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Film poster
Directed by Shankar
Produced by S.Shankar, R. Madhesh
Written by S. Shankar
Starring Arjun
Manisha Koirala
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography K. V. Anand
Edited by B. Lenin
V. T. Vijayan
Release dates
  • 7 November 1999 (1999-11-07)
Running time
171 minutes[a]
Country India
Language Tamil
Box office 50 crore (equivalent to 121 crore or US$18 million in 2016)[3]

Mudhalvan (English: Chief Minister) is a 1999 Tamil language Indian political thriller film co-written, directed and co-produced by S. Shankar. The film features Arjun, Manisha Koirala and Raghuvaran in the lead roles with Manivannan, Vijayakumar and Hanifa portraying other significant roles. The film featured an award-winning soundtrack composed by A. R. Rahman, cinematography by K. V. Anand and dialogues by Sujatha.[4]

The film revolves around an ambitious TV journalist, Pughazhendi, who interviews the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Pughazhendi asks the tough questions, the Minister starts trembling and asks him to put his money where his mike is, and become the CM for a day. After using up a few lifelines mentally, he agrees and does such a great job on his first day, that the voters eventually elect him to be their permanent leader. The subsequent unpopularity and jealousy that the Chief Minister goes through results in him taking revenge on Pugazhendi, and how he is stopped forms the crux of the story.

The film was released on 7 November 1999, as a Deepavali release. The film enjoyed positive critical acclaim while emerging as the highest-grossing Tamil film of 1999 as well as the highest-grossing of all-time until it was surpassed by Ghilli in 2004.[3] The film ran for over 200 days in theaters and won awards on a regional scale. The film was then dubbed and released in Telugu as Oke Okkadu and later remade in Hindi as Nayak starring Anil Kapoor.


The story focuses on Television Journalist Pughazhendhi (Arjun) working for "Q TV". During riots triggered by a fight between some college students and bus drivers, which threaten to touch upon the touchy issue of castes, the CM of the state Aranganathan (Raghuvaran) reveals his unwillingness to take strong action to quell the violence for fear of estranging any of his political bases. To set things right, he then appears on a live interview with Pughazhendi, who had coincidentally captured the CM's earlier unwillingness to take a stand, on camera.

In this interview Pughaz consistantly questions Aranganathan about his self-sided judgemnts upon the riot to save his own post, then questions him about the under development in the state in his 15 years rule. In response to Pughazh's pointed questioning about the poor working of his government, the CM ducks the question by instead talking about how difficult his job is, and by challenging Pugazh to be the CM for one day. Pugazh reluctantly accepts the seat of the Chief Minister in the place of Aranganathan (Raghuvaran). Educated and vigilant, Pugazh moves fast. He takes care of almost every aspect in a day's time, giving the slum their rightful apartments and getting jobs for the unemployed, suspending inefficient and corrupt government officers. All the way he is assisted by the secretary, Mayakrishnan (Manivannan). As the last act of the day he gets Aranganathan arrested as he is the root of all the corruption. But Aranganathan bails out, passes an ordinance to nullify all orders passed by Pugazh when he was the CM. Taking Pugazh's success as an insult, Aranganathan sends goons to get him killed and destroys his house.The next day, all the remaining parties in the ruling coalition revoke their support to Aranganathan and the state Assembly is dissolved for fresh general elections.

Meanwhile Pugazh falls in love with an innocent village girl called Thenmozhi (Manisha Koirala). But her father (Vijaykumar) wants his daughter's suitor to be a government civil worker. So after his tenure as a one-day CM he starts preparing for the Indian Civil Service Examination when his earlier secretary comes in and tells him that Pugazh's popularity has rocketed sky-high and people want him to become the next CM of the state. He refuses but then Aranganathan's henchman attacks the Q TV news agency and wrecks the building in its entirety. Mayakrishnan then tells Pugazh that he has become a part of politics and Aranganathan will never leave him at peace and Pugazh's lawsuit against Aranganathan is bound to fail. But Thenmozhi's father dissuades Pugazh from joining politics. However, on seeing the people's plight and Mayakrishnan's advice he agrees to contest elections.

In the ensuing state elections, his party creates new record by winning all 234 seats unanimously in all constituencies and Pughaz becomes the new CM . On becoming the chief minister, Pugazhendhi brings about lots of improvements and quickly becomes an idol in the people's eyes. But Thenmozhi's father angered by Pugazh's decision refuses to let his daughter marry him. Here, Aranganathan's political allies who deserted him causing his defeat, rejoin him. Pugazh promptly does his duty by digging out all accusations against Aranganathan and his allies. However his growing popularity is threatened continuously by Aranganathan who uses his henchmen to kill him or at least tarnish is image as a public hero. This, however, causes a reunion of Aranganathan and his allies. After a failed attempt on Pugazh's life by hiring an assassin, a bomb is detonated at his home killing his parents.

