Mullum Malarum

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Mullum Malarum
Mullum Malarum Poster.jpg
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Directed by J. Mahendran
Produced byVenu Chettiar
V. Mohan
Screenplay byJ. Mahendran
Based onMullum Malarum
by Uma Chandran
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Balu Mahendra
Edited byD. Vasu
Ananthi Films
Release date
15 August 1978
Running time
143–145 minutes [lower-alpha 1]

Mullum Malarum (lit. The Thorn and the Flower [or] Even a Thorn Will Bloom) is a 1978 Indian Tamil-language drama film written and directed by J. Mahendran. Produced by Venu Chettiar and V. Mohan, the film stars Rajinikanth, Sarath Babu, Fatafat Jayalaxmi and Shoba. It marks Mahendran's directorial debut and is based on Uma Chandran's novel of the same name, which serialised in the Tamil magazine Kalki . Mullum Malarum tells the story of Kali, a winch operator who dotes on his sister Valli and clashes with Kumaran, his superior, at a power plant.

Tamil language language

Tamil is a Dravidian language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and by the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lankan Moors, Douglas, and Chindians. Tamil is an official language of two countries: Sri Lanka and Singapore and official language of the Indian state Tamil Nadu. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. It is used as one of the languages of education in Malaysia, along with English, Malay and Mandarin. Tamil is spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

In film and television, drama is a genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular subgenre, such as "police crime drama", "political drama", "legal drama", "historical period drama", "domestic drama", or "comedy-drama". These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

J. Mahendran Indian film director

J. Mahendran, is an Indian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor in the Tamil film industry. Mahendran is regarded as one of the greatest film makers of Tamil cinema and has influenced several filmmakers of the generations followed. Particularly, he has been an inspiration for legendary directors like Mani Ratnam, shankar and he has made great influence in the style and mannerism of super star Rajinikanth.


Production was complicated by Chettiar's opposition to cast Rajinikanth as the protagonist because of his dark skin and typecasting as a villain at the time, but Mahendran refused to direct the film without the actor. Since Mahendran had no previous directing experience, cinematographer Balu Mahendra, who was already an established director, assisted him with the screenplay, dialogue, camera angles, casting and editing. The film substantially deviates from the novel, which Mahendran only partly read. Filming lasted for about 30 days, taking place primarily in Sringeri and also in Ooty. The film was edited by D. Vasu, and the soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

In television, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for them to find work playing other characters.

Balu Mahendra Sri Lankan film director

Balanathan Benjamin Mahendran, commonly known as Balu Mahendra, was an Indian cinematographer, director, screenwriter and film editor who worked predominantly in Tamil cinema. Born into a Sri Lankan Tamil household, he developed a passion for photography and literature at a young age. After witnessing the shoot of David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) during a school trip in Sri Lanka, he was drawn towards filmmaking. He graduated from the London University and started his career as a draughtsman with the Sri Lankan Government. In 1966, he moved to India and gained admission to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to pursue a course in motion picture photography. Upon completion of his diploma, he entered Malayalam cinema as a cinematographer in the early 1970s.

Sringeri Temple town in Karnataka, India

Sringeri also called Sri KshetraShringeri is a hill town and Taluk headquarters located in Chikkamagaluru district in the state of Karnataka, It is the site of the first maṭha established by Adi Shankara, Hindu theologian and exponent of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, in the 8th century CE It is located on the banks of the river Tungā.

Mullum Malarum was released on 15 August 1978, India's Independence Day. Although it opened to tepid box-office earnings, positive reviews from critics and favourable word of mouth helped make it a success, with a theatrical run of over 100 days. Rajinikanth's performance as Kali received critical praise, and is widely considered the best performance of his career. The film won the Filmfare Award for Best Film – Tamil, the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Film and Rajinikanth won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize for his performance.

