Karnan is a 1964 Indian Tamil language epic-historical drama film produced and directed by B. R. Panthulu. It features Sivaji Ganesan leading an ensemble cast consisting of N. T. Rama Rao, S. A. Ashokan, R. Muthuraman, Devika, Savitri and M. V. Rajamma. The film is based on the story of Karna, a character from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He is born to an unmarried mother Kunti who abandons him in the Ganges to avoid embarrassment. The child is discovered and adopted by a charioteer. Karnan does not want to follow his foster father’s profession, and instead, becomes a warrior. He then befriends Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince, eventually setting the initial grounds of the Kurukshetra War, where he will join Duryodhana to fight against his own half-brothers, the Pandavas.
Karnan, which was officially launched in 1963, was Ganesan’s costliest production. It was the first Tamil film to be shot in the palaces of Jaipur and the war sequences were filmed in Kurukshetra, which featured several soldiers from the Indian Army. The film’s original soundtrack was composed by M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy, while the lyrics were written by Kannadasan. The dialogues were written by Sakthi T. K. Krishnasamy, and the screenplay by A. S. Nagarajan. Karnan was considered a milestone in Tamil cinema as it brought together the then leading actors of South Indian cinema, Ganesan and Rama Rao.
The film was dubbed in Telugu as Karna, and also in Hindi as Dhaan Veer Karna. Karnan was released on 14 January 1964, during the festival occasion of Pongal, and received critical acclaim, with Ganesan and Rama Rao’s performances being widely lauded. Despite this, it became a commercial failure, but ran for over 100 days in some theatres. The film also won the Certificate of Merit for the Third Best Feature Film at the 11th National Film Awards. A digitised version of Karnan was released in March 2012 to critical and commercial success, eventually establishing a trend of re-releasing digitised versions of old films in Tamil cinema.
Directed by B. R. Panthulu
Produced by B. R. Panthulu
Screenplay by A. S. Nagarajan
Starring Sivaji Ganesan, N. T. Rama Rao, Savitri, Devika, M. V. Rajamma, S. A. Ashokan, R. Muthuraman
Music by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy
Cinematography V. Ramamurthy
Edited by R. Devarajan
Production Padmini Pictures
Release dates 14 January 1964
Running time 180 minutes