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Iruvar poster.jpg
Directed byMani Ratnam
Produced byMani Ratnam
G. Srinivasan
Written byVairamuthu
(Poems & Lyrics)
Suhasini (Dialogue)
Screenplay byMani Ratnam
Story byMani Ratnam
Aishwarya Rai
Prakash Raj
Music byA. R. Rahman
CinematographySantosh Sivan
Edited bySuresh Urs
Distributed byMadras Talkies
Release date
  • 14 January 1997 (1997-01-14)
Running time
158 minutes

Iruvar (English: The Duo) is a 1997 Indian Tamil epic political drama film co-written, produced and directed by Mani Ratnam. The film, which is loosely based on the relationship between cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu, features Mohanlal in the lead role along with Aishwarya Rai, Prakash Raj, Revathi, Gautami, Tabu and Nassar in other pivotal roles. Rai, a former Miss World, made her screen debut through this film playing dual characters. The high-budget film had its soundtrack composed by A. R. Rahman and the cinematography was by Santosh Sivan. It was dubbed and released in Malayalam in the same name and in Telugu as Iddaru. This film marked Mohanlal's debut in Tamil cinema after having only a cameo in Gopura Vasalile.

The film was screened in the Masters section at the 1997 Toronto International Film Festival. Iruvar went on to become a critical success winning the Best Film award at the Belgrade International Film Festival and two National Film Awards. In 2012, Iruvar was included by critic Rachel Dwyer in the 2012 British Film Institute Sight and Sound 1000 greatest films of all time.[1]


Set in the 1950s, the film begins with Anandan (Mohanlal), a struggling actor, seeking opportunities which will give him a big break in the film industry. Under his uncle's help, Anandan is given an opportunity to audition for the lead role in a forthcoming film. He arrives in the studio and practices his combat skills with sword props provided on the sets while waiting for the director and the crew. At this, he meets Tamizhselvan (Prakash Raj), a small-time writer who enters the studio with some sarcastic poetry and this prompts both into a little debate. The debate turns into a mutual respect for each other, and impressed by Tamizhselvan's skills, Anandan requests Tamizhselvan to write dialogues for him to recite during the audition.

With the help of Tamizhselvan's dialogues, Anandan floors the director during the audition and is hired as the hero of the film. Anandan's friendship with Tamizhselvan grows as a result, and Anandan is introduced to Tamizhselvan's political party which is led by Ayya Veluthambi (Nassar). He grows to the party's ideology as time passes by. Anandan then marries a village belle, Pushpavalli (Aishwarya Rai) while Tamizhselvan marries another village girl, Maragatham (Revathy) under the supervision of the party leader. When Anandan returns to Madras, he is greeted by the bad news that the production of the film has been cancelled due to financial difficulties. As Tamizhselvan jubilates at his party's victory, a depressed Anandan is forced to return to old ways of playing extras in the movies. He even loses motivation and doesn't act some parts out well, causing further demotion in his roles. Anandan also sends Pushpa back to her village due to his financial difficulties. At one of the shootings, Anandan is greeted by his mother and uncle with the news that Pushpa has died due to a freak accident in her house. Tamizhselvan travels down to console a grief-stricken Anandan of his wife's death.

A few days later, Anandan's assistant Nambi (Delhi Ganesh) informs him that he has been called up for an audition of the same director's new project (the director who hired him for the stalled movie). Anandan is elated and calls up Tamizhselvan, who abandons his pregnant wife while she is giving birth to rush to aid Anandan. He writes dialogues for Anandan once again and the movie starts rolling. Anandan is paired with a rising actress Ramani (Gautami) for the film. The film receives tremendous response upon release and becomes a huge success, propelling Anandan into fame. At this time, Tamizhselvan encourages Anandan to use his popularity to help the party gain attention. While shooting for his next venture, Anandan and Ramani have some romantic brushes, which causes Ramani's uncle (Nizhalgal Ravi), who lusts over her, to beat her up. Ramani comes to Anandan seeking refuge, and Anandan marries her. At this juncture, the party starts to contest in elections. Before elections, Ayya Veluthambi gives Anandan an important mantle in the party, and a seat to contest, much to the displeasure of Tamizhselvan, who thinks Anandan is just a film star, and is not exactly passionate about the party.