Independence Day (India) national holiday in India

Independence Day is annually celebrated on 15 August, as a national holiday in India commemorating the nation's independence from the United Kingdom on 15 August 1947, the UK Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act 1947 transferring legislative sovereignty to the Indian Constituent Assembly. India still retained King George VI as head of state until its transition to full republican constitution. India attained independence following the Independence Movement noted for largely non-violent resistance and civil disobedience led by the Indian National Congress (INC). Independence coincided with the partition of India, in which the British India was divided along religious lines into the Dominions of India and Pakistan; the partition was accompanied by violent riots and mass casualties, and the displacement of nearly 15 million people due to religious violence. On 15 August 1947, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi. On each subsequent Independence Day, the incumbent Prime Minister customarily raises the flag and gives an address to the nation.

Word of mouth or viva voce, is the passing of information from person to person by oral communication, which could be as simple as telling someone the time of day. Storytelling is a common form of word-of-mouth communication where one person tells others a story about a real event or something made up. Oral tradition is cultural material and traditions transmitted by word of mouth through successive generations. Storytelling and oral tradition are forms of word of mouth that play important roles in folklore and mythology. Another example of oral communication is oral history—the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information, based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker. Oral history preservation is the field that deals with the care and upkeep of oral history materials collected by word of mouth, whatever format they may be in.

The Filmfare Best Film Award is given by the Filmfare magazine as part of its annual Filmfare Awards South for Tamil (Kollywood) films.

Mullum Malarum, a breakthrough for Rajinikanth as an actor and a milestone of Tamil cinema, focused prominently on visuals without excessive melodrama and other Tamil cinema conventions that Mahendran disliked. The film's success inspired remakes in 1979 ( Venalil Oru Mazha in Malayalam) and 1985 ( Pyari Behna in Hindi). It was also dubbed in Telugu as Mullu Puvvu, and released in 1979.

<i>Venalil Oru Mazha</i> 1979 film by Sreekumaran Thampi

Venalil Oru Mazha is a 1979 Indian Malayalam-language film, directed by Sreekumaran Thampi and produced by S. Kumar. The film stars Madhu, Jayan, Sukumari and Srividya in the lead roles. The film has musical score by M. S. Viswanathan. The film was a remake of the Tamil film Mullum Malarum

Malayalam language spoken in Kerala and Lakshadweep of India

Malayalam is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India. Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) and is spoken by 38 million people worldwide. Malayalam is also spoken by linguistic minorities in the neighbouring states; with significant number of speakers in the Nilgiris, Kanyakumari, and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu, and Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka. Due to Malayali expatriates in the Persian Gulf, the language is also widely spoken in Gulf countries.

<i>Pyari Behna</i> 1985 film directed by Bapu

Pyari Behna is a 1985 Hindi-language Indian drama film directed by Bapu, starring Mithun Chakraborty, Padmini Kolhapure, Vinod Mehra, Tanvi Azmi and Shakti Kapoor. The film is a remake of the 1978 Tamil film Mullum Malarum.


Kali is a winch operator at a village power plant. Although notorious for his escapades and self-aggrandising ways, he also does good deeds for the local community. Kali and his younger sister Valli, to whom he is devoted, were orphaned during childhood and have no close family. When a poor wanderer, Manga, and her aged mother arrive in the village, Valli helps them set up a home. Although Manga develops a liking for Kali, he is repelled by her fondness for food.

Winch device used to pull in or let out a rope or cable

A winch is a mechanical device that is used to pull in or let out or otherwise adjust the tension of a rope or wire rope. In its simplest form, it consists of a spool attached to a hand crank. Winches are the basis of such machines as tow trucks, steam shovels and elevators. More complex designs have gear assemblies and can be powered by electric, hydraulic, pneumatic or internal combustion drives. It might include a solenoid brake and/or a mechanical brake or ratchet and pawl which prevents it unwinding unless the pawl is retracted.

The power plant's new supervising engineer is Kumaran, an austere-but-fair boss. His relationship with Kali is difficult, worsening after he sees Kali's unruly side in a series of incidents (including allowing people to ride the winch, in violation of power-plant rules). Kali calls Kumaran "Law Point" because of his strict adherence to the rules. One day, when Kali is on duty, Manga teases him; he abandons the winch and chases her. In his absence, an emergency arises at the plant. The following day, Kumaran suspends Kali from his job for negligence of duty, ignoring his protests and threats.

