Muthal Mariyathai

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Muthal Mariyathai
Muthal Mariyathai.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBharathiraja
Screenplay byBharathiraja
Story byR. Selvaraj
Produced byBharathiraja
StarringSivaji Ganesan
CinematographyB. Kannan
Edited byV. Rajagopal
P. Mohan Raj
Music byIlaiyaraaja
Manoj Creations
Release date
  • 15 August 1985 (1985-08-15)
Running time
160-161 minutes[a]

Muthal Mariyathai (pronounced [muðal maɾijaːðaɪ]; transl. Prime Honour) is a 1985 Indian Tamil-language romantic drama film produced, directed and co-written by Bharathiraja. The film stars Sivaji Ganesan and Radha, with Vadivukkarasi, newcomers Deepan and Ranjini, Janagaraj, Sathyaraj, Aruna, Veerasami and Ramanathan in supporting roles. It revolves around the relationship between an unhappily married village chief and a young boatwoman.

The story of Muthal Mariyathai was developed from two sources: an English-language film about the relationship between a young girl and an ageing painter, and a story in Jayakanthan's novel Samoogam Enbadhu Naalu Paer about the relationship between a teacher and an administrator with a strained marriage. The film was co-written by R. Selvaraj, photographed by B. Kannan, and edited by V. Rajagopal and P. Mohan Raj. Filming was entirely held at Talakadu, a village near Mysore in Karnataka.

Muthal Mariyathai was released on 15 August 1985. The film received positive reviews and ran for over 200 days in theatres, becoming a silver jubilee hit. It fetched the Best Lyricist Award and Best Feature Film in Tamil Award for Vairamuthu and Bharathiraja respectively in the 33rd National Film Awards, the Cinema Express Award for Best Film – Tamil, and Ganesan and Radha won their respective Filmfare Awards South in the Best Tamil Actor and Best Tamil Actress categories.


The film commences with friends and family of an ailing village chief, Malaichami, gathered around him on his deathbed. The plot then moves along in a series of flashbacks.

Malaichami is unhappily married to his cousin Ponnatha, a shrew who always shows him contempt. Though they live under the same roof, they do not share a husband-wife relationship. Also living under the same roof is Ponnatha's daughter Rasamma, her husband, and Malaichami's orphaned nephew Chellakannu, who assists him at his farm.

Years roll by. Malaichami, the village chief, is respected by one and all. Kuyil, a young woman, comes to the village with her father looking for livelihood. They build a hut on the river bank and Kuyil works as a boatwoman with a coracle. Malaichami and Kuyil become good friends despite the wide gap in their age and social/financial status. Since Malaichami receives no emotional support or love at home, he enjoys Kuyil's company.

Chellakannu loves Sevuli, the daughter of a cobbler Sengodan, and they plan to elope when Sevuli's wedding arrangements are being made. On learning this, Malaichami berates Chellakannu. Kuyil intervenes and convinces Malaichami to get them married. After the marriage, when Chellakannu and Sevuli are alone in a field, an unseen man kills Sevuli, who managed to bite off his big toe, and leaves having stolen her jewellery. After Sengodan tells Malaichami he found a toe in Sevuli's mouth, Malaichami sees Rasamma's husband without a toe, realises he is the killer and hands him over to the police. Chellakannu later commits suicide.

When the villagers discuss the friendship/relationship of Malaichami and Kuyil in hush-hush tones, Ponnatha drags Malaichami to the panchayat, asking for a solution. Malaichami, angered at being questioned by everyone, blurts out that he is indeed in a relationship with Kuyil, just to stop the wagging tongues. He goes to Kuyil to ask for her pardon for having said so in public. However, Kuyil reveals that she indeed is in love with him and that he too must be loving her in his heart of hearts but is hiding the truth. Though Malaichami refutes it at the moment and leaves her asking her to change her mind, he is deeply disturbed at what really could be between them.

