Magalir Mattum

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Magalir Mattum
Magalir Mattum 1994.jpg
Directed bySingeetam Srinivasa Rao
Produced byKamal Haasan
Screenplay byCrazy Mohan
Story byKamal Haasan
Music byIlaiyaraaja
Edited byN. P. Sathish
Distributed byRaaj Kamal Films International
Release date
  • 25 February 1994 (1994-02-25)
Running time
132 minutes[1]

Magalir Mattum (lit. Ladies Only) is a 1994 Tamil-language Indian satirical film directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao and produced by Kamal Haasan. The film stars Nassar, Revathi, Urvashi and Rohini in the lead roles. The screenplay was written by Crazy Mohan based on a story by Kamal that was inspired by the American film 9 to 5 (1980). In Magalir Mattum, three women decide to gang up against their lecherous office boss who constantly harasses them, but the situation gets complicated when the boss lands in a hospital and the three women end up with the corpse of a terrorist. The film was released on 25 February 1994 and became a success, running for over 175 days in theatres. For her performance, Urvashi won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize for Best Actress.


Janaki, Pappamma and Satya are three women employed at a fashion export company. Janaki works as a typist to support herself, her husband and their child as her husband lost his job in a factory. Pappamma is a housekeeper who lives with her drunkard rickshaw pulling husband and earns for both their living and her husband's drinking expense. Satya is a computer graduate and designer who waits to get married. Her marriage was stopped by her once when the groom's family asked a lot for dowry. She joined the fashion company as a fashion designer and stays in a hostel. All the women in the company face a common threat in the form of manager G. K. Pandian, a womaniser. He harasses his female employees in one way or other, but the women tolerate his torture due to their family circumstances.

Pandian tries to move close with Satya and unaware of Pandian's intention, Satya at first dines with him. This isolates her from other employees. Pandian tries to impress her by presenting a silk saree, but Satya insults him by saying that only a father or husband should present a saree to a woman and what he has done is purely idiotic. This gains her the friendship of Janaki and Pappamma and Satya understands about Pandian. A small daily clash occurs between Pappamma and Janaki whenever Pappamma misplaces rat poison besides sugar and Janaki almost mixes rat poison by mistake in the coffee of Pandian's as both sugar and poison look alike. Due to Satya's friendship, Janaki becomes bold enough to face her supervisor and she insults her in front of everyone. Hence the supervisor tries to take revenge by hiding an important file which is under Janaki's custody. But Pappamma helps her by revealing the truth to Pandian. All the three women are frustrated by Pandian's attitude and are finding some way to stop his misdeeds towards them.

Pandian one day tries to hold Janaki after office hours. But Satya stays back for her help. Janaki mixes rat poison unknowingly in Pandian's coffee and gives it to him and goes to work. Pandian falls from his chair and becomes unconscious. Satya finds his state and admits him in hospital. Janaki finds that she has mixed rat poison in the coffee and Pandian drank it and reveals the truth to her friends, which shocks them. All three rush to hospital and hear that the patient is dead due to strong dosage of poison. But actually they don't know that the dead man is a terrorist who died by drinking cyanide and Pandian has actually fainted due to a minor injury and has recovered. They kidnap the corpse and take it to Satya's room only to find that they have kidnapped corpse of the terrorist. Hence they decide to place it back in the hospital. But Pappamma's husband misunderstands that his wife and the dead man have a relationship and fights with him. Finally police find out the missed corpse and all three leave silently. Pandian returns to the office and this shocks the three women. The supervisor overhears their conversation and informs Pandian.

Pandian blackmails them that he would report the murder attempt to the police if they did not obey what he says. He demands to spend each night with all the three women in his private house. All three come to a decision and pretend to accept his demands. In his private house, they initially act to romance, but finally trap him and tie him. Satya takes charge of acting manager and with the help of Janaki, Pappamma and other employees she brings many changes in the office. In the evening, all the three go to the private house. One day, Satya receives information from the head office about the boss' visit and get tense as they have kidnapped the manager. All three decide to confess about what happened in the office and rush to the airport to receive the boss. The supervisor overhears them and she rescues Pandian. Both Satya and Pandian try to rush to the airport before the other. Satya mistakes an old man to be the boss, instead a young man, (Kamal Hassan) comes and leaves with Pandian. The trio is shocked and chase him to the office.

In the office, the young boss finds differences and Pandian says that he is not responsible for anything that happened here. But the boss looks like he is aware about what happened there and appreciates all three for their innovative ideas. He decides to leave the charge of the office to the trio and transfers Pandian to Andaman. He also gives remedy for Janaki's husband's job in his friend's factory and Pappamma's husband's job as watchman in their school. When he inquires about Satya's marriage, Janaki says that she has a dream boy drawn in the computer. Satya shows her dream boy to him and all are surprised that Satya's dream boy is their boss. The boss asks Satya to marry him and they both fall in the repaired chair revealing that Satya accepted his proposal.




