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Roja has been one of the few movies to date which has sought to explore the Kashmir problem and portray it from the common man's point of view (a technique used in Bombay too). Directed by Mani Ratnam, it went on to win the National Award for best film on national integration. Roja stars Arvind Swamy, Madhubala (Madhoo to Hindi cinema), Nasser, Janakaraj and Pankaj Kapoor. Music is by A.R.Rahman who stormed the music industry with his debut, winning in the process, the national best music director award. Cinematography by Santosh Sivan and produced by K.Balachander's Kavithaalaya.
The film opens with the arrest of a top Kashmir militant, Wasim Khan in a military raid. After the titles, we see Arvind Swamy (Rishi), a cryptologist, coming to a village in Tirunelveli to seek a bride from that village. The bride is Madhubala's (Roja) elder sister. However its love at first sight for Arvind when he sees Madhubala. Adding to it, Madhubala's sister tells Arvind that she loves someone else and cannot live without him. Everyone is shocked when Arvind announces that he will marry only Madhubala. But of course there is no other go and Madhubala marries Arvind unwillingly and even accuses him of rejecting her sister. The two return to Madras where Arvind lives. Then Arvind is asked to go on an important decoding assignment to Kashmir because his boss is unable to do so. Arvind and Madhubala leave for Kashmir.
In Kashmir, their movements are tracked by the terrorists who plan to abduct him. Meanwhile the twosome enjoy Kashmir on their honeymoon. At one of the temples there, Madhubala meets Janakaraj who is an astrologer. Arvind goes looking for her and reaches the temple when the terrorists strike. He is kidnapped and Madhubala is left behind, unable to do anything. She tries to talk to the local police but due to linguistic problems she is unable to do much. The terrorists meanwhile tell Arvind that he will be released only if the Government releases Wasim Khan. Among the terrorists is a Tamil speaking terrorist, played excellently by Pankaj Kapoor. (Tamil speaking on account of studying Agriculture in Coimbatore !). Meanwhile Roja camps in the police station and insists on meeting the chief. Enter Nasser as Colonel Kariappa (I think !). He pacifies her and promises to do everything possible.
The terrorists ask Arvind to speak into a cassette recorder and say that if the Govt doesnt release Wasim Khan, the terrorists will kill him. He refuses to do so and is beaten badly. The next day his photograph with the terrorists appears in the papers and Madhubala approaches Nasser. An operation is mounted but by the time the military reaches the terrorists' hideout, they escape. Madhubala discovers that Arvind is alive by reading "Kaadal Rojaave" engraved on the floor which Arvind did while singing the same song ! Madhubala insists on meeting Wasim Khan in jail but of course, there isn't much use. Meanwhile the Govt decides that it will not release Wasim Khan. Now the terrorists burn the Indian Flag and Arvind rushes to save it by draping himself with it and manages to extinguish the fire by rolling on the ground (Seems he read his Primary school science rather well !!).
Pankaj Kapoor sends his brother and some other youngsters for training into Pakistan. But the Pakistan military kills them all and this has a deep effect on Pankaj Kapoor. Meanwhile Madhubala approaches the minister and asks him to do something and he promises that he will talk again with the Government. The government relents and agrees to trade Wasim Khan for Arvind Swamy. Meanwhile, with the help of Pankaj Kapoor's sister, Arvind manages to escape. When the time comes for the exchange, the terrorists drop a pile of Arvind's clothes, making it appear as though he had been killed. Arvind runs and runs and runs "Odinaan Odinaan ... Odikonde Irundhaan". Finally when he does get near the checkpost where the military is there (don't know how they got wind of it!), he bumps into Pankaj Kapoor. By then Pankaj has reformed and he lets Arvind go. "Oru Theevaravaadhiya Maathitte Nee" (You have reformed a terrorist) is his line. And Arvind and Madhubala happily reunite and "All's well that ends well"
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