‘Indian’ 1996 Movie Recap: Who Are Senapathy And Chandrabose?

Vigilante justice might have become a pretty commonplace and go-to topic in both the Bollywood and Hollywood film industries these days, with makers often relying on the sure-shot formula of creating a narrative of a common-man avenger fighting against the injustices perpetrated by the system. But back in the 90s, when director Shankar’s Indian presented a perfect amalgamation of vigilante action narrative, with typical Indian masala movie flair and a potent patriotic (non-jingoistic) undertone, it was a pioneering entry in Indian movie history in a number of aspects. Combined with Shankar’s innovative vision and visual grandeur, the versatile megastar Kamal Haasan’s brilliance as the lead, and A.R.Rahman’s soulful score, Indian was an experience to behold, which, barring some aspects, has withstood the test of time. After 28 long years, Indian 2, the sequel to Shankar’s magnum opus, is set to hit theaters, and a revisit of the first movie will allow viewers to easily get into the flow of things. 


Spoilers Ahead

Who is Senapathy?

As the movie begins, viewers are introduced to a septuagenarian elderly man, known simply as Senapathy, who orchestrates a series of murders in the city of Chennai, under the name of ‘Indian.’ Intriguing nature of the crimes prompts CBI officer Krishnaswamy to take a close look. He is quick to ascertain that the culprit is an elderly person who seemingly has extensive knowledge and proficiency in Varma Kalai, the discipline which requires meticulous understanding of the pressure points of human body. The officer also realizes that, aside from the killing methods, the only common factor among the murders was that all the victims were government officials. Using these two clues, Krishnaswamy is able to track down former freedom fighter Senapathy’s house in the village and try to trick him into revealing his true identity as the killer. 


Senapathy’s wife, Amritabhalli, proudly shares details of her ever-righteous husband’s exploits during the Indian freedom struggle, recounting how he and his troops avenged the villagers after the British’s anti-Swadeshi drive resulted in the deaths of many. Senapathy was also a core member of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army and had fought valiantly as a soldier during his tenure. Krishnaswamy realizes that the person in question has a strong, unshakable, and almost single-minded belief about justice, which might have been the reason for his recent actions. Upon speaking with Senapathy, Krishnaswamy’s realization is confirmed further, as the veteran war hero doesn’t consider any of his actions as crimes but rather sees removing corruption from the country as his national duty. 

Who is Chandrabose, aka Chandru?

Such was Senapathy’s devotion to the braveheart Netaji that he had named his and Namrata’s first child, their son, Chandrabose. Chandru is seen working as a broker in the city RTO and tries to impress a medical college student, Sapna, and her mother in order to secure a job as an inspector in the RTO, as their family has political and other connections to make it happen. Chandru is in love with Aishwarya, an animal rights activist, who later takes a conflicting course with Sapna, and the majority of their interaction is portrayed as humorous banter about winning over Chandru’s heart. Eventually, Chandru gets the job as inspector, which allows him to finally consider the future of his relationship with Aishwarya. We learn that even though he is a good person, Chandru’s moral compass is not as infallibly strong as his father, and this was a reason why the duo fell out, resulting in Chandru leaving his ancestral home in the village to make his fortune in the city. 


Why Did Senapathy Go on a Killing Spree?

At Senapathy’s home, Krishnaswamy apprehends him and tries to arrest him, but the veteran vigilante easily outmanoeuvres him, immobilizing him using his martial art tricks. He leaves the home with Amritabhalli. Buying a van and disguising it as a mortuary vehicle, Senapathy goes to the city hospital as he seeks to exact his vengeance from a doctor, and the context behind his actions gradually becomes clear. 

Senapathy fell out with Chandru after he refused to help his son to get a recommendation for a job. Chandru firmly believed that his father’s old-school belief system has no place in a world where corruption has been normalized to a scary extent, and he left his home in anguish. Chandru’s sister, Kasturi, who shared a strong bond with her brother, was severely injured in a cylinder accident, and as Senapathi and Amritabhalli rushed to seek help, they were denied in every sector, right from medical to administrative, as the righteous war veteran refused to provide any form of bribe to speed up the process. This resulted in Kasturi’s agonizing death. At her funeral, Chandru lambasts his father by blaming him for his sister’s fate and denies him the right even to perform her final rites. This entire situation allowed Senapathi to have the revelation that the hard-earned freedom of the country will never be realized until corruption is weeded out of the system, for which fear tactics will be necessary. As a result, he began his one-man war, and all the corrupt government officials he has killed so far played a role in Kasturi’s death. 


As Krishnaswamy recovers and starts hounding Senapathy and Amritabhalli, the duo reach the city hospital by coincidence. Amritabhalli reunites with Chandru, who was already being questioned for his connection with Senapathy. Taking the culprit doctor along with him, Senapathy leaves the hospital, and Amritabhalli has no choice but to stay with Chandru, Aishwarya, and Sapna. 

What Happened In the End?

Senapathy makes a live telecast of the killing of the corrupt doctor while he narrates the entire context behind his actions, and as more and more people in the country relate to the shared struggle against corruption, Senapathy becomes a cult figure in the country. The fear and inspiration tactics work wonders as people start raising their voice against corrupt bureaucracy, much to the police’s dismay. 

Previously, while working as an inspector, Chandru had taken a bribe to declare an unfit vehicle functional, and as the vehicle was refurbished to make a school bus, it got into a vicious accident that claimed the lives of dozens of schoolkids. A flustered Chandru tries to shift the responsibility off his shoulder by bribing doctors and police, and he tries to manipulate the toxicology report of the deceased bus driver by injecting alcohol in his body. Senapathy catches his son red-handed, as he wishes to deliver exactly the same justice to him as well, which he had subjected other corrupt officials to. However, Krishnaswamy was awaiting such an opportunity as he captured Senapathy in an ambush. Using his skills and wit, Senapathi frees himself and decides to chase after Chandru, who has already left for the airport, in his attempt to escape the repercussions of his actions. Senapathy learns Chandru’s present whereabouts, and as he decides to hunt his own son down, Amritabhalli and Aishwarya plead with him to spare Chandru’s life. A remorseful Senapathy speaks of the love he still has for his son, but ultimately decides to put his duty as a citizen of the nation before his family. 

After a prolonged chase involving Krishnaswamy and the police force, Senapathy manages to catch up to Chandru on the airport runway and, with a broken heart, plunges his knife into his son’s heart for a quick death. However, as the vehicle Chandru and Senapathy were boarding, explodes after a collision, Senapathy is presumably killed as well, much to Krishnaswamy’s dismay, who wanted to bring the vigilante to justice. 


Sometime later, Krishnaswamy observes the footage of the collision, which suggests that Senapathy might have survived at the final moment, and as Senapathy indeed calls him from Hong Kong, Krishnaswamy’s suspicion is confirmed further. Senapathy asks the officer to spread the news of his survival among the countrymen so that the fear persists among the corrupt while the mass remains hopeful for retribution, and he promises that he will return whenever his country needs him in the future. 

Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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