Kali gets drunk and passes out in the road; a lorry runs over his left arm, which is later amputated. He cannot do his job with only one arm, and is fired. Unemployed, Kali directs his anger and frustration at Kumaran, and Manga feels guilty because she is responsible for Kali's plight. At Valli's request, she marries Kali and takes care of him.

Truck type of large automobile

A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration; smaller varieties may be mechanically similar to some automobiles. Commercial trucks can be very large and powerful, and may be configured to mount specialized equipment, such as in the case of fire trucks, concrete mixers, and suction excavators.

Kumaran is attracted to Valli, and asks Kali for permission to marry her. Because he hates his former boss, Kali arranges for Valli to marry Murugesa, a philandering grocer. Although Manga opposes Kali's decision, he stubbornly refuses her plea to let his sister marry Kumaran. She decides to arrange Valli's marriage with Kumaran without Kali's consent.

On the day Murugesa is supposed to marry Valli at his house, Kali learns that the entire village has left to attend Valli's marriage to Kumaran. He intercepts Valli's group, reminding her that he loves her and how difficult it would be to live without her. Although everyone else ignores him, Valli runs to him and assures him that she would never abandon him. Relieved that Valli still respects him, Kali then tells Kumaran that although he still dislikes his former boss, he and Valli have his permission to marry.




Mullum Malarum was a novel written by Uma Chandran, and serialised in the Tamil magazine, Kalki . [3] The novel, about the love between a brother and sister, [4] won the first prize in Kalki's novel competition for the magazine's silver jubilee in 1966. [5] [6] Screenplay and dialogue writer J. Mahendran read only part of Uma Chandran's novel, but was particularly impressed by the winch operator Kali and his affection for his sister. [7] He wrote a screenplay based on the novel, but the story substantially diverged from the novel's plot, as Mahendran decided to make a minimalist, visually-focused film without melodrama, overacting, excessive dialogue or duets. [8] [9] Mahendran claimed he wrote the screenplay as if it was a "personal diary" of his thoughts. [8] A significant difference is that in the novel, Kali loses his arm to a tiger; in Mahendran's screenplay, he loses it when he is run over by a lorry. [10] The novel also ends with the deaths of Kali and his wife Manga, which Mahendran did not include in his screenplay. [11]

When Venu Chettiar of Ananthi Films offered Mahendran to direct his next production, Mahendran outlined Mullum Malarum, which he described as a brother-sister story; Chettiar became excited, and agreed to produce it as a film without hearing the complete story. [12] Adapting Uma Chandran's novel for the screen with the same title, Mahendran made his directorial debut. [13] Chettiar produced Mullum Malarum along with V. Mohan, although only Mohan's name appeared in the opening credits. [14] Ramasamy was signed as art director, and D. Vasu as editor. [14] Mahendran initially wanted Ramachandra Babu to be the cinematographer, but he did not accept the offer; he then suggested Ashok Kumar, who was unable to work on the film. [15] [16] Mahendran was unable to find a worthy cinematographer until actor Kamal Haasan introduced him to Balu Mahendra, who agreed to work on the film, making his debut in Tamil cinema. [17] [18]


Chettiar disagreed with Mahendran's desire to cast Rajinikanth in the lead role because of the actor's dark skin and typecasting as a villain. [19] Mahendran refused to direct the film if Rajinikanth was not cast—not because Rajinikanth was a close friend, but because he felt that the actor was perfect as the character; Chettiar reluctantly agreed. [20] [19] He was still unhappy with the director's decision, and called it "ridiculous" and "preposterous" every time he visited the set. [21] Rajinikanth, dismayed at Chettiar's lack of confidence in his acting, promised to "put his heart and soul into the character Kali". [21]