At home, Ponnatha angrily tells Malaichami he sent Rasamma's husband to prison because he is not Rasamma's biological father, a fact Rasamma never knew before. Malaichami hits back at her and as he recollects the past and the circumstances, reveals to Rasamma itself that Ponnatha conceived Rasamma out of a casual relationship with someone in a village fair and that he married Ponnatha only to save her father from disgrace.

Angered further, Ponnatha invites all her relatives to her house for a settlement of the issue and throws a feast to them and requests them to finish off Kuyil and assures that she would take care of the consequences by spending money for their case. As Malaichami hears this he challenges the relatives to face him before they can harm her and goes to stay with Kuyil to defend and save her and to stay with her thereafter, come what may.

As Malaichami goes to meet Kuyil, he finds the nest empty and later finds her stained with blood and convicted for murder of an unknown man. He pleads with her to tell the truth of what transpired so that she can be rescued. She reveals, after making Malaichami promise that he would not proceed to argue on her behalf as it would negate the purpose of her sacrifice, that the person she killed was Mayilvaganam, Rasamma's biological father.

Mayilvaganam was on his way to the village after serving a prison term and was planning to lay claim on Ponnatha and her wealth. As this would affect the reputation of Malaichami's family, she killed Mayilvaganam on her coracle. Malaichami is spellbound by her sacrifice and vows that he will not die till Kuyil returns and chooses to stay in her hut.

In the present, as Malaichami is dying, Kuyil is brought on parole to see him. Malaichami dies after meeting her. While returning to prison via train, Kuyil too dies.




The storyline of Muthal Mariyathai was developed by Bharathiraja from two sources: an English-language film about "an old painter and a young girl who is attracted to his paintings. Gradually, she becomes attracted to the person as well", and a story in Jayakanthan's novel Samoogam Enbadhu Naalu Paer which was about "the relationship that develops between a young teacher who comes to a place and a local administrator who is in a bad marriage. She becomes his intellectual companion". After Bharathiraja outlined this to writer R. Selvaraj, they both developed the screenplay of Muthal Mariyathai.[8] According to Selvaraj, the romance between the lead characters Malaichami and Kuyil was inspired by the manner in which the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky developed a relationship with his assistant Anna.[9] Bharathiraja himself produced the film under Manoj Creations, cinematography was handled by B. Kannan, and editing by V. Rajagopal and P. Mohan Raj.[3]


Bharathiraja and Selvaraj initially wanted Rajesh for the role of Malaichami, but retracted after distributors objected. Selvaraj later considered S. P. Balasubrahmanyam but realised it would not be possible due to Balasubrahmanyam's playback singing commitments, so Bharathiraja suggested Sivaji Ganesan.[9] Though unwell at the time, Ganesan accepted Bharathiraja's request.[10] According to Raadhika, she had been offered the role of Kuyil, but she declined in favour of Swathi Muthyam (1986).[11] Bharathiraja, however, countered that Raadhika would not have been appropriate as Kuyil. He cast Radha in the role because she was "dusky, slender, and tall" just like he envisioned the character, and Raadhika was not. Despite this, Radha's voice was dubbed by Raadhika.[8] Muthal Mariyathai was Radha's 99th film as an actress; she stated that when Bharathiraja offered her the role of Kuyil, she "took it with both hands".[12]

Bharathiraja cast Vadivukkarasi as Malaichami's wife Ponnatha because of her "large eyes".[8] Since the actress, who was then in her early 20s, was not as old as the character she plays, the makers "smeared ash" on her face. According to Vadivukkarasi, "They glued tubes to my ears to make them look different. But I didn't mind and didn't really know."[13] This was the feature film debut of Sasha Selvaraj, who was given the stage name Ranjini, and played Sevuli, the daughter of Sengodan (Veerasami). Ranjini, who was then studying in Singapore, arrived in Madras to take a break from education, and hoped that filming would conclude within two weeks.[4] It was also the debut of Deepan, who plays Malaichami's nephew Chellakannu.[14] Deepan, the nephew of V. N. Janaki, initially abstained from films to concentrate on his family business, but when Bharathiraja saw him and asked Deepan's uncle and Janaki's then-husband M. G. Ramachandran for permission to cast him, both agreed.[15]


The Kaveri river passing through Talakadu, where the film was shot.