But before the election, during a fine shoot, Anandan is shot in neck by a freak accident. The party sweeps elections with 152/234 with both Anandan and Tamizhselvan winning from their respective constituencies as new MLAs by huge margins. Ayya Veluthambi denies the CM post, and Tamizhselvan is made CM, worth full support of Anandan, but from then Tamizhselvan starts to see Anandan as a threat to his chair. He, however, keeps Anandan only as a party spokesperson and doesn't provide him a cabinet position. Anandan asks Tamizhselvan for the health minister position, as he is an MLA, which Tamizhselvan refuses, by saying that the executive committee forbids him to do so. That's because a minister cannot pursue cinema while in Office and Anandan has to give up any one. During the return car trip with fellow members, Anandan's aides start breeding hatred by Anandan on Tamizhselvan, saying that Tamizhselvan purposely did not include Anandan in the cabinet. An infuriated Anandan chases the flamers away from his car, but has doubts in his mind nevertheless.

That time, Ayya Veluthambi dies and Tamilzhselvan becomes supreme leader of the party, with help of Anandan. Tamizhselvan is later shown to have an extramarital affair with Senthamarai (Tabu), a village girl who loves literature, whom he first met while fighting for his party's causes before the party became successful. He marries her as his second wife subsequently. Meanwhile, Anandan, after his marriage with Ramani, calls up a new actress to audition to be his next heroine (it was a norm for an actor to work with same actress repeatedly during those days). The actress Kalpana (Aishwarya Rai again) resembles the late Pushpa, making Anandan uncomfortable. Ramani however insists that the actress is very talented and should be hired. Their association starts and the open nature of Kalpana's approach towards him makes Anandan more uncomfortable. Anandan finally reveals the truth about Pushpa, and this sparks off an affair between Anandan and Kalpana. In an ensuing party function held to pay tribute to Ayya Veluthambi, Anandan creates controversy by revealing some inside truths of discomfort within the party, prompting Tamizhselvan to sack him from the party. Anandan retaliates by forming his own party to stand in the election. His party priorities see him distancing himself from Kalpana, to whom he has promised to marry. An infuriated Kalpana walks out and starts doing social work.

Anandan's heavy star power enables him to win the next general election with 145/234 seats, as he had used his films to spread his political propaganda. As he becomes the new chief minister, a key MLA madhivanan jumps from Tamizhselvan's party to Anandan's party, in the belief that Anandan's reign will see less dirty politics, and is made the finance minister. This sparks off a cat and mouse game as Tamizhselvan and Anandan start devising tactics to outdo each other. This includes Anandan having to order Tamizhselvan's arrest after some riots broke out. It slowly dawns that Anandan's reign is no different from Tamizhselvan's and the deputy points out that the same corruption exists in Anandan's reign, to which Anandan says it's the nature of politics. Anandan meets Kalpana again while she is doing social work after a while, and sends Minister Nambi to bring her back. While in the car, Kalpana, Nambi, and his driver all meet with a fatal accident.

A distraught Anandan loses motivation after that as life begins to dawn upon him. Tamizhselvan, who just gets released from jail, also slows down in his tactics to dethrone Anandan as age catches up with both of them. During the wedding of Ayya Veluthambi's granddaughter, Anandan and Tamizhselvan meet each other and share a gracious handshake. The wedding takes place in the same place where they first met, prompting some memories and sly smiles from both of them. At the conclusion of the wedding, Anandan loses his footing and falls. The next morning, Ramani tries in vain to wake up Anandan, but he had died in his sleep.

Tamizhselvan receives the news that Anandan has died. Initially he thinks that as a rumour but later is proved true. He attends the funeral but is unable to see the body as it is being dressed for the funeral parade. Realizing that people there will always assume him as an enemy of Anandan, he heads back to the place they first met and in an emotional monologue, recites poetry mourning his friend's death which depicts the depth of their friendship. The film ends as Anandan's body is paraded across the streets, mourned by a legion of film fans and politicians, finally coming to the crematorium and being cremated.




In October 1995, Mani Ratnam announced that he was set to make a feature film titled Anandan featuring dialogues written by Suhasini with Mohanlal, Nana Patekar and Aishwarya Rai in the lead roles.[2] Initial speculation suggested that the film would visualise the duel between Vellupillai Prabhakaran and his former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam deputy Mahattiya, who was executed in 1995 for an alleged plot to kill his mentor, with Aishwarya Rai reported to be playing Indira Gandhi.[3] Mani Ratnam was quick to deny any political backdrop claiming that the film would be about the Indian movie industry, however this proved to bluff the public as the film was to be set within a political canvas. The film was later retitled Iruvar (The Duo) and the idea to make a film on the lives of 1980s Tamil Nadu political icons M. G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi and their influential relationship between Tamil cinema and Dravidian politics by Mani Ratnam was sparked by a conversation he had with renowned Malayalam author, M. T. Vasudevan Nair.[4]