Shoba was cast as Kali's sister Valli, Sarath Babu as the engineer Kumaran and Fatafat Jayalaxmi as Manga. [1] Inspired by Sringeri's marine environment, Mahendran characterised Manga as a "foodie who loves fish". [9] Latha said that she had to refuse a part in the film due to scheduling conflicts. [22] Mahendran cast Venniradai Moorthy as Murugesa, the philandering grocer, [23] and Samikannu was given a role as one of Kali's henchmen. [24] Male supporting roles were played by S. A. Kannan, Pazhaniyappan, Dasaradan, Rangamani, Sarathi, Santhanam, [14] Kumarimuthu, [25] Jothi Shanmugham, Chellappa, Amalraj, Poondigiri and Vairam Krishnamoorthy. Female supporting roles were played by Santhamma, Jayakumari, Vijaya, Jaya, Pushpa, Radha, Prema, Vasanthi, Leela and Kala. [14]


Mullum Malarum was filmed on 35 mm ORWO colour film. [26] [27] It was shot primarily in Sringeri, with additional filming in Ooty; filming lasted about 30 days. [28] [29] Chettiar initially refused to let Mahendran shoot in Sringeri, citing financial constraints, but Mahendran's friend Pazhaniappan convinced Chettiar and agreed to pay for the Sringeri shooting schedule. [30] Balu Mahendra said he avoided incorporating the usual hero-heroine dancing into the film because he thought it was like "watching two drunken monkeys dancing". Instead, he allocated music to the background when the lead characters expressed their emotions. [31] Since Mahendran had no previous directing experience, Mahendra, who was already an established director, assumed responsibility and responded to Mahendran's suggestions for screenplay, dialogue, camera angles, casting and editing. [4]

Chettiar held up production by not financing a scene set before the song "Senthazham Poovil", and told Mahendran to release the film without that scene. When Kamal Haasan asked Chettiar if he did not mind anyone else financing the scene, Chettiar agreed, and Haasan himself financed the scene. [17] [32] Sarath Babu was originally supposed to lip sync the full "Senthazham Poovil" scene with him and Shoba, but Mahendra and Mahendran agreed on a montage after the actor performed a line or two, much to Babu's disappointment. [4] Chettiar was puzzled by the finished film's lack of dialogue, since he hired Mahendran as director due to his success as a screenplay and dialogue writer and did not expect such a visually-focused film. [33] [19] Mullum Malarum's final length was 3,915.46 metres (12,846.0 ft). [34]


Film critic Naman Ramachandran notes that Uma Chandran's novel and Mahendran's film metaphorically liken the relationship between siblings to flowers, which need thorns to protect them. [35] According to another critic, Baradwaj Rangan, "Mullum Malarum" can be read in two ways: "the thorn and the flower", which describes Kali and Valli; and "even a thorn will bloom", which points to the end where Kali softens. [36] Mahendran considers the latter the real meaning of the film's title. [37] S. Rajanayagam wrote in the 2015 book Popular Cinema and Politics in South India: The Films of MGR and Rajinikanth that Kali is a thorn and a flower throughout the film: an "angry young man with a kind heart" who does not admit mistakes, despite having committed acts such as breaking car headlights and allowing people to ride the winch, in violation of the power plant's rules. [38] He noted that films like Mullum Malarum stereotype the poor as representing "all that is pristine and traditional", adding that "The overall socio-economic system, which has made them poor, is unchallenged. Within the system, however, the hero will be 'richer' in terms of his moral uprightness." [39]

In their 2012 book Grand Brand Rajini, P. C. Balasubramanian and Ram N. Ramakrishnan describe Kali as "the loving brother, the angry worker and despondent physically challenged person rolled into one." [40] The Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen compared the film to Pasamalar (1961) for providing "a low-key version of the orphaned brother and sister theme". [1] According to French film historian Yves Thoraval, the film's theme is "the Oedipal [ sic ] possessiveness of a married brother for his younger sister". [41] Ramachandran notes that Kali, like Rajinikanth's character in Bairavi (1978), is responsible for his sister's welfare. Unlike Bairavi, the siblings in Mullum Malarum are not separated; this leads Kali's protectiveness of Valli to the brink of obsession. In one scene, after he violently berates her during the day, he puts henna on her feet at night while she sleeps. [35]