Filming was entirely held at Talakadu, a village near Mysore in Karnataka.[10][12] Though Ganesan was known mainly for his melodramatic performances and powerful dialogue delivery, Bharathiraja asked him to tone them down for playing Malaichami and "just be himself".[8] On the sets, Ganesan insisted seeing what Bharathiraja wanted first before enacting a scene.[16][17] At Bharathiraja's request, Ganesan acted without wearing a wig or applying makeup, and wore only a dhoti and shirt while filming his scenes.[18] According to Ranjini, Ganesan never coached the other actors, "but always let them try out their roles themselves."[19] Many scenes were filmed at a tree near the Shivanasamudra Falls on the banks of the Kaveri river.[10]

While filming a scene where Ponnatha walks angrily across a street with a broom and strikes Kuyil with it, Vadivukkarasi fainted as a result of exertion from long-distance walking.[8] Filming did not conclude within two weeks as Ranjini hoped; she attributed it to "Bharathiraja being a perfectionist".[4] According to historian G. Dhananjayan, filming lasted roughly 50 days,[16] whereas Ganesan claimed that it lasted a month,[10] and Selvaraj said the complete film was ready, 100 days after filming began.[9] A documentary homage to Ganesan was attached to the final cut, playing before the actual film begins.[1] The final cut of the film was 4,415 metres (14,485 ft).[3]


Muthal Mariyathai deals with "social tensions arising out of caste and community in Tamil society".[20] Bharathiraja described the film as "the voyage of a man from house to home".[21] Writing for The News Minute, Nandhu Sundaram said that in the film, "society is a throbbing entity that is alive in every sense of the word, and sometimes it is malignant as well. Keeping one’s hard-earned dignity can get increasingly difficult".[6] Writing for The Times of India, Deepauk Murugesan notes that Bharathiraja used the relationships in the film "as a commentary on caste and its subliminal presence in our interactions".[22]


The music was composed by Ilaiyaraaja while the lyrics for the songs were written by Vairamuthu.[23][24] Both did not like the film after viewing its rough cut because they felt it "wasn't youthful", but Bharathiraja insisted that Ilaiyaraaja compose the score.[8] According to Ilaiyaraaja, when Bharathiraja saw the finished cut after composing was complete, he asked Ilaiyaraaja how he was able to deliver such wonderful music even for a film he did not like, and Ilaiyaraaja replied it was because he could not do injustice to his profession.[25] The song "Antha Nilava Thaan" is set in the Carnatic raga Natabhairavi,[26] and "Poongatru Thirumbuma" is set in Kharaharapriya.[27] The tune of "Antha Nilava Thaan" was later used by Ilaiyaraaja in "Mujhe Bahon Mein Bhar" from the Hindi film Mahaadev (1989).[28]

Track list
1."Antha Nilava Thaan"Ilaiyaraaja, K. S. Chithra4:31
2."Poongatru Thirumbuma"Malaysia Vasudevan, S. Janaki4:52
3."Vetti Veru Vasam"Malaysia Vasudevan, S. Janaki4:28
4."Yeh Kuruvi"Malaysia Vasudevan, S. Janaki1:16
5."Raasave Unna Nambi"S. Janaki4:32
6."Hey Kiliyirukku"Ilaiyaraaja1:08
7."Eratha Malai Mele"Malaysia Vasudevan, S. Janaki2:08
8."Naanthaaney Antha Kuyil"S. Janaki0:28
9."Poongatru Thirumbuma"S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Asha Bhosle0:28
Total length:22:54

Release and reception[edit]