In the final attempt Aranganathan orders his P.A. to destroy law and order and cause bomb explosions in various parts of the city. But a priest is able to overhear a few men planning to detonate bombs. He immediately notifies Pugazh's office via the "Complaint Box" department. Aranganathan's P.A. is arrested and under tactical inquiry by Pugazh and his secretary, he discloses the location of the bombs. A bomb squad successfully defuses all the bombs. Aranganathan, however, uses this success against Pugazh by blaming the young CM for the bomb. Seeing no way out, Pugazh summons Aranganathan to the secretariat and creates a situation such that it would seem as if Aranganathan was there to shoot Pugazh but failed. The security guards shoot down Aranganathan killing him. Pugazh, secretly tells Mayakrishnan the truth but Mayakrishnan believes that Aranganathan deserved it. Thenmozhi's father also comes to realize that Pugazh is in fact a great man who sees duty before everything else and allows Thenmozhi to marry him. The final scene shows Tamil Nadu developing over the years under Pugazhendhi's Government.


  • Arjun as Pughazhendhi Narayanan
  • Manisha Koirala as Thenmozhi
  • Raghuvaran as Chief Minister Aranganathan
  • Vadivelu as Palavesham
  • Manivannan as Mayakrishnan
  • Vijayakumar as Thenmozhi's father
  • Natanam as Pugazhendhi's father
  • Kalairani as Pughazhendhi's mother
  • Cochin Haneefa as Chinnasamy (Aranganathan henchman)
  • Laila as Shuba
  • Sushmita Sen in a special appearance
  • Omakuchi Narayanan as cameo appearance
  • S.V.Ramadoss as Minister Thirupathisamy (Opposition party leader)
  • Kanal Kannan as Auto Driver (cameo appearance)
  • Scissor Manohar as Bus Driver (Student riot)


Following the success of Jeans (1998), Shankar chose to make a political action film.[5] The lead role was initially written with Rajinikanth in mind, but he was unwilling to star in the film.[6][7][8] Vijay was also considered by Shankar for the role, though the actor turned the offer down.[9][10][11] Shankar revealed that he even approached Kamal Haasan for the film but he was doing Hey Ram at that time.[12][6] Arjun, who had previously collaborated with Shankar in Gentleman (1993), was willing to offer bulk schedule dates for the film and was subsequently signed on.[6][13] Shankar noted that he was interested in casting Meena in the leading role, but opted against doing so as the actress was working with Arjun in another film in the same period, Rhythm (2000).[14] Subsequently Manisha Koirala, who worked with Shankar in Indian, was selected to play Arjun's heroine. Raghuvaran was signed to play the chief antagonist in the film, while Vadivelu and Manivannan were also chosen to play other characters. Despite reports that Shilpa Shetty was added to the cast in February 1999, it was later clarified to be untrue.[15] Laila, who had made her acting debut earlier in the year with Kallazhagar, was signed on to portray the role planned with Shetty instead.[16] Originally her role was supposed to feature throughout the film, but Shankar shortened her character owing to her callsheet problems.[6] Renowned muralist Natanam and Kalairani were casted as Arjun's parents.[17][18][19] S. Sashikanth who went on to produce films like Thamizh Padam (2010) and Kaaviya Thalaivan (2014) and K. R. Mathivaanan who directed Aridhu Aridhu (2010) worked as assistant directors.[20][21]

The film was launched in October 1998 at an event well attended by actors and technicians from the Tamil film industry, with noted actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan being the special invitees.[22] Production continued for several months, with reports suggesting that the film was delayed due to Manisha Koirala's unavailability though Shankar later stressed the production work demanded such delay. Parts of the film were also shot in Bikaner, Rajasthan while the team also shot extensively in rural Tamil Nadu.[23] The film's cinematographer later noted that the scenes involving crowds shot on Anna Salai, Chennai were among the hardest and most satisfying scenes he had worked on.[24] The song "Shakalaka Baby" was the last song to be shot, with Sushmita Sen selected to feature in a special appearance for the song.[25][26] Stunt master Peter Hein revealed that he worked as a body double for Arjun in the scene where he had to run nude on the streets.[27]