After being inspired by the American film 9 to 5 (1980), Kamal Haasan wrote a story, narrated it to Crazy Mohan and asked him to develop it into a screenplay. The former was not sure "if we could turn it into a two-hour film", so the portions featuring Nagesh's character were one of the things Mohan wrote to expand the screenplay. His wife wrote the screenplay while he was explaining every scene. Mohan suggested the title Magalir Mattum "because 'Ladies Only' buses were quite popular then and people would instantly connect to the subject of the film." Singeetam Srinivasa Rao was hired to direct,[2] while Kamal produced the film under his banner Raaj Kamal Films International.[3]

Kamal wanted P. C. Sreeram to be the cinematographer, but since he was busy with Thiruda Thiruda (1993), his assistant Tirru was recruited instead.[2] The film was Tirru's first as an independent cinematographer; he previously assisted Sreeram in Kamal's Thevar Magan (1992).[4] Tirru has stated that Srinivasa Rao "almost summarily dismissed" him because he was not used to working with novices, "but I was able to prove my technical worth in the opening shots, with a lot of help from Kamal, who had immense faith in my capabilities".[5] Velraj worked as an assistant cinematographer in the film.[6] P. N. Satish worked as the editor,[7] and Kamal's then-wife Sarika designed the costumes.[8]


For the three female characters Srinivasa Rao wanted three actresses who were good friends in real life, so he cast Revathi, Urvashi, and Rohini. He also noted "When we were doing their combination scenes there was so much life in it because they were friends."[9]

Rohini was offered to play the role of a de-glamorised servant; she recalled that she agreed to do it "without a second thought" and since she grew up in Chennai, she "didn't have to work on the slang".[2][10] Urvashi recalled that Kamal asked her to "choose the one you'd be interested"; she liked the character Pappamma due to "rawness that stems from her family situation. But I settled for Janaki because she's a character that audiences relate to" and Rohini was instead cast as Pappamma.[11] As with Rohini and Urvashi, Revathi too agreed to act in the film without second thoughts.[3] For the role of GK Pandian, Nassar who was known mainly for negative roles at that point of time was chosen to portray his first humour oriented character.[2]

Director P. Bharathiraja and poet Vairamuthu were initially approached for the character of office supervisor Thamizhavan; however producer S. Thanu appeared in that role, notably it was his only film as an actor.[2][12] Kamal who produced the film appeared in a small role as office boss towards the climax.[13] Nagesh did a small role as a corpse.[14] For the character of hearing impaired old employee who still works at the age of retirement, Kamal chose A. S. Nagarajan who directed Paasavalai (1956).[2]


Magalir Mattum was launched in the first half of 1993. It was one of the few films launched during a period of a ban imposed on film production in Tamil Nadu by distributors' associations.[15] The set of the office was put up on the second floor of a building that was being constructed at the then Vauhini Studios.[2] Years earlier, when Kamal was filming for Swati Mutyam (1988) at a coastal area in Andhra Pradesh, a body washed ashore. This led to a commotion, and Kamal went over to see what it was all about. This incident was used in Magalir Mattum as a plot point.[16]

While filming the scene where he played a corpse being carried by the three female leads, Nagesh was asked by Srinivasa Rao to keep a smirk on his face throughout the sequence. Srinivasa Rao told him to let his body go totally limp; this proved difficult for both him and the three female leads, as they had to carry his entire weight.[3] The stunt scene involving Nagesh was shot on a set erected at Campa Cola. The team waited for three months to shoot the song "Karava Maadu" as all the three actresses had to be in it. Finally, they decided to shoot the portions separately with Nassar depending upon the availability of actress on that day. Raghuram, who choreographed the song, completed it in such a way that "the shots could later be edited and made to look like they all shot together".[2]


The film's core plot revolves around "workplace harassment and male gaze". The protagonists – Sathya, Janaki and Paapamma – are representatives of three different classes. Urvashi has stated that the film's idea was to show that "women, irrespective of class difference, face the same problems in a patriarchal society. For instance, my character exhibits a typical middle-class mentality. Paapamma is in stark contrast to Janaki and carries a bold and brazen attitude. Sathya is an independent woman who's very precise about things".[11]


Magalir Mattum
Soundtrack album by
GenreFeature film soundtrack
LabelAVM Audio

The soundtrack was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, while the lyrics for all the songs were written by Vaali.[17][18] For the title song, Ilaiyaraaja used the technique of composer M. B. Sreenivasan and composed it as a choir song.[2]

1."Veettai Thandi Veleyae"S. Janaki6:07
2."Mothu Mothunnu"S. Janaki6:38
3."Adimai Pattu Ennama"Ilaiyaraaja5:57
4."Karavai Madu Moonu"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, S. Janaki6:38

Release and reception[edit]