Ramachandran regards egotism as one of Mullum Malarum's central themes, with Kali (the community's alpha male) surrounded by sycophants who compliment him. [42] He plays God, allowing the villagers to ride the winch (saving them the exertion of walking), and is jolted when supervising engineer Kumaran arrives. As a subordinate, Kali cannot oppose Kumaran; his frustration threatens to erupt several times before it finally does, and he is suspended. His feelings can be summed up in the line, "Raman aandalum, Ravanan aandalum, enakku oru kavalai illai, naan thaan da en manasukku raaja" ("It doesn't matter whether Rama or Ravana is reigning, I am king of my conscience"), resisting Kumaran's authoritarian yoke. [42] J. Ramki, author of Rajni: Sapthama? Sagaapthama?, noted that Rajinikanth expressed resentment of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the film with his lyrics. [43]

According to Cinema Vision India, the film's theme is "that people changeand they must". [44] Ramachandran notes that when Kali's arm is amputated, he feels helpless and emasculated; Kumaran, his bête noire , becomes an easy target. Kali refuses to see the benefits of his sister marrying a wealthy, educated man (even when Valli and his wife Manga ask for his consent), but sees the error of his ways when Valli abandons her wedding preparations to join her brother: "My sister has shown all of you that I am the most important person in her life. I need only that happiness for the rest of my life. And it is with that pride and arrogance that I give my permission for my sister to marry." [45]


Mullum Malarum's soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics by Panchu Arunachalam, Gangai Amaran and Kannadasan. [46] Unlike most Tamil films of that time, the film does not include any duets. [47] "Adi Penney" is set in the carnatic raga known as Madhyamavati. [48] "Raman Aandaalum" is set in Mayamalavagowla, [49] and "Senthazham Poovil" is set in Bowli. [50] Elements of "Raman Aandaalum" were later used in "Machi Open the Bottle", composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja for Mankatha (2011). [51] [52]

The soundtrack and score were praised. The writer of a 25 August 1978 review in The Hindu called Ilaiyaraja's melodies "delicious" and said that a folk-dancing scene had a "delightful rhythm". [24] According to a review published in the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan on 3 September 1978, Ilaiyaraaja composed his four songs with strands of sweetness. [lower-alpha 2] D. Karthikeyan of The Hindu singled out the score's re-recording in July 2011, ranking it with the music director's other films Uthiripookkal (1979), Moondram Pirai (1982), Nayakan (1987) and Thalapathi (1991). [54]

Tamil version [55]
1."Senthazham Poovil" Kannadasan K. J. Yesudas 4:35
2."Adi Penney" Panchu Arunachalam Jency Anthony 4:30
3."Raman Aandaalum" Gangai Amaran S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, L. R. Anjali and Chorus5:44
4."Niththam Niththam"Gangai Amaran Vani Jairam 2:54
Telugu version [56]
1."Jeevana Sangramamulo"Arudhra L. Vaidyanathan P. Susheela 4:02
2."Andala Mulaka"RajasreeIlaiyaraajaS. P. Balasubrahmanyam4:09
3."Sakkanaina Saddikudu"RajasreeIlaiyaraaja S. Janaki 2:31
4."Pilla"ArudhraL. VaidyanathanP. Susheela4:04

Release and reception

Although Mullum Malarum was cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification on 4 August 1978, [34] Chettiar's refusal to finance the scene before "Senthazham Poovil" let to a delay in the film's release. [17] After Kamal Haasan's intervention, [57] it was released on 15 August (India's Independence Day). [58] The film's commercial performance during its first few weeks was poor. Chettiar, who believed he was "doomed", refused to promote the film: "A good product needs no publicity, whereas a bad product cannot be pushed in the market however much you publicise it". [59] During its third or fourth week of release, positive magazine reviews and word of mouth spread; Mullum Malarum became a commercial success, with a theatrical run of over 100 days. [lower-alpha 3] Chettiar later apologised to Mahendran, who in turn thanked him for letting him make the film. [62]

After he saw the film Rajinikanth's mentor, director K. Balachander, wrote in a letter of appreciation: "I'm proud to have introduced you as an actor." [63] Balachander's letter has been described by Sify as Rajinikanth's "most prized moment and possession". [64] After its success, Mullum Malarum was remade in Malayalam by Sreekumaran Thampi as Venalil Oru Mazha (1979) and in Hindi by Bapu as Pyari Behna (1985). [45] It was also dubbed in Telugu as Mullu Puvvu, and was released in 1979. [65]

Contemporary reviews

Mullum Malarum was well received at the times of its initial release, with commentators describing it as the coming of age of Tamil cinema. [60] The writer of a 25 August 1978 review in The Hindu stated that the film reflected the trend of making films that do not have the "usual formula of fights, duets, intrigues and cabaret dances". The reviewer further noted that Rajinikanth "shows his mature artistry in a portrayal of a turbulent illiterate worker with a blind passion for his sister." It also praised the performances of Shoba and Jayalaxmi, and called Balu Mahendra's camera work a "feast for the eyes"; although the first half of the film moves at a "leisurely pace", the second half is "eventful". [24] Ananda Vikatan, in its 3 September 1978 review, praised Mahendran's filmmaking skills and the fact that he told the story in a sharp manner without long dialogues, likening the film to Kurinchi flowers and rating it 61 out of 100. [66]

After watching the film, M. G. Ramachandran—the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu—told Mahendran that he had no words to express his happiness, and that Mahendran set a new trend in Tamil cinema with Mullum Malarum. Ramachandran claimed Mahendran achieved a milestone, which even if Ramachandran had desired, could not have achieved. He added that Mahendran demonstrated clearly that cinema is a "visual medium" and had succeeded in that also. Ramachandran said the films which came till this point on brother-sister relationships were full of dramatics, including his own, but Mullum Malarum stood apart and stood tall in realism. Ramachandran said the last scene was new not only to Tamil cinema but also to Indian cinema. He lauded Rajinikanth's realistic acting and hoped the film would mark a big turnaround in his career. [67]

Retrospective reviews

When you watch a film, you know the way the shot was taken or the way the narrative was constructed. [Mahendran's] Mullum Malarum, for instance, was so startlingly different from anything that had come before in Tamil cinema. It really stood out. ... There was something really special about the direction, Balu Mahendra's cinematography, the characterizations, the costumes, the compositions, the colours, the light, the way it was cut and, of course, the music.

—Director Mani Ratnam on the film [68]

Baradwaj Rangan said in 2004 that, through films like Mullum Malarum, Mahendran "proved himself a sublime storyteller". [69] Kamini Mathai, writing for The Times of India , compared Mahendran to Balachander based on the similarities in showing "strong storylines and dialogues" in their films, citing Balachander's Apoorva Raagangal (1975) and Thanneer Thanneer (1981) as examples. [70] S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu lauded Shoba's performance in 2002 while a reviewer from Maalai Malar appreciated her acting and described Balu Mahendra's cinematography as on an international level. [71] [72] Naman Ramachandran particularly praised his use of natural light. [45] In 2018, Santhosh Mathevan of The News Today praised nearly every aspect of the film, including Mahendra's cinematography and Ilaiyaraaja's score. [73]

Many of the reviews have also commended Rajinikanth's performance, calling it as one of the best in his acting career. In 2005, Rangan noted that Rajinikanth, in films like Mullum Malarum, "still made the occasional attempt at being an actor." [74] D. Karthikeyan of The Hindu wrote in December 2009 that Mullum Malarum would "remain etched in every film lover's memory by showing the best of Rajnikanth's acting skills." [75] In October 2010, Amrith Lal of The Times of India wrote that Mullum Malarum "revealed the potential of Rajini, the character actor." [76] The Press Trust of India said in December 2011 that Rajinikanth also "proved his acting mettle in challenging roles" in films such as Mullum Malarum. [77]

Film journalist Sreedhar Pillai said in December 2012 that Mullum Malarum was Rajinikanth's best performance and the film was among his most "memorable movies". [78] Ramachandran considered Rajinikanth's Kali an effective portrayal of a challenging, complex character. [45] In December 2014, Gautaman Bhaskaran of the Hindustan Times wrote: "On watching [Apoorva Raagangal and Mullum Malarum] recently, there was no mistaking the brilliance of [Rajinikanth's] acting ability. In both, he essays shades of deep grey, and yet there was something captivating about Rajinikanth." [79] Writing for The Indian Express in 2017, Kavitha Muralidharan praised Rajinikanth for showing his vulnerability and rawness at its "fullest expression": "vulnerable at the possibility of losing his sister to a love affair and rawness when he braves a handicap caused by a professional hazard". [80]


