Agni Natchathiram

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Agni Natchathiram
Agni Natchathiram poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMani Ratnam
Written byMani Ratnam
Produced byG. Venkateswaran
CinematographyP. C. Sreeram
Edited byB. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Music byIlaiyaraaja
Release date
  • 15 April 1988 (1988-04-15)
Running time
155 minutes[1]

Agni Natchathiram (transl. Scorching Star) is a 1988 Indian Tamil-language masala film[2] that was written and directed by Mani Ratnam. The film stars Prabhu, Karthik, Amala and newcomer Nirosha, with Vijayakumar, Jayachitra, Sumithra, Tara, S. N. Lakshmi and G. Umapathy in supporting roles. Its story revolves around two half-brothers who come into conflict with each other due to their claims for legitimacy as sons of a common father.

Ratnam intended Agni Natchathiram to follow Mouna Ragam (1986); he completed the script but chose to prioritise Nayakan. Although some scenes were filmed during a break from Nayakan, production on Agni Natchathiram stalled for nearly a year and resumed in late 1987 after Nayakan's release. Agni Natchathiram was produced by Ratnam's brother G. Venkateswaran; it was filmed by P. C. Sreeram, and edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan.

Agni Natchathiram was released on 15 April 1988, the week of the Tamil New Year festival Puthandu, and became a box-office success, running in theatres for over 200 days. The film won two Filmfare Awards South, three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, and five Cinema Express Awards. It became a trendsetter in Tamil cinema, set a new standard in the use of lighting, and was remade in Hindi as Vansh (1992).


In Madras, half-brothers Gautham and Ashok are the sons of senior government Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official Vishwanath. Gautham's mother is Vishwanath's first wife Susheela, and Ashok's mother is Vishwanath's second wife Kamala. Both Gautham and Ashok inappropriately express their anger towards their father to others, and display open antipathy towards each other.

Gautham, a trainee Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, meets the Commissioner's daughter Anjali and they slowly become lovers. After graduating from the police academy, Gautham is appointed Assistant Commissioner in Madras. Around the same time, Ashok meets a mysterious girl and they also form a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Vishwanath is appointed head of an inquiry commission to investigate a nefarious factory owner called Chidambaram.

One night, Ashok and his friends run into Gautham and Anjali; one of Ashok's friends teases Gautham, who arrests Ashok's friend on an invented charge. Enraged, Ashok and his gang throw stones at Gautham's house, accidentally injuring Susheela. The next day, Gautham arrests Ashok after provoking him into attacking him. Because Vishwanath is out of town, Susheela helps Kamala bail Ashok and offers snide, unsolicited advice about raising her children to be law-abiding. Meanwhile, Chidambaram repeatedly tries to bribe Vishwanath but is rebuffed and orders an assault on Vishwanath.

On the day when Ashok's sister Mallika is meeting a prospective groom's family for a matchmaking ceremony, Vishwanath fails to arrive, causing the groom's family to question the seriousness of the marriage between Kamala and Vishwanath. Ashok is enraged; he goes to Vishwanath's house and berates him but realises his paternal grandmother has died; Gautham throws him out. Later, Ashok learns his girlfriend also comes from a broken family. The Commissioner learns of Gautham's romance with Anjali and, based on his father's behaviour, doubts his monogamy.

Mallika runs into Gautham and Anjali on a commuter train; Gautham protects her from ruffians hired by Chidambaram to harass her, and he and Anjali accompany Mallika home safely. Mallika addresses Gautham as her elder brother but before he can respond, Ashok arrives and throws him out. Another altercation occurs at a wedding. The next day, they get into a huge brawl in public. Vishwanath berates them both, lamenting his public humiliation at his sons' behaviour.