When interviewed about the difficulties of casting, Mani Ratnam revealed he "struggled" citing that casting "is most important as far as performance is concerned" and that "fifty per cent of the job is done if you cast correctly".[4] Mohanlal was approached to play Anandan, a character inspired by the former actor-politician M. G. Ramachandran and about his performance in the film, Mani Ratnam claimed that Mohanlal had "the ability to make everything absolutely realistic with the least amount of effort". He described that debutant Aishwarya Rai, the former Miss World beauty pageant winner, who appeared in two different characters - one inspired by actress-politician Jayalalitha, as a "tremendous dancer" and "having a lot of potential". The director revealed that the only difficulty Mohanlal and Aishwarya had was the language, both being non-Tamil speakers adding that the pair had to work hard over the dubbing trying to get as close to the Tamil tongue.[4] The actor to play the role of Tamizhselvan, inspired by politician M. Karunanidhi, took substantially longer to finalise with the initial choice, Nana Patekar, withdrawing after several discussions about his remuneration. Later, Mohanlal's Malayalam counterpart Mammootty was offered the role but declined, as did leading Tamil actors Kamal Haasan and Sathyaraj.[5][6] Negotiations with R. Sarathkumar and Mithun Chakraborty were also unsuccessful as the pair demanded a higher remuneration, while Arvind Swamy was briefly signed on to play the role and had recorded two poems for the soundtrack, before opting out due to other commitments.[7] Mani Ratnam also called R. Madhavan, then a small-time model for the screen test, but left him out of the project citing that he thought his eyes looked too young for a senior role.[8][9][10] Subsequently, Prakash Raj, who had played a small role in Mani Ratnam's 1994 film Bombay was signed up to essay the character. Prakash Raj initially told Mani Ratnam that he was unprepared to essay such a delicate role in such short notice, with Prakash Raj later revealing that Mani Ratnam nurtured the character and brought self-confidence into the actor. Renowned for being a perfectionist film-maker, Mani Ratnam made Prakash Raj take 25 takes for his first shot, lasting over six hours.[5] Actress Tabu was also signed to play an important role in the film and shot for Iruvar alongside her Tamil debut film, Kadhal Desam.[11]


The film was shot across 1996 and schedules were canned all across India from Kerala to Leh with Mohanlal stating that it was the longest duration he had shot for a film.[12] The film was briefly stopped by the FEFSI strike of 1996, making technicians unavailable for use, but Mani Ratnam carried on filming and completed a song using only natural light. After the shooting for Iruvar was completed, Mani Ratnam asked Prakash Raj to dub in Tamil himself for the first time, with his work taking four days to complete.[5]


The censors saw the film on 31 December 1996 and opined that various characters in the film reflected the personal lives of some politicians and accordingly a certificate was denied. Following the producer's protest, it was seen by an eight-member revising committee on 2 January 1997 which suggested deletion of some objectionable portions and cleared the film for U/A certification. Four dialogues from the film were subsequently cut.[13]

Two days before the release of the film, Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani threatened to mobilise public opinion against its screening in theatres, because he felt that it contained "objectionable" footage denigrating the Dravidian movement founded by Periyar.[14] The politician threatened legal action, if the film was screened in theatres without removing what he perceived as the "offending" portion, but Mani Ratnam dismissed that Veeramani was making rushed conclusions without having seen the film.[14]

A month after release in February 1997, the regional chief of the censor board G. Rajasekharan brought up the issue again and referred the film to the Indian Home Office for "advice", threatening that if more scenes were not deleted, it might ultimately, lead to a law and order problem.[13]


Though the movie starts with a note saying "Idhu Unmai Kadhai Alla (meaning: this is not a true story)," the movie deals with a very sensitive subject of the two men whose lives were chronicled that enjoy an enormous fan following. The dash and flair and captivating oratory abilities of M. Karunanidhi has attracted many millions over the 50 years of his political life and M. G. Ramachandran enjoys a semi-divine status in of his own, in Tamil Nadu. On account of this the movie invited much criticism from both the camps. Moreover, the personal lives of the lead characters (their extramarital relations, ego problems) have been portrayed with near accuracy in the film.[citation needed] M. G. Ramachandran is shown as a person who meets his match in the wiles of J. Jayalalithaa.[citation needed] When the movie was released, various political parties staged demonstrations to prevent theaters from showing the movie.[citation needed]

Both M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa denied the relevance of the film to their lives and never admitted to the film being a bio-pic[15]


The film is still regarded as one of Mani Ratnam's best works.[16] Mani Ratnam himself has named Iruvar as his best film, in an interview to National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan.[17] The movie enjoys enormous fan following among the Tamil diaspora and has achieved cult status over the years.

The film was also noted for its vignette style of making, with many single-shot scenes, where a fluid camera setup captures the entire action.[18] Director Gautham Menon mentioned Iruvar as his inspiration, along with Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, for long single-shot scenes in Neethaane En Ponvasantham.[19]


National Film Awards 1997
International honors


The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
RecordedPanchathan Record Inn
Aditya Music
ProducerA. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Minsara Kanavu
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


The film's soundtrack features six songs composed by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Vairamuthu.[21] It has songs ranging from pure Carnatic to Tamil folk and jazz. Rahman blended two Carnatic ragas—"Naatai" and "Ghambeera Naatai"—in "Narumugaye". "Venilla Venilla", sung by veteran singer Asha Bhonsle, and "Hello Mister Edirkatchi" are based on jazz music. "Udal Mannukku" and "Unnodu Naan Irundha" were recitals sung by actor Arvind Swamy. The songs "Hello Mister Edirkatchi", "Narumugaye" were popular.

Track listing
1."Kannai Kattikolathey"Hariharan, Sukhwinder Singh, Udit Narayan5:10
2."Hello Mister Edirkatchi"Harini, Rajagopal4:12
3."Narumugaye"Unnikrishnan, Bombay Jayashree, Sonu Nigam6:20
4."Venilla Venilla"Asha Bhosle4:59
5."Ayirathil Naan Oruvan"Mano, A. R. Rahman (Backing Vocals)5:51
6."Pookodiyin Punnagai"Sandhya JK5:31
7."Udal Mannuku"Arvind Swamy2:54
8."Unnodu Naan Irundha"Arvind Swamy2:35
Track listing (Telugu Version)
1."Kallaganthalu Kattadhoi"Hariharan5:10
2."Hello Mister Edurpakshi"Harini, Rajagopal4:16
3."Sasivadane"Unnikrishnan, Bombay Jayashree6:23
4."Vennelaa"Asha Bhosle5:00
5."Aadhukonadam Vrathamai"Mano, A. R. Rahman (Backing Vocals)5:51
6."Poonagave"Sandhya JK5:32
7."Unnanu Neeku Thodugaa"S.P.Balasubrahmanyam, Dominique Cerejo2:37


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jayanthi (15 October 1995). "What makes Mani ?". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  3. ^ Paneerselvam, A. V. (14 February 1996). "With A Sepia Edge". Outlook. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Umashankar, Sudha (1998). "Films must reflect the times you live in". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Ramanujam, D. S (8 June 1999). "Power packed performance". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  6. ^ Rangarajan, Malathi (28 January 2012). "Character Call". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  7. ^!topic/soc.culture.tamil/J68fuQkdCtw
  8. ^ Gliteratti (24 July 1996). "A Close Shave". Outlook India. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  9. ^ Ganapati, Priya (8 March 2000). "People remember scenes, not episodes". Rediff. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  10. ^!searchin/soc.culture.tamil/sandya$20sitaraman/soc.culture.tamil/1EPmpEGDWEg/8xqXWn0UH2YJ
  11. ^ Taliculam, Sharmila (4 April 1997). "Commercial films can get you only so far". Rediff. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  12. ^ Warrier, Shobha (4 April 1997). "I celebrate whether a film is a hit or a flop". Rediff. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Censors refer Iruvar to home dept". Times of India. 28 February 1998. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Maniratnam's film 'Iruvar' draws DK leader's anger". Times of India. 13 January 1998. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "WEDNESDAY WINNER - IRUVAR". Cinema Lead. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  17. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj (10 December 2013). Conversations with Mani Ratnam. ISBN 9788184756906.
  18. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj (10 December 2013). Conversations with Mani Ratnam. ISBN 9788184756906.
  19. ^
  20. ^ G. Dhananjayan (2014). PRIDE OF TAMIL CINEMA: 1931 TO 2013: Tamil Films that have earned National and International Recognition. Blue Ocean Publishers, 2014. p. 365. ISBN 978-93-84301-05-7.
  21. ^ "paadal varigal - IRUVAR". tamilsonglyrics. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015.

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