an enemy army advances. The film also traces his friendship with a Pakistani soldier.
Picket 43 focuses on Hareendranth’s relationship with a dog named Baccardi – in whom he finds solace – and his friendship with Mushraf (Javed Jaffrey), who is on the picket of the Pakistani army. Towards the end of the film, we see their friendship bloom despite their nations’ differences during a shootout at the border.