While Vishwanath is leaving his office, he is run over by a truck driven by one of Chidambaram's thugs and becomes comatose. Mutual fear brings the families closer as Susheela and Kamala wait by his bedside. Chidambaram arranges for Vishwanath's murder in the hospital. When the thugs attack, Gautham and Ashok foil the murder attempt by switching to the ambulance that Vishwanath was in. The next day, the brothers take the bandaged Vishwanath into the commission's office to submit evidence of Chidambaram's crimes. Chidambaram is arrested and the brothers high five each other.




After Mouna Ragam (1986), Mani Ratnam wrote the script for Agni Natchathiram, with which he intended to reach out to audiences he could not reach with Mouna Ragam. However, when Muktha Srinivasan approached Ratnam to make a film for Kamal Haasan, which eventually became Nayakan, he agreed.[7] Agni Natchathiram was produced by Ratnam's brother G. Venkateswaran, filmed by P. C. Sreeram, and edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan. Thota Tharani was the art director and Mugur Sundar was the dance choreographer.[1]

Casting and filming[edit]

It's the onset of agni natchatiram [the height of summer]. It stars slowly and reaches a peak with the sun, and then it cools down. The visual seems very simple because it's just the sun coming out, but we actually had to time it and measure the length of the shot. We went one day, P.C. Sreeram and I, with a stopwatch. Unlike now, when we ramp the shot to the length we need, we had to shoot it to the length that we required, and we had to ensure that the start-to-finish had that escalation.

Mani Ratnam on the opening sunrise, 2012[8]

Agni Natchathiram is the second time after Mouna Ragam Karthik collaborated with Ratnam.[9] It is the feature-film debut of Raadhika's sister Nirosha, who was not initially interested in pursuing an acting career, having previously declined an offer to act in Nayakan, but at Raadhika's suggestion she joined this film.[10] Vijayakumar, who had quit films and had settled in the United States, had returned to India for a different purpose when assistant director K. Subash met and offered him a role in Agni Natchathiram. Vijayakumar initially refused but Subash remained adamant; when Ratnam narrated the script, Vijayakumar was impressed with the character and accepted the role.[11] G. Umapathy made his acting debut, playing the antagonist Chidambaram.[12]

In January 1987, after two weeks of filming for Nayakan, Ratnam resumed work on Agni Natchathiram, filming scenes with Prabhu and Amala such as the song "Ninnukkori Varnam". Ratnam, however, could not manage filming for two films at the same time so work on Agni Natchathiram was halted for nearly a year,[7] resuming only after Nayakan's release in late 1987.[13] To make the film more commercially viable, a comedy subplot involving a middle-aged man (V. K. Ramasamy) and his chauffeur (Janagaraj) trying to cavort with a prostitute (Disco Shanti) without their wives' knowledge was created.[4][14] Two backup dancers did not arrive for the filming of the dance song "Raaja Raajathi", so Sundar persuaded his son Prabhu Deva to perform the breakdance in the song.[15] The entire climax was filmed with strobe light effects.[3]


Ilaiyaraaja composed the music for the soundtrack of Agni Natchathiram and Vaali wrote the lyrics.[16][17] Many of the songs are set in Carnatic ragas; "Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe" is in Shivaranjani,[18][19] "Thoongatha Vizhigal" is in Amritavarshini,[20][21] "Oru Poonga Vanam" is in Sudhadhanyasi,[22] and "Ninnukkori Varnam" is in Mohanam.[23][24] For "Raaja Raajathi", Ilaiyaraaja used no string instruments and composed the opening stanza with only two notes.[25][26] Anand–Milind adapted the song as "Tap Tap Tapori" for Baaghi (1990).[27] For the Telugu dubbed version titled Gharsana, all the lyrics are written by Rajasri.[28]

1."Thoongatha Vizhigal"K. J. Yesudas, S. Janaki4:41
2."Ninnukori Varanam"K. S. Chithra4:37
3."Oru Poonga Vanam"S. Janaki4:25
4."Raaja Raajathi"Ilaiyaraaja4:42
5."Roja Poo Adivanthathu"S. Janaki4:27
6."Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe"K. J. Yesudas, K. S. Chithra4:40
Total length:27:32
1."Kurisenu Virijallule"Vani Jairam, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam4:40
2."Neeve Amara"K. S. Chithra, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam4:40
3."Ninnukori Varanam"K. S. Chithra4:44
4."Oka Brundavanam"Vani Jairam4:29
5."Raaja Raajadi Raajadi"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam4:32
6."Rojalo Letha"Vani Jairam4:30
Total length:27:35


Agni Natchathiram was released on 15 April 1988, the week of Puthandu, the Tamil New Year festival.[29] It ran in theatres for over 200 days, becoming a silver jubilee film and Ratnam's most-profitable film to that point.[30][31] The film was also dubbed in Telugu as Gharsana.[32]

Critical reception[edit]

S. Shivakumar, writing for Mid-Day, called Agni Natchathiram "Mani's loosely scripted work to date" and said; "What emerges on the screen is frothy and cracks like fresh pop corn".[33] N. Krishnaswamy of The Indian Express wrote the film has "more light than heat", referring to the impact Sriram's technique had on the film, and criticised the comedy subplot.[34] Ananda Vikatan wrote Ratnam proved he could make an interesting and engaging film with just a small thread of script, and that he had imagined each scene differently and presented them interestingly, giving the film a rating of 45 out of 100.[35] Jayamanmadhan of Kalki criticised the film for Ratnam's direction and writing.[36]


Event Award Recipient Ref.
Filmfare Awards South Best Film – Tamil G. Venkateswaran [37]
Best Actor – Tamil Karthik [38]
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Film G. Venkateswaran [38]
Special Prize for Best Actor Karthik
Best Female Playback Singer K. S. Chithra
9th Cinema Express Awards Best Film – Tamil G. Venkateswaran [39]
Best Director (Special Award) Mani Ratnam
Best Actress (Special Award) Amala[a]
Best New Face Nirosha[b]
Best Music Director Ilaiyaraaja[c]


Indian film critic Baradwaj Rangan considers Agni Natchathiram a defining Tamil film for the youth of the 1980s.[13] It became a trendsetter in Tamil cinema for setting "a new standard in the use of lighting". Lakshmipathy's dialogue "En pondatti orrukku poittaa" ("My wife has gone to her town"), which is spoken in excitement when his wife leaves for her hometown, entered Tamil vernacular.[40] The dialogue also inspired a song of the same name in Nenjam Marappathillai (2021).[41] In 2004, appreciated Agni Natchathiram for its "[s]ubtlety, diffused lighting, realistic fights, plain logic, a controlled Prabhu and a livewire Kartik", calling it a "landmark movie which never got the recognition it deserved up north".[42] In 2018, Rangan called Agni Natchathiram one of the best films in the masala genre, though he noted elements such as the loosu ponnu character played by Amala and the "flashy, MTV-era cinematography" did not age well.[43] The film was remade in Hindi as Vansh (1992).[44]