Muthal Mariyathai was released on 15 August 1985.[5] The film received positive reviews for its realistic portrayal of an elderly person's love and sacrifices.[16] On 8 September 1985, Ananda Vikatan said that when detractors were talking about the end of Ganesan's era in Tamil cinema, Bharathiraja proved through an intense script and character that his saga was not over yet. The reviewer also applauded Radha's performance and Bharathiraja's direction.[29] Though Vadivukkarasi received acclaim from critics for her performance, she was the subject of vitriol from fans of Ganesan due to her character's antagonistic nature.[13] The film ran for over 200 days in theatres, becoming a silver jubilee hit.[30]


At the 33rd National Film Awards, Radha was a strong contender for the Best Actress category, but was disqualified since her voice was dubbed by a different actress.[31] The film was later screened at the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India for the year 1985.[2]

Award Category Nominee(s) Ref.
National Film Awards Best Feature Film in Tamil Bharathiraja [32]
Best Lyricis Vairamuthu
Cinema Express Awards Best Film – Tamil Bharathiraja [16]
Filmfare Awards South Best Actor – Tamil Sivaji Ganesan
Best Actress – Tamil Radha

Home media[edit]

Muthal Mariyathai is included alongside other Ganesan starrers in the compilation DVD titled 8th Ulaga Adhisayam Sivaji.[33]


Muthal Mariyathai became a landmark film for Ganesan, Bharathiraja and Vadivukkarasi.[13][34] The film's opening phrase narrated by Bharathiraja, "En Iniya Thamizh Makkale" (My sweet Tamil people) went on to feature in many of his later films.[35] The dialogue "Enaku oru unma therinjaaganum" (I need to know the truth) spoken by Veerasami's character became popular.[36] A TV series named Muthal Mariyathai, also directed by Bharathiraja but unrelated to the namesake film, aired on Kalaignar TV.[37] Bharathiraja described his 2020 directorial venture Meendum Oru Mariyathai as a tribute to Muthal Mariyathai.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

In a comedy scene from Thalattu Ketkuthamma (1992), Goundamani's character sings "Poongatru Thirumbuma" to impress his wife (Vijay Chandrika), His nephew (Prabhu) completes the lyrics after the former has forgotten the lyrics.[38] In Rajakumaran (1994), a milkman (Goundamani) tries to impress a girl whose face he has not seen by providing the milk. The song "Poongatru" with different lyrics is heard as background song for the scene.[39] In a scene from Unakkaga Ellam Unakkaga (1999), Kundalakesi (Goundamani) lifts a huge stone similar to Malaichami's technique from Muthal Mariyathai to impress his lover.[40] In Mozhi (2007), Ananthakrishnan (Brahmanandam) will be seen watching "Poongatru" in television before getting disturbed by a cockroach.[41]


