11 Hostage Dramas From The South To Rewatch Before Beast, Film Companion

If the trailer is anything to go by, Beast is a thriller about a spy named Veeraraghavan rescuing hostages held at a shopping mall. As we wait for Nelson’s film to hit the screens tomorrow, here are interesting hostage films across south Indian languages that you can watch as a warm-up.

Tamil

Roja (1992)

Available on Amazon Prime Video and Zee5.

In Roja, Mani Ratnam fashions the Satyavan-Savitri mythology as a hostage story. Rishikumar (Arvind Swamy) is a RAW agent, sent to Jammu and Kashmir on a mission with his wife Roja (Madhubala). While there, terrorists abduct him and demand the release of their leader Wasim Khan. In an alien land, surrounded by people speaking different languages, how Roja rescues her husband forms the rest of the plot. 

Dubbed in Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and Marathi, Roja was one of the films of the pre-OTT boom era that successfully achieved Pan-Indian status.

Raavanan (2010)

In yet another mythological tale told as a hostage story by Mani Ratnam — Ramayan, this time — Veeraiya (Vikram), a respected leader of a tribal community is a Naxalite in the eyes of the police officers. To avenge the rape and murder of his sister, he abducts the wife (Aishwarya Rai as Raagini) of the senior police officer Dev (Prithviraj). 

Though an unsuccessful outing for Mani Ratnam at the time, the film has come to be loved in pockets.

Gurkha (2019)

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

The Beast trailer sparked conversations about the Yogi Babu starring Gurkha in some circles online. Centred around a similar plot, a group of ex-servicemen hijack the mall where Yogi Babu works as a security guard. When they demand a humongous ransom, the police try all ways to collect the funds but fall short. It then falls upon Yogi Babu and his dog friend to save the hostages, including the woman he loves.

Interesting as the idea might have been, the film was panned by critics and audiences alike. Watch at your own risk.

Telugu

Gaganam (2011)

Available on Disney+ Hotstar.

With an OTT market and a proportionate budget, Gaganam would have received the love it did. Directed by Radha Mohan and starring Nagarjuna, it is about a plane that is forced to land in Tirupati when a hijacking mission goes wrong. NSG Raveendra (Nagarjuna) wants the safe return of all the passengers while the terrorists want the release of Yusuf Khan by the Indian government. Who gets what, who wins and how does a motley crew of passengers save themselves and the country make the rest of the film. 

The film fantastically balances tension and comedy, particularly finding the correct context for Brahmanandam’s histrionics. The acts of bravery in the film such as the air hostess Poonam Kaur, the star hero (Babloo Prithveeraj) and his fan (Chaams) all make this film feel realistic and less of an action hero material. 

11 Hostage Dramas From The South To Rewatch Before Beast, Film Companion

Aithe (2003)

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Aithe, the debut film of Chandra Sekhar Yeleti, is a kidnap drama with a beautiful inversion of the genre’s trope. In this film, the villain Pavan Malhotra’s Irfan Khan is the one kidnapped and the ‘heroes’ are the kidnappers. The four leads are presented so weakly that even four of them combined feels like too weak a force to outweigh the villain.

Particularly heartening are the problems of the four leads which seemed so ordinary ranging — lack of money to send home, the need for a job, winning someone’s love etc. — that the film sells us the outrageous idea of kidnapping a terrorist. The title track by Keeravani is as fresh as the cast and it binds the film and helps sell the innocence and naivete of the protagonists. Shashank as Kumar and Janardhan as Shankar capture being never too quick enough for a growing amoral liberalised Hyderabad. 

But Sivaji Raja as Zaheer Khan steals the show in a film that was brave enough to use him as a cop. Although much like its protagonists the film’s worldview is naive in that the good actions are rewarded handsomely and all evil is punished, it’s a film with heart and it ages better than most films of that era. 

11 Hostage Dramas From The South To Rewatch Before Beast, Film Companion

Malayalam

Moonam Mura (1988)

Available on Disney+ Hotstar.

Arguably the best hostage drama to emerge from Malayalam is Mohanlal’s Moonam Mura in which his character has to rescue a whole group of kidnapped government officials from an abandoned palace located right in the middle of a forest. Held hostage by a group of terrorists, Mohanlal’s Ali Imran has to return to the force to navigate this hostage crisis. What made the film even better is how it also plays out like a redemption story with Imran having to prove his worth to a force that didn’t value him. 

Shyam’s score is the stuff of legends and scenes like Imran cutting through a glass window to enter the building make this character one of our coolest. It was later remade in Telugu as Magadu. The same, however, cannot be said about another Mohanlal hostage film that was released in 2009. Bhagavan, known more notoriously as the film that was shot in one day, is about a doctor who has to detonate a hostage crisis from inside a hospital. Without any tension or theatrics, it’s a film that held its viewers hostage too.

11 Hostage Dramas From The South To Rewatch Before Beast, Film Companion

Take Off  (2017)

Available on Disney+ Hotstar.

Mahesh Narayanan’s first film as director narrated a survival thriller that was based on the ordeals of Indian nurses who get stuck in Tikrit, Iraq after it gets taken over by ISIS. It is based on real events that took place in 2014. A film that goes into the details of the crisis from both inside (the nurses themselves) and the outside (the diplomatic issues surrounding it), the tense thriller was a blockbuster. But even within this episode, the film focused on the personal life of its lead Sameera while addressing a lot of the issues they face in difficult environments. 

Kandahar (2010)

Available on Disney+ Hotstar.

Although Major Ravi’s films have used sub-plots where Indian citizens have to be retrieved from tough situations, Kandahar is his first film to be described as a proper hostage drama. A fictionalised take on the Air India hijack by terrorists on the last days of 1999, the film juggles between a father-son drama and a slick actioner set inside a plane. Despite the hype it received for being Amitabh Bachchan’s big Malayalam debut, it never became either of the two films it wanted to be. 

11 Hostage Dramas From The South To Rewatch Before Beast, Film Companion

Kannada

Nishkarsha (1993)

Available on Eros Now

Starring Anant Nag, Vishnuvardhan, Prakash Raj, Suman Nagarkar among others, Nishkarsha is arguably the most popular heist film to ever hit Kannada screens. The plotline is simple: Bank robbers take customers and employees hostage when their robbery goes south. Through the course of a gripping two and half hours, the film follows the journey of the policemen and anti-terrorist squad in rescuing the hostages and capturing the perpetrators.

The film was not only a super hit in its time — also remastered and re-released in 2019 — it was critically acclaimed, winning several state awards.  

Act 1978 (2020)

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Act 1978 is an unusual hostage film, in that, a desperate pregnant woman takes the employees and visitors at a government office hostage until they pay attention to her situation. Directed by Mansore of Nathicharami fame, the film places the social decay of Kannada society within the framework of a taut thriller. The title comes from the Karnataka Civil Services Act of 1978 which protects government officials from dismissal, often misused by the corrupt.

Though headlined by Yagna Shetty, the film has an excellent supporting cast including Pramod Shetty, Achyuth Kumar, Shruti, Suresh Belawadi and Avinash among others.

One Cut Two Cut (2022)

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Danish Sait as the idiosyncratic arts and crafts teacher writes and acts in a hostage comedy. Directed by Vamsidhar Bhogaraju, One Cut Two Cut is a quirky film that brings together misfits of various kinds with their hearts in the right place. The film takes a dig at everything contemporary from Instagram to food delivery apps and veganism.

Presented by late Puneeth Rajkumar’s PRK Productions, One Cut Two Cut is a bold attempt at creating pockets of originality within Kannada cinema. The result may not always be exceptional, though.

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