  1. ^ For Illam as well.
  2. ^ For Senthoora Poove as well.
  3. ^ For Soora Samhaaram and Dharmathin Thalaivan as well.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rangan 2012, p. 290.
  2. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 84.
  3. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 76.
  4. ^ a b c "'ஹாஹாஹா... தெய்வீக சிரிப்பய்யா உமக்கு!' – வி கே ராமசாமி நினைவு தின பகிர்வு". Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 23 December 2016. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Who else is in it? The cameos are as interesting as the leads in Mani Ratnam's movies". 10 February 2018. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  6. ^ Anantharam, Chitra Deepa (20 August 2018). "I taught Salman Tamil, says Prabhu Deva". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b Rangan 2012, pp. 44–45.
  8. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 74.
  9. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 289–290.
  10. ^ "Evergreen Stars: 'Sets Of Agni Natchathiram Was More Like A Vacation'". Iflicks. 9 April 2018. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  11. ^ "அக்னி நட்சத்திரம் மூலமாக விஜயகுமார் வாழ்க்கையில் திருப்பம்" [A turning point in Vijayakumar's life because of Agni Natchathiram]. Maalai Malar (in Tamil). 20 August 2017. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  12. ^ "சாதனை புரிந்த தமிழ் படங்கள் – 291 – எஸ்.கணேஷ்". Dinamalar (in Tamil). Nellai. 19 April 2017. Archived from the original on 22 October 2021. Retrieved 22 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ a b Rangan 2012, p. 70.
  14. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 28.
  15. ^ Pillai, Sreedhar (22–28 January 1995). "Just Like Jackson". Sunday. pp. 70–71. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Agni Natchathram (1988)". Archived from the original on 7 August 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Agni Natchathram Tamil Film LP Vinyl Record by Ilayaraaja". Mossymart. Archived from the original on 21 October 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  18. ^ Ganesh, Deepa (8 March 2017). "Does absence heighten presence?". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  19. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 164.
  20. ^ Mani, Charulatha (30 March 2012). "A Raga's Journey – Appealing Amritavarshini". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 11 September 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  21. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 162.
  22. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 151.
  23. ^ Mani, Charulatha (16 September 2011). "A Raga's Journey – Magical Mohanam". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 23 August 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  24. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 149.
  25. ^ "Happy birthday Ilaiyaraaja and Mani Ratnam!". Deccan Herald. 2 June 2018. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Happy Birthday Ilaiyaraaja: 10 mind-blowing facts about the music maestro". India Today. 2 June 2018. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  27. ^ "#Ilaiyaraaja78: Five Bollywood chartbusters inspired by Ilaiyaraaja hits in Tamil". The Times of India. 5 June 2021. Archived from the original on 2 July 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  28. ^ "Gharshana (1988) (1988)". Archived from the original on 3 November 2020. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Agni Natchathiram". The Indian Express. 15 April 1988. p. 3. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  30. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 77.
  31. ^ Selvaraj, N. (20 March 2017). "வெள்ளி விழா கண்ட தமிழ் திரைப்படங்கள்" [Tamil films that completed silver jubilees]. Thinnai (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  32. ^ "Did you know Mani Ratnam's Agni Natchathiram and Gautham Menon's Kaakha Kaakha 's Telugu versions have the same title". The Times of India. 17 February 2021. Archived from the original on 5 July 2022. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  33. ^ Shivakumar, S. (22 July 1988). "Images more eloquent than words". Mid-Day. p. 17. Archived from the original on 28 January 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  34. ^ Krishnaswamy, N. (22 April 1988). "Agni Nakshatram". The Indian Express. p. 5. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  35. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 118.
  36. ^ ஜெயமன்மதன் (8 May 1988). "அக்னி நட்சத்திரம்". Kalki (in Tamil). p. 66. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  37. ^ "Films". Vidura. Vol. 26. C. Sarkar. 1989. p. 54. Archived from the original on 2 July 2021. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  38. ^ a b Ramachandran 2014, p. 135.
  39. ^ "Cinema Express readers choose Agni Nakshathiram". The Indian Express. Express News Service. 11 March 1989. p. 4. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  40. ^ KR, Manigandan (17 April 2018). "Agni Natchathiram needed an unknown level of energy, recalls PC Sreeram – 30th anniversary special". Cinestaan. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  41. ^ Narayanan, Sujatha (9 November 2016). "Nenjam Marapathillai trailer: Selvaraghavan and Yuvan Shankar Raja are back". Firstpost. Archived from the original on 31 August 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  42. ^ "Rediff recommends". 6 May 2004. Archived from the original on 14 September 2004. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  43. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj (20 September 2018). "Every Mani Ratnam Film, Ranked". Film Companion. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  44. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 118.


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