  1. ^ While the film's runtime is listed in Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema as 161 minutes,[1] the version screened at Indian Panorama was 160 minutes.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Rajadhyaksha & Willemen 1998, p. 472.
  2. ^ a b Nair, P. K.; Mullick, Swapan, eds. (1986). "Indian Cinema" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 May 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
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  6. ^ a b c Sundaram, Nandhu (26 February 2021). "Why 1985 Sivaji-Radha film 'Muthal Mariyathai' remains an enduring romance". The News Minute. Archived from the original on 15 March 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  7. ^ ""வெட்டிவேரு வாசம்.. வெடலப்புள்ள நேசம்" முதல் மரியாதைக்கு 35 ஆண்டுகள்!!" ["The fragrance of grassroots.. love of a young woman" Muthal Mariyathai turns 35!]. Puthiya Thalaimurai (in Tamil). 15 August 2020. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Suganth, M. (15 August 2020). "#35YearsOfMuthalMariyathai: Muthal Mariyathai is a moving tale of a man's journey from his house to home: Bharathirajaa". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 15 August 2020. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  9. ^ a b c ப்ளாக், கிராபியென் (6 December 2018). "″முதல் மரியாதை படத்தைப் பாத்துட்டு இளையராஜா என்ன சொன்னார் தெரியுமா?"- கதாசிரியர் ஆர்.செல்வராஜ்" ["After Ilaiyaraaja saw Muthal Mariyathai do you know what he said?" – Screenwriter R. Selvaraj]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Ganesan & Narayana Swamy 2007, p. 208.
  11. ^ ஆனந்தராஜ், கு. (22 January 2019). "80'ஸ் எவர்கிரீன் நாயகிகள் – 2 – எனக்கு சவால் ரொம்பப் பிடிக்கும்! – ராதிகா" [80s Evergreen Heroines – 2 – I love challenges! – Raadhika]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2020 – via NewsDog.
  12. ^ a b Ashok Kumar, S.R. (28 May 2020). "Landmark films, golden memories". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2 June 2020. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  13. ^ a b c Vandhana (26 November 2018). "'I Played Wife, Mother & Grandmother in My 20s. I Got Used To It': In Conversation With Vadivukkarasi". Silverscreen India. Archived from the original on 15 August 2020. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  14. ^ Muthal Mariyathai (motion picture) (in Tamil). Manoj Creations. 1985. Opening credits, at 1:55.
  15. ^ "35 ஆண்டுக்கு பின் சினிமாவில் நடிக்கிறேன் - முதல் மரியாதை தீபன்" [I'm acting in a film after 35 years – Muthal Mariyathai Deepan]. Dinamalar (in Tamil). 30 March 2020. Archived from the original on 3 November 2020. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d Dhananjayan 2014, p. 285.
  17. ^ Ashok Kumar, S. R. (31 August 2007). "Penchant for innovation Making an impact". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 September 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  18. ^ "செலுலாய்ட் சோழன் சிவாஜி தொடர் 175– சுதாங்கன்" [Celluloid king Sivaji Part 175– Sudhangan]. Dinamalar. Nellai. 14 May 2017. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  19. ^ Ramachandran, Mythily (16 April 2014). "Catching up with actress Ranjini". Gulf News. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  20. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya · (2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-5381-0685-3.
  21. ^ a b S, Srivatsan (1 February 2020). "'Meendum Oru Mariyathai' is a tribute to 'Mudhal Mariyathai': Bharathiraja". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 February 2020. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  22. ^ Murugesan, Deepauk (23 April 2011). "Trois". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  23. ^ Ganesan & Narayana Swamy 2007, p. 209.
  24. ^ "Mudhal Mariyadhai (1985)". Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  25. ^ "மோசமான படங்களுக்கும் இசையமைப்பேன் - இளையராஜா" [I will compose music even for bad films – Ilaiyaraaja]. Newsfirst (in Tamil). 13 August 2014. Archived from the original on 4 November 2020. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  26. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 124.
  27. ^ Sundararaman 2007, p. 154.
  28. ^ Arunachalam, Param (2020). BollySwar: 1981–1990. Mavrix Infotech. p. 902. ISBN 978-81-938482-2-7.
  29. ^ "சினிமா விமர்சனம்: முதல் மரியாதை" [Movie Review: Muthal Mariyathai]. Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 8 September 1985. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  30. ^ 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 15 August 2020.
  31. ^ "Gossip". Dinakaran. 5 May 1999. Archived from the original on 5 May 1999. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
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  33. ^ Iyer, Aruna V. (13 May 2012). "For the love of Sivaji". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  34. ^ Dhananjayan 2014, pp. 284–285.
  35. ^ RS, Anand Kumar (15 August 2020). "35 years of 'Muthal Mariyathai': Why this Sivaji film by Bharathiraja is a classic". The News Minute. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  36. ^ "Veteran actor honoured". The Hindu. 5 February 2009. Archived from the original on 15 August 2020. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  37. ^ "சீரியலிலும் புரட்சி செய்யப்போகிறார் பாரதிராஜா!" [Bharathiraja is going to revolutionise the TV serial industry too!]. Dinamalar (in Tamil). 25 May 2013. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  38. ^ Thalattu Ketkuthamma (motion picture) (in Tamil). Sivaji Productions. 1991.
  39. ^ Rajakumaran (motion picture) