Agni Natchathiram

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

Agni Natchathiram (transl. Scorching Star) is a 1988 Indian Tamil-language action drama film written and directed by Mani Ratnam. The film stars Prabhu, Karthik, Amala and newcomer Nirosha. It revolves around two half-brothers who come into conflict with each other in their claim for legitimacy as sons of a common father.

Agni Natchathiram was released on 15 April 1988 and became a box office success, running for over 200 days in theatres. The film won two Filmfare Awards South, three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and five Cinema Express Awards. It was remade in Hindi as Vansh (1992).[2]


Ashok is the son of a senior government official Vishwanath and Vishwanath's second wife Kamala. He is very sensitive to people expressing undue interest in his father's personal life. Vishwanath has another son, Gautham, whose mother is Susheela. Gautham is a police academy trainee and he too feels a lot of anger at his father, taking it out inappropriately on people near him. Ashok and Gautham display open antipathy towards each other.

Gautham meets the Commissioner's daughter, Anjali, and they slowly become a couple. Upon graduating, Gautham is appointed as an Assistant Commissioner. Around the same time, Ashok meets a mysterious girl who shouts "I love you", and in turn falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Vishwanath is appointed the head of an inquiry commission to probe a chemical factory, owned by Chidambaram, believed to sell chemicals to terrorists.

One night, Ashok and his friends run into Gautham and Anjali, and one of Ashok's friends teases Gautham. Gautham soon arrests Ashok's friend on a trumped up charge, abusing his authority as a police officer for a power play. Peeved, 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. Since 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 tries to bribe Vishwanath multiple times, but is rebuffed. Irked, he orders a hit on Vishwanath.

On the day when Ashok's sister Mallika is meeting a prospective groom's family for a matchmaking ceremony, Vishwanath fails to turn up which causes the groom's family to question the seriousness of the marriage between Kamala and Vishwanath. Enraged, Ashok goes to Vishwanath's home and creates a ruckus only to realise that his grandmother, Vishwanath's mother Rajamma has died. Angered, Gautham throws Ashok out. Later, Ashok learns that his girlfriend too comes from a broken family. The Commissioner learns of Gautham's romantic involvement with Anjali and doubts his monogamy, drawing a parallel with Gautham's father's bigamy.

Mallika runs into Gautham and Anjali on the same commuter train. Gautham ends up protecting her from a bunch of ruffians harassing her (hired by Chidambaram), and Gautham and Anjali accompany her home safely. Mallika addresses Gautham as her elder brother, but before Gautham can respond, Ashok arrives and throws Gautham out. Another altercation occurs at a wedding in which both exchange words. 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 gets run over by a truck driven by one of Chidambaram's thugs.

Vishwanath is injured and goes into a coma. Mutual fear between the families brings them closer as both Susheela and Kamala wait by his bedside. Unhappy that Vishwanath survived, Chidambaram arranges for his murder in the hospital. When Chidambaram's thugs attack the hospital, the brothers work together to foil the assassination attempt by switching the ambulance that Vishwanath was in. The next day, a bandaged Vishwanath is brought into the commission's office by the brothers to submit evidence proving Chidambaram's illegal activities. Chidambaram is arrested, and the brothers embrace each other.



After Mouna Ragam (1986), the next script that Mani Ratnam wrote was Agni Natchathiram. Despite this, when he was approached by Muktha Srinivasan to make a film for Kamal Haasan (which eventually became Nayakan), he agreed. In January 1987, after two weeks of shooting on Nayakan, Ratnam resumed work on Agni Natchathiram, shooting scenes on Prabhu and Amala such as the song "Ninnukkori Varnam". However, Ratnam could not manage shooting two films at the same time, so work on Agni Natchathiram was stalled for nearly a year,[7] resuming only after Nayakan's release in Diwali 1987.[8] The film was produced by Ratnam's brother G. Venkateswaran, filmed by P. C. Sreeram and edited by B. Lenin and V. T. Vijayan.[1]

Agni Natchathiram is the feature film debut of Raadhika's sister Nirosha. According to Nirosha, she was not initially interested in pursuing an acting career, having previously declined an offer to act in Nayakan, but at Raadhika's suggestion, joined this film.[9] Vijayakumar, who had quit films and was settled in the United States, had come to India for a different purpose, when assistant director K. Subash met and offered him to act in Agni Natchathiram. Vijayakumar initially refused, but Subash remained adamant; when Ratnam narrated the script, Vijayakumar was impressed with the character and agreed to act, making his comeback to film.[10] To make the film more commercially viable, a comedy subplot was created, involving a middle-aged man (V. K. Ramasamy) and his chauffeur (Janagaraj) trying to cavort with a prostitute (Disco Shanti) without their wives' knowledge.[11][4]


The music was composed by Ilaiyaraaja.[12] Many of the songs are set in Carnatic ragas; "Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe" is in Shivaranjani,[13] "Thoongatha Vizhigal" is in Amritavarshini,[14] and "Ninnukkori Varnam" is set in Mohanam.[15] For "Raaja Raajathi", Ilaiyaraaja used no string instruments.[16]

No. Song Singers Lyrics Length
1 "Ninnukori Varanam" K. S. Chithra Vaali 04:37
2 "Oru Poonga Vanam" S. Janaki 04:25
3 "Raaja Raajathi" Ilaiyaraaja 04:42
4 "Roja Poo Adivanthathu" S. Janaki 04:27
5 "Thoongatha Vizhigal" K. J. Yesudas, S. Janaki 04:41
6 "Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe" K. J. Yesudas, K. S. Chithra 04:40


Agni Natchathiram was released on 15 April 1988, Puthandu.[17] The film ran for over 200 days in theatres, thereby becoming a silver jubilee film.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

S. Shivakumar, writing for Mid Day, called it "Mani's loosely scripted work to date" but "What emerges on the screen is frothy and cracks like fresh pop corn".[19] N. Krishnaswamy of The Indian Express wrote, "There's more light than heat."[20] Ananda Vikatan wrote that Ratnam proved that he could make an interesting and engaging film with just a small thread of script, adding that he had imagined each scene differently and presented them interestingly, giving the film a rating of 45 out of 100.[21]


Event Award Awardee Ref.
Filmfare Awards South Best Film – Tamil G. Venkateswaran [22]
Best Actor – Tamil Karthik [23]
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Film G. Venkateswaran [23]
Special Prize for Best Actor Karthik
Best Female Playback K. S. Chithra
Cinema Express Awards Best Tamil Film G. Venkateswaran [24]
Best Director Special Award Mani Ratnam
Best Actress Special Award Amala[a]
Best New Face Nirosha[b]
Best Music Director Ilaiyaraaja[c]


Agni Natchathiram became a trendsetter in Tamil cinema for setting "a new standard in the use of lighting". Additionally, the dialogue spoken by Lakshmipathy "En pondatti orrukku poittaa" (My wife has gone to her town) in excitement when his wife leaves for her hometown, entered Tamil vernacular.[25]


  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. 118.
  3. ^ 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. ^ Rangan 2012, pp. 44–45.
  8. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 70.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "அக்னி நட்சத்திரம் மூலமாக விஜயகுமார் வாழ்க்கையில் திருப்பம்". Maalai Malar (in Tamil). 20 August 2017. Archived from the original on 18 July 2020. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  11. ^ Rangan 2012, p. 28.
  12. ^ "Agni Natchathram (1988)". Archived from the original on 7 August 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  13. ^ Ganesh, Deepa (8 March 2017). "Does absence heighten presence?". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Happy birthday Ilaiyaraaja and Mani Ratnam!". Deccan Herald. 2 June 2018. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Agni Natchathiram". The Indian Express. 15 April 1988. p. 3.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Krishnaswamy, N. (22 April 1988). "Agni Nakshatram". The Indian Express. p. 5.
  21. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 118.
  22. ^ "Films". Vidura. Vol. 26. C. Sarkar. 1989. p. 54.
  23. ^ a b Ramachandran, Naman (2014) [2012]. Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Penguin Books. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-14-342111-5. OCLC 295034757.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  24. ^ "Cinema Express readers choose Agni Nakshathiram". The Indian Express. Express News Service. 11 March 1989. p. 4.
  25. ^ 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.


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