Veerapandiya Kattabomman (English: Kattabomman, the Brave Warrior) is a 1959 Indian Tamil-language biographical war film directed B. R. Panthulu. The film's screenplay was written by Ma. Po. Sivagnanam while its story and dialogue were written by Sakthi T. K. Krishnasamy. The film features Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, Padmini, S. Varalakshmi, and Ragini in the lead roles, with V. K. Ramasamy and Javar Seetharaman in pivotal supporting parts. The film's soundtrack and score were composed by G. Ramanathan.
Produced and distributed by Panthulu under his banner, Padmini Pictures, Veerapandiya Kattabomman is loosely based on the story of the 18th century South Indian chieftain of the same name, who rose in rebellion against the East India Company. The film was an adaptation of the play Kattabomman, performed by Sivaji Ganesan's troupe. Most of the film was shot in Jaipur. Veerapandiya Kattabomman is notable for being the first Tamil film to be released in Technicolor.
The film's premiere was held in London on 10 May 1959, and had its release in Tamil Nadu six days later. It became a critical and commercial success, earning cult status in Tamil cinema. The film had a theatrical run of 175 days. It was dubbed and released in Telugu as Veerapandiya Kattabrahmanna in 1959, and in Hindi as Amar Shaheed in 1960.
The film was the first in Tamil cinema to receive international awards for Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Music Director at the 1960 Afro-Asian Film Festival in Cairo. It also won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil under the "Certificate of Merit" section. Veerapandiya Kattabomman was re-released in 1984, and a digitally restored version was released on 21 August 2015. The film was received successfully on both the occasions.
Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the king of Panchalankurichi, is a brave fighter and a devotee of his family deity, Murugan of Thiruchendur. On receiving news of a robbery in his territory, Kattabomman and his retinue set out incognito to capture the robbers. When they are captured, they confess that they had been hired by the British to create unrest in Kattabomman's domain. They also tell him that the British had enticed the neighbouring chieftain, Ettappan, to help them in their endeavour to annexe Panchalankurichi.
At Chayalkudi, a village near Panchalankurichi, lives Vellaiyammal, who vows to marry the man who tames her pet bull. She takes her bull to participate in a Jallikattu game held at Panchalankurichi under Kattabomman's patronage. All those who attempt to tame the bull fail. At Kattabomman's call, his commander-in-chief, Vellaiyathevan, subdues the bull and wins Vellaiyammal's love. Later, Kattabomman learns of their love and has them marry.
Kattabomman receives a message from W. C. Jackson, the collector of Tirunelveli, who demands a meeting with him at Ramanathapuram to discuss the payment of his tribute. Captain Davison, Kattabomman's British friend, advises him to go and see Jackson. Jackson, finding that Kattabomman has come to see him with his troops, demands to meet him alone. At the meeting, Jackson insults him and orders his arrest. Though surrounded by the British troops, Kattabomman fights and escapes, but his Minister, Thanapathi Sivasubramaniam Pillai, is captured by the British.
Some time later, Pillai is released. He brings news that Jackson has been transferred back to England on Davison's recommendation. At Kattabomman's court, a British messenger sent by Colonel Ooshington, Tirunelveli's new collector, reports that Pillai and his men have looted their granaries and killed their men at Srivaikuntam. Pillai justifies his act, saying that he instructed his men to do it because of the famine conditions prevalent in their kingdom.
Ashamed of Pillai's act, Kattabomman accuses him of injustice. Pillai apologises and offers himself as a prisoner to the British, but Kattabomman refuses to hand him over; instead he offers money to the British as compensation for the looted rice. Ooshington does not agree and, with Major Bannerman's and Ettappan's help, incites the neighbouring rulers to attack Kattabomman. Bannerman is placed in charge of the British troops. He and Ettappan plan to attack Panchalankurichi when the people are away attending a festival in Tiruchendur. Kattabomman's spy Sunderalingam, overhears this and informs him; he prepares for battle.
On the day of the battle, Vellaiyammal pleads with Vellaiyathevan not to go because the previous night she had a nightmare, which was full of evil omens. Ignoring her entreaties, Vellaiyathevan sets out, and is killed in the ensuing battle. Vellaiyammal, on learning of his death, kills the man who killed him, avenging her husband's death.
She finds Vellaiyathevan's corpse and, overcome by grief, dies on it. Bannerman's troops attack Panchalankurichi with heavy artillery and Kattabomman's army suffers badly. Kattabomman is wounded in the neck, but is saved by his brother, Oomaithurai. Sensing that the fort cannot survive another cannon barrage, Kattabomman and Oomaithurai flee to the adjoining kingdom of Kovilpatti.
Pillai, disguising himself as Kattabomman, misleads the British soldiers who are on Kattabomman's trail. From Kovilpatti, Kattabomman and Oomaithurai flee to Pudukkottai. Thondaimaan, the king of Pudukkottai, is ordered by the British to capture Kattabomman and Oomaithurai. Fearing the British, Thondaimaan captures the two and hands them over. While Oomaithurai is jailed, Kattabomman faces a trial by the British and is hanged from a tamarind tree at Kayatharu.