The film's release prints were 4,876 m (15,997 ft) long.[2] Upon release on 7 November 1999, this high-budget production won positive reviews and was successful at the box office. The film was then dubbed and released in Telugu as Oke Okkadu and later remade in Hindi as Nayak starring Anil Kapoor.[28] The film went on to run for over one hundred days in cinemas with an event being held at Kamaraj Hall on 25 February 2000 to mark one hundred days since release. The event, similar to the launch, attracted several people from the film industry with Kamal Haasan, once again, being the chief guest of the event.[28]

On 21 November 1999, Ananda Vikatan in its review gave 43 marks and appreciated the film stating that: "One can see Shankar's grandeur in the way he presented a social problem magnificently.. Shankar has approached a serious social issue with usual entertainment elements".[6] The Hindu said "Shankar scores again". In regard to the lead performances, Arjun is described as having "acquitted himself with aplomb", while Manisha's performance was criticized with claims that she "lacks the freshness that one always associates her with".[29] The critic also referred to Shankar's direction and Sujatha's dialogs as a "positive", while drawing praise to the videos of the songs describing that "every song and dance sequence seems a magnum opus by itself". The New Indian Express described the film as "absorbing" and praised certain scenes, although it criticized the videos of the songs as a "fiasco".[30] Indiaglitz wrote: "Mudhalvan spoke about current affairs in India. With an absorbing screenplay and conveying the message of change in the political system, the film was a runaway hit."


The political party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), ruling Tamil Nadu, were upset with the film. In the view of the DMK, the film suggested that their rule was worse than that of AIADMK's leader J. Jayalalitha's reign. They felt Raghuvaran, who played a venal chief minister and whose dialogue was delivered in a raspy voice, was taking off on then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. Interestingly, while the Tamil Nadu ruling party reportedly viewed the film as an attempt to slur their "Thalaivar" (leader), in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the reaction was the polar opposite. In Andhra Pradesh, thus, the protagonist who by force of circumstance becomes Chief Minister for a day and who, in those 24 hours, managed to do enough good to create a public outcry demanding that he enter active politics and take over as Chief Minister for good, was seen as a mirror image of Chandrababu Naidu. Thus, the Andhra Chief Minister invited director Shankar as his special guest, requested a special screening of the film and lauded the ideals the director had expressed in his film.[31]

Themes and influences[edit]

The film dealt with the theme of a television cameraman who is forced to take over the duty of Chief minister for one day. It also dealt with the concept of opportunities for educated people in politics and demonstrated it is possible to bring change in the country. The film's basic idea was inspired from Nixon-Frost interviews which were broadcast in 1977.[2]



Soundtrack album by A. R. Rahman
Released 1999 (India)
Recorded Panchathan Record Inn
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Five Star Audio
Ayngaran Music
Producer A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman chronology
Taj Mahal

The release of the soundtrack was held at Satyam Cinema, Chennai, on 31 October 1999 with two songs from the film being performed on stage. The special guests for the event were actor Kamal Haasan and actress Sushmita Sen, who performed an item number in the film. The event was well attended by the cast and the crew of the film, with other guests including cinematographer P. C. Sriram, actress Sarika and actor Suriya.[32]

The soundtrack features six songs composed by A. R. Rahman and lyrics penned by Vairamuthu. The song "Shakalaka Baby" was re-edited by A. R. Rahman and featured on the hit international musical production Bombay Dreams, which ran in Europe and North America from 2002 to 2005. This version was also released as a single. A Mandarin Chinese remix of the track sung by Singaporean singer Kelly Poon was featured in her album In the Heart of the World (2007).[6]

The soundtrack was a phenomenal success and the initial day audio sale alone was more than three lakh units.[33] The song "Azhagana Rakshasiye" is based on Rithigowla Raga.[34] Dhananjayan stated that: "Blockbuster songs gave a youthful look to a rather serious film [..] and helped tremendously in the film's grand success".[6]

Track listing
No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Kurukku Chiruththavale"   Hariharan, Mahalakshmi Iyer 6:42
2. "Mudhalvanae"   Shankar Mahadevan, S. Janaki 6:40
3. "Uppu Karuvadu"   Shankar Mahadevan, Kavita Krishnamurthy 5:38
4. "Azhagana Ratchashiyae"   S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Harini, G. V. Prakash Kumar 6:11
5. "Ulundhu Vithakkaiyilae"   Srinivas, Swarnalatha 6:05
6. "Shakalaka Baby"   Vasundhara Das, Pravin Mani 5:28


The scene where a crowd gathers around the protagonist's house to persuade him to contest elections was included by Behindwoods in their list of "Top 20 Mass Scenes".[35]

In popular culture[edit]

Incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal is often compared to the protagonist of Mudhalvan,[36][37][38] due to the former's similarities to the crusade against corruption and defeating the incumbent government coming as a rookie in politics.[39][40] Similar to the character from the film, Kejriwal had suspended various corrupt officials and visited slums.[41][42]

The scenes, songs and dialogues from the film has been parodied in Budget Padmanabhan (2000),[43] Kandha Kadamba Kathir Vela (2000),[44] Kanna Unnai Thedukiren (2001),[45] Run (2002),[46] Sivaji (2007),[47] Singakutty (2008),[48] Kaalaipani (2008)[49] and also in Telugu film Dubai Seenu (2007).[50]


  1. ^ gives the runtime of 170 minutes,[1] whereas the 2011 book The Best of Tamil Cinema by G. Dhananjayan gives the runtime as 169 minutes.[2]


  1. ^ " Buy Mudhalvan DVD, Blu-ray Online at Best Prices in India - Movies & TV Shows". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Dhananjayan 2011, p. 210.
  3. ^ a b "True box office kings". moviecrow. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Love makes the filmi world go round". Rediff. 4 November 1999. 
  5. ^ malathi rangarajan. "Maverick maker". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Dhananjayan 2011, p. 211.
  7. ^ "The Journey of living legend Rajinikanth Part 7 - The Journey Of Living Legend Rajinikanth Part 7- Rajinikanth- Amar Reddy - - -". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Rajinikanth was to do Shankar's 'Mudhalvan'". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "Shankar is the Spielberg of Indian cinema: Vijay". Sify. 
  10. ^ "Shankar connects with fans". The Hindu. 
  11. ^ "The list of movies missed by Ajith Vijay Kamal Rajini and". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  12. ^ Sudhir Srinivasan. "Shankar and I". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Minnoviyam Star Tracks". 
  14. ^ "Shanker". Sify movies. 
  15. ^ "Do not disturb". Rediff. 
  16. ^ "Minnoviyam Star Tracks". 
  17. ^ "Muralist Natanam honoured". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  18. ^ "The Hindu : Magic of metal". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  19. ^ "The Hindu : Power-packed performer". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Sudhish Kamath (2 March 2012). "Why Not?". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  21. ^ nikhil raghavan. "Getting better". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Tamil Movie News!". 
  23. ^[dead link]
  24. ^ "K V Anand talks in detail about his Mudhalvan experience". 
  25. ^
  26. ^[dead link]
  27. ^ "Living on the edge". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  28. ^ a b "Mudhalvan - the mega hit - celebrates 100 days". 
  29. ^[dead link]
  30. ^[dead link]
  31. ^ "The war within". Rediff. 
  32. ^[dead link]
  33. ^ M Suganth (11 November 2011). "Audio CDs stay in tune with digital era". The Times of India. 
  34. ^ CHARULATHA MANI. "Riveting Ritigowla". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  35. ^ "9. Mudhalvan - Top 20 Mass Scenes". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  36. ^ "A Kejriwal is necessary for the system". Rediff. 14 October 2012. 
  37. ^ "Director Shankar pleased with political atmosphere". The Times of India. 12 January 2014. 
  38. ^ "இயக்குனர் ஷங்கரின் முதல்வனும், டெல்லி முதல்வர் கெஜ்ரிவாலும்". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  39. ^ "Delhi gets its own Nayak in Kejriwal!". Mail Today. 28 December 2013. 
  40. ^ Shubham Ghosh. "Delhi debate: Is Arvind Kejriwal looking to do an Anil Kapoor?". OneIndia. 
  41. ^ "இயக்குனர் ஷங்கரின் முதல்வனும், டெல்லி முதல்வர் கெஜ்ரிவாலும்". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  42. ^ "இயக்குனர் ஷங்கரின் முதல்வனும், டெல்லி முதல்வர் கெஜ்ரிவாலும்". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  43. ^ Budget Padmanabhan (DVD): clip from 1.40.28 to 1.40.43
  44. ^ Kandha Kadamba Kathir Vela (DVD): clip from 45.21 to 45.29
  45. ^ Kanna unnai thedukiren Vivek Comedy. YouTube. 29 July 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  46. ^ Run (DVD): clip from 1.28.35 to 1.28.38
  47. ^ Sivaji (DVD): clip from 1.12.07 to 1.12.10
  48. ^ Singakutty Tamil Movie - Vivek Mudhalvan Spoof - Vivek Comedy. YouTube. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  49. ^ Kaalai Pani Tamil Movie - Mudhalvan Spoof - Comedy Scene. YouTube. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  50. ^ Dubai Seenu (DVD): clip from 2.08.33 to 2.09.00

External links[edit]