Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||A. P. Nagarajan|
|Produced by||A. P. Nagarajan|
|Written by||A. P. Nagarajan|
K. B. Sundarambal
|Music by||K. V. Mahadevan|
|Cinematography||K. S. Prasad|
T. R. Natarajan
Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures
|Distributed by||Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures|
|31 July 1965|
Thiruvilaiyadal (English: The Divine Game) is a 1965 Indian Tamil devotional mythological film written, directed, distributed and produced by A. P. Nagarajan. The film features Sivaji Ganesan and Savitri in the lead roles with R. Muthuraman, Nagesh, Manorama, K. B. Sundarambal, T. R. Mahalingam and T. S. Balaiah playing pivotal roles. The films soundtrack and score were composed by K. V. Mahadevan. K. S. Prasad was the film's cinematographer.
The film is based on the tales from the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam, a collection of 64 Saivite devotional epic stories which record the actions and antics of Lord Shiva appears on Earth in various disguises to test his devotees. Out of the 64 stories, four are depicted in the film. The first being that of the tale of Dharumi (Nagesh). The second being that of Dhatchayini (Sati). The third is where Parvati is born as a fisherwoman and how Shiva retrieves and remarries her by disguising as a fisherman. The last being that of Banabhathirar (T. R. Mahalingam). The soundtrack received positive reception and songs like "Pazham Neeyappa Gnaana Pazham", "Indroru Naal Pothuma", "Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha", "Paattum Naane" became evergreen songs. The length of the film was 4,450 metres (14,600 ft).
Thiruvilaiyadal released on 31 July 1965 to critical acclaim. Critics praised the performances of the lead cast and also praised Nagesh's and T. S. Balaiah's performances. The film's screenplay and dialogues also received positive critical feedback. The film became a trendsetter for devotional films as it was a time when Tamil cinema focused on making films based mainly on social melodramas. The film was dubbed into Kannada as Shiva Leela Vilasa and was the first Tamil film to be dubbed into Kannada after ten years.
Lord Shiva gives the sacred fruit brought by sage Narada to his elder son, Ganesha since he outsmarted his younger brother Muruga and won the fruit in a competition for it. Angered by his father's decision, Muruga goes to the hill abode of Palani. Goddess Parvathi (known as Sakthi here) comes and narrates the divine games of Shiva to calm Muruga down.
She narrates the story of when Shiva opened his third eye, an episode in which he comes to the city of Madurai of the Pandya Kingdom, ruled at that time by Shenbaga Pandian, in the form of a poet. Shenbaga Pandian wants to find the answer to an unsolved question (whether the fragrance from a woman's hair is natural or caused by the cosmetics she uses on her hair) and announces a reward of 1000 gold coins to anyone who could come up with an answer. Poet Dharumi desperately wants the reward and starts breaking down in the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Shiva, having heard his cries, takes the form of a poet and gives him a poem containing the answer that he can use to get the reward. Overjoyed, Dharumi takes it to the court and recites the poem, but the Tamil poet Nakkeerar claims the poem's meaning is incorrect. After arguing with Nakkeerar, Shiva burns him into ashes. Later, he revives Nakkeerar, saying that he only wanted to test his knowledge and the latter requests the king to give the reward to Dharumi.
She also narrates another episode in which Shiva marries Dhatchayini (called Sakthi in this story) against the will of her father Dhatchan. Dhatchan also performs a Mahayagna without inviting his son-in-law. Sakthi asks Shiva's permission to go to the ceremony but Shiva refuses to let her go as he feels no good will come out of it. Sakthi, however, disobeys him and goes there, only to be insulted by Dhatchan. Sakthi curses her father and returns to Shiva to find him angry at her for disobeying him. Sakthi asserts that they are one and without her, there is no Shiva. Shiva refuses to agree with her and burns her to ashes trying to prove her wrong and performs his Tandava, which is noticed by the Devas, who pacify Shiva. Shiva decides to restore Sakthi to life, as well as give her half of his body to prove that the world is made up of two halves: man and woman.
Sakthi is banished by Shiva when her attention wavers for a moment as she was listening to Shiva, who was explaining the essence of the Vedas to her (offscreen). Sakthi, now born as Kayarkanni, is the daughter of a fisherman. When playing with her friends, a strange fisherman (Shiva) approaches and flirts with her, despite her disapproval. The fishermen often face problems due to a giant shark that disrupts their way of life. Shiva asserts that he alone can defeat the shark. After a long battle, Shiva kills the shark (which is actually Nandi) and remarries Sakthi.
