Roja (Eng: Rose) is a 1992 Indian Tamil-language romantic thriller film written and directed by Mani Ratnam. It stars Arvind Swami and Madhoo, with the latter in the title role. It follows a simple girl from a village in Tamil Nadu, making desperate efforts to find her husband after he is kidnapped by militants during a secret undercover mission in Jammu and Kashmir.
The film was produced by K. Balachander under his Kavithalayaa Productions and distributed by G. Venkateswaran. The film’s cinematography was handled by Santhosh Sivan, music by A.R.Rahman and editing done by Suresh Urs. The film released on 15 August 1992, to positive reviews, receiving praise for its patriotic theme and critically acclaimed soundtrack. It was featured in the Indian panorama section of the 24th IFFI.
Roja won three National Film Awards, including Best Film on National Integration, catapulting Ratnam to national acclaim. The film also gained international acclaim with its nomination for Best Film at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival. The film was re-released for international audiences in light of the growing fear of terrorist attacks across the world. It is the first in Mani Ratnam’s Trilogy of films, with the others being Bombay (1995) and Dil Se.. (1998), that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics.
A. R. Rahman debuted as a film composer with this film. He won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction, Filmfare Award for Best Music Director – Tamil and the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Music Director for his work.
In Srinagar, a Kashmiri terrorist, Wasim Khan, is captured by a team led by Colonel Rayappa. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, 18-year old Roja is a simple village girl born and brought up in Sundarapandiapuram in Tenkasi district/Bhanpur (Hindi). Roja fervently wishes that her sister Shenbagam’s marriage proposal with Rishikumar, a cryptologist working with the R.A.W. agency of Indian Intelligence, goes smoothly. Unknown to her and her family, Shenbagam is in love with the son of her maternal uncle.
When Rishi wishes to speak to Shenbagam alone, she gathers enough courage to convey this and politely asks him to reject her in front of her parents, to which he obliges. To everyone’s surprise, Rishi requests Roja’s hand in marriage instead. Being unaware of Shenbagam’s love affair, Roja is not willing to accept Rishi’s proposal as she believes that he is the best match for Shenbagam but she marries Rishi, and the couple go to live in Madras while Shenbagam marries her cousin.
Initially, Roja does not like what Rishi did, but when she learns of Shenbagam’s love story and consequent rejection of Rishi, she apologises and starts seeing him in a new light. Love blossoms and life is blissful for the couple for a short while. Meanwhile, due to the illness of his Chief, Rishi is assigned to an army communications centre in Baramulla to intercept military intelligence. The couple finds themselves in a beautiful yet alien land. Roja’s world turns upside down when Rishi is kidnapped by terrorists whose agenda is to separate Kashmir from India and free their leader, Wasim Khan, from judicial custody.
Faced with the daunting task of rescuing her husband, Roja runs from pillar to post, pleading with politicians and the military for help. Further complicating matters is the language barrier: She can’t speak their language, and they can’t speak hers. Meanwhile, Rishi, held captive by a group of terrorists led by Liaqat, an associate to Wasim Khan, tries to reason with the terrorists, about their misdirected motive for the liberation of Kashmir. Liaqat’s sister shows a little compassion towards him. Initially, when Roja’s efforts fail, the Indian government denies any negotiations with the terrorists for the release of Rishi in the media.
The angered terrorists attempt to burn an Indian flag. Rishi risks his life to put out the fire and shows the terrorist how much the country means to him, a regular citizen. When Liaqat’s younger brother, who with a few other youths from his village was sent across the border to Pakistan for training, is shot by the Pakistan Army, Liaqat’s strong belief is shaken, but he still manages to convince himself of the cause. Consequently, Roja’s efforts to apprise the politicians of her suffering and pain are successful as a minister pities her and offers to help.
Much to the chagrin of Rayappa, the government decides to release Wasim Khan in exchange for Rishi. Rishi, not wanting to be used as a pawn to release a dangerous terrorist, gets help from the sympathetic Liaqat’s sister and escapes — with Liaqat and his men chasing him. Rayappa, Roja, and other army officers get to the hostage exchange spot with Wasim Khan, but Liaqat does not show up. The Army locks Wasim Khan up in the prison.
Rishi has managed to get close to the exchange spot on his own after evading the terrorists. During his escape, Rishi subdues two terrorists. Liaqat catches up with him and holds him at gunpoint. Rishi reasons with Liaqat further and convinces him that his war is immoral. Liaqat lets Rishi go and he goes to the exchange spot. Liaqat escapes from the Indian Army while Rishi and Roja are united once again.
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Written by Mani Ratnam
Produced by K. Balachander
Starring Arvind Swami, Madhoo
Cinematography Santosh Sivan
Edited by Suresh Urs
Music by A. R. Rahman
Production Kavithalayaa Productions
Distributed by GV Films
Release date 15 August 1992
Running time 137 minutes