Magalir Mattum was released on 25 February 1994.[19] No distributor was willing to buy the film since it featured no romance or a hero; as a result, Kamal had to distribute it himself.[20] On the same day as its release, Malini Mannath of The Indian Express in her review called the film "a welcome breath of fresh air", she went on to praise Nassar's performance, saying that "his expressions are a treat to watch [..] he can do comedy too with ease". She also praised the performances of Revathi and Rohini and complimented Urvashi "with her sense of comedy who come out the best the humour and punchlines coming naturally".[21] The review board of Ananda Vikatan said the filmmakers must be appreciated for presenting a high-class comedy entertainer without any vulgarity or double entendre dialogues and becoming a benchmark for humour. They said that among the three female leads, Urvashi had lived through the character of a Brahmin girl and made them laugh throughout the film. The review board praised the cinematography and wrote that the filmmakers certainly moved a few steps ahead in their effort to present a neat and entertaining comedy film, and gave Magalir Mattum a rating of 44 marks out of 100.[22] K. Vijiyan of New Straits Times wrote on 12 March, "Ladies, Kamalhassan has made this movie just for you" and praising the performances of the lead actors.[23] The film was a commercial success, running for over 175 days in theatres,[24] thereby becoming a silver jubilee film.[25] For her performance, Urvasi won the Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize for Best Actress.[26]

Other versions[edit]

Magalir Mattum was dubbed and released in Telugu as Adavallaku Matrame.[27][28] The film was remade in Hindi as Ladies Only in 1997 by Dinesh Shailendra. Seema Biswas, Shilpa Shirodkar and Heera Rajagopal were cast as the female leads and Randhir Kapoor was selected to reprise Nassar's character. Kamal Haasan produced the film and appeared as a dead body. Though the film was completed, it failed to have a theatrical release.[29][30]


Nassar's character in Magalir Mattum attained iconic status, and later became "the face of all memes and posts related to harassment at the workplace."[31]


  1. ^ a b c d Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 1998, p. 520.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Suganth, M. (25 February 2019). "Celebrating 25 years of Magalir Mattum, a film for the Me Too era". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Revathi (22 October 2018). "Memories from Magalir Mattum". Women in Cinema Collective. Archived from the original on 13 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ Sangeeta (6 July 2007). "Realistic frames". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  5. ^ Raghavan, Nikhil (30 April 2016). "24 Frames". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  6. ^ Saravanan, T. (1 August 2014). "Cinema cinema!". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  7. ^ Magalir Mattum (motion picture) (in Tamil). Raaj Kamal Films International. 1994. Opening credits, at 7:03.
  8. ^ Magalir Mattum (motion picture) (in Tamil). Raaj Kamal Films International. 1994. Opening credits, at 6:59.
  9. ^ Gopalakrishnan, Aswathy (29 October 2016). "Singeetam Srinivasa Rao Interview: "The Golden Rule Of Cinema Is That There Is No Golden Rule"". Archived from the original on 25 January 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  10. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj (3 September 2011). "Roles of a lifetime". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 11 August 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  11. ^ a b S, Srivatsan (25 February 2019). "'Magalir Mattum' turns 25: Urvashi takes a trip down memory lane". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  12. ^ "கமலஹாசன் நடித்த 'ஆளவந்தான்' உருவான கதை" [How the Kamal Haasan-starrer Aalavandhan was born]. Maalai Malar (in Tamil). 17 October 2013. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  13. ^ Srinivasan, Meera (16 March 2011). "Big stars glitter in small roles". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  14. ^ Rangarajan, Malathi (20 February 2009). "They mourned with laughter". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  15. ^ Ramnarayan, Gowri (30 July 1993). "Kleig lights again in Tamil film industry". Frontline. Vol. 10. Madras. pp. 105–106.
  16. ^ Kumar, Rajitha (8 November 2000). "Kamal, as we know him". Archived from the original on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Magalir Mattum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Archived from the original on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  18. ^ Ilaiyaraaja. "Magalir Mattum (1994)". Music India Online. Archived from the original on 29 June 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Kamal Haasan's Magalir Mattum celebrates its silver jubilee anniversary today!". 25 February 2019. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  20. ^ Kamat, Vatsala (July 2008). "Man Behind The Masks". Businessworld. No. 1–7. Anandabazar Patrika. p. 253.
  21. ^ Mannath, Malini (25 February 1994). "What fun! Such good fun!". The Indian Express. p. 6.
  22. ^ "மகளிர் மட்டும்" [Ladies Only]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 1994.
  23. ^ Vijiyan, K. (12 March 1994). "This one is made just for the ladies". New Straits Times. p. 14.
  24. ^ "சாதனை புரிந்த தமிழ் படங்கள் – 315 – எஸ்.கணேஷ்". Dinamalar (in Tamil). Nellai. 10 October 2017. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  25. ^ 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 14 March 2019.
  26. ^ Sitaraman, Sandya (22 October 1996). "Virudhugal & Vizhaakkal". Tamil Movie News. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  27. ^ Nyayapati, Neeshita (28 December 2017). "Singeetam Srinivasa Rao to talk about his film 'Aadavallaku Mathrame' on his show 'Pushpaka Vimanam' this Sunday". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 13 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  28. ^ "చెయ్యేసే బాస్‌కు బడితపూజ". Sakshi (in Telugu). 14 February 2018. Archived from the original on 11 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
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