The last tale narrated by Sakthi is where Shiva takes the form of a firewood vendor. Skilled singer Hemanatha Bhagavathar tries to conquer the Pandya Kingdom when he challenges the musicians in the court. The King's minister advises him to seek the help of Banabathirar, a devotional singer, to challenge Hemanatha Bhagavathar. As all musicians in the court rejects the competition, the King, having no alternative, orders Banabathirar to compete against Hemanatha Bhagavathar. The troubled Banabathirar, who knows that he cannot win, prays to Shiva. As he faints, Shiva, in the disguise of a firewood vendor, shows up outside Hemanatha Bhagavathar's house and shatters his arrogance by singing the song, "Paattum Naane". When Hemanatha Bhagavathar comes to know that the seller was Banabathirar's student, he gets embarrassed and leaves the kingdom that very night leaving a letter to Banabathirar. Shiva gives the letter to Banabathirar and reveals his true identity to him. Banabathirar thanks Shiva for his timely help.
Listening to all these stories, Muruga's rage finally subsides and he reconciles with his family.
- Lead actors
- Sivaji Ganesan as Lord Shiva
- Savitri as Parvathi alias Sakthi/Datchayini/Kayarkanni
- K. B. Sundarambal as Avvaiyar
- Male supporting actors
- T. S. Balaiah as Hemanatha Bagavathar
- R. Muthuraman as Shenbaga Pandiyan
- Nagesh as Dharumi
- O. A. K. Thevar as King Dhatchan
- A. Karunanithi as Ponna/Sovai
- T. R. Mahalingam as Banabhathirar
- K. Sarangkapani
- A. P. Nagarajan as Nakkeeran
- E. R. Sahadevan
- P. D. Sambandam
- T. N. Sivadhanu
- S. V. Sahasranamam as Kayarkanni's father
- Female supproting actors
|1.||"Pazham Neeyappa Gnaana Pazham"||K. B. Sundarambal|
|2.||"Indroru Naal Pothuma"||M. Balamuralikrishna|
|3.||"Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha"||T. R. Mahalingam|
|4.||"Paarthal Pasumaram"||T.M. Soundararajan|
|5.||"Paattum Naane"||T.M. Soundararajan|
|6.||"Podhigai Malai Uchieley"||P. B. Sreenivas, S. Janaki|
|7.||"Ondraanavan Uruvil"||K. B. Sundarambal|
|8.||"Illadha Thondrillai"||T. R. Mahalingam|
|9.||"Vaasi Vaasi"||K.B. Sundarambal|
|10.||"Om Namasivaya"||Seerkazhi Govindarajan, P. Susheela|
Thiruvilayadal was well received. Sivaji Ganesan's performance was also acclaimed and it contributed to his long string of successful films. Director Ameer told S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu, "Director A. P. Nagarajan’s 'Thiruvilaiyadal' is imaginative. It treats a mythological subject in an interesting way. It is one of the best films in the annals of Tamil cinema."
The film ran for 25 weeks in Shanti, a theatre owned by Sivaji Ganesan.
- Thiruvilayadal won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil – Certificate of Merit for the Second Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1966.
In 2012, controversy arose when attempts were made to digitally re-release the film. Justice R. Subbiah of the Madras high court, hearing a suit filed by G. Vijaya of Vijaya Pictures, ordered maintenance of status quo for two weeks in respect of digitisation and release of 'Thiruvilaiyadal'. The matter was again taken up for hearing on 16 August 2012.
In her suit, Vijaya contended that in the year 1975, Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures, which was in possession of the rights of the film, had transferred the worldwide exclusive negative rights and all other rights such as exploitation and screening in cinema theatres in favour of Movie Film Circuit. In 1976, the latter had transferred all the rights to Vijaya Pictures.
Vijaya Pictures, perhaps buoyed by the performance of Karnan, approached the Gemini Colour Laboratory for digitisation of 'Thiruvilaiyadal' so that it could be re-released. Vijayalakshmi Pictures, however, wrote to the laboratory asking it not to release the film without their prior consent.
In her suit, Vijaya said the worldwide exclusive negative rights for distribution and exhibition would also mean digitisation, as digital format is no different from the original format except for enhancement of viewing quality.
Noting that digitisation did not require any separate licence, Vijaya said the worldwide exclusive negative rights already conferred on her will encompass exploitation and exhibition of the film in digital format. 
- Dhananjayan 2011, p. 232.
- V. Raman, Mohan (14 April 2012). "Master of mythological cinema". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 20 November 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Thiruvilayadal Songs – Thiruvilayadal Tamil Movie Songs – Tamil Songs Lyrics Trailer Videos, Preview Stills Reviews". Raaga.com. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- Friday Review Chennai : Filmmakers' favourites. The Hindu.
- Mohan Raman (17 January 2011). "Life & Style / Society : Movie hall crosses a milestone". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Status quo ordered on digitising Thiruvilaiyadal. The New Indian Express.
- Bid to re-release Sivaji classic ends up in court – Times Of India. Articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com (14 August 2012).
- Dhananjayan, G. (2011). The Best of Tamil Cinema, 1931 to 2010: 1931 to 1976. Galatta Media. ISBN 978-8192104300.
- Guy, Randor (1997). Starlight, Starbright: The Early Tamil Cinema. Amra Publishers.