Mullum Malarum won the Filmfare Award for Best Film – Tamil, [81] and two awards at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards: Best Film, and Special Prize for Rajinikanth. [82] [45] He also won the Arima Sangam Award for Best Actor. [83] The film was screened at the 1979 International Film Festival of India as part of the Indian Panorama. [2]

The film consistently ranks as one of Rajinikanth's best films in polls. In May 2007, K. Balamurugan of ranked Mullum Malarum fifth on his list of "Rajni's Tamil Top 10 films". [84] In December 2013, The Times of India ranked the film fifth on its list of "Top 12 Rajinikanth movies": "With this film, the talented actor dispelled whatever doubts remained about his acting ability". [85] In July 2016, The Hindu included Mullum Malarum on its list of "roles that defined Rajinikanth the actor", saying that Rajinikanth "played the role of the quick-tempered, lovable brother with ease, and Kali is surely one of his most revered roles." [86]


In addition to its critical and commercial success, Mullum Malarum was a milestone of Tamil cinema and a breakthrough for Rajinikanth as an actor. [87] [47] Discarding traditional Tamil cinema conventions which Mahendran disliked such as melodrama, the film focused prominently on visuals. [47] [88] Gayathri Sreekanth wrote in The Name is Rajinikanth that it "gave a new dimension to brother and sister relations on screen" and established Rajinikanth as an "actor par finesses". [89] Praised for his performance in what was seen as an experimental film, during the 1990s, he stopped acting in similar films because he had become a "larger-than-life" hero. [90] [91]

"Kali" (alternatively, Kaali) became Rajinikanth's most-frequent onscreen name; his characters in Kaali (1980), Kai Kodukkum Kai (1984) and Petta (2019) were also named as such. [92] [93] Mani Ratnam called Mullum Malarum "the benchmark in terms of [Rajinikanth's] performance"; although it was not parallel cinema, it was "very realistic, and was performed very, very realistically. The dialogues were real." [94] Asked which of his films he loved best, according to The New Indian Express , Rajinikanth told Gayathri Sreekanth that it was Mullum Malarum; he considers Mahendran his favourite director. [19] Film producer and writer G. Dhananjayan wrote that Mullum Malarum is one of five films Rajinikanth considers "close to his heart". [lower-alpha 4] Rajinikanth's dialogue "Ketta paiyan sir indha Kaali" (This Kaali is a bad boy) attained popularity. [96] [97]

In 2006, director S. Shankar said that he entered the film industry "with dreams of directing films such as Mullum Malarum" but never got to make any. [98] Director Kathir said in July 2012 that Mullum Malarum inspired him to enter the film industry. [99] In October 2015, director Pa. Ranjith said that Rajinikanth's characterisation in Mullum Malarum was a "lesson" of sorts for him, and the actor's character in Ranjith's Kabali (2016) was influenced by Kali in Mullum Malarum. [100]


  1. The film's runtime is listed in Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema as 143 minutes, [1] but the version screened at the 1979 International Film Festival of India was 145 minutes long. [2]
  2. The original quote in Ananda Vikatan is, "Naaṉkē paaṭalkaḷ eṉṟaalum, avatṟai iṉimai iḻaiyōṭa isai amaith thirukkiṟaar Iḷaiyaraaja" ("Although there are only four songs, Ilaiyaraaja has composed them with strands of sweetness.") [53]
  3. Balu Mahendra wrote in his 2013 blog that the film's fortunes changed in its third week, [4] The Name is Rajinikanth by Gayathri Sreekanth states that the film "picked up by the end of the third week", [60] and J. Mahendran writes in his autobiographical Cinemavum Naanum that the film's commercial performance improved in its fourth week of release and did not cease after 100 days. [61]
  4. The other four films are Bhuvana Oru Kelvi Kuri (1977), Aarilirunthu Arubathu Varai (1979), Enkeyo Ketta Kural (1982) and Sri Raghavendrar (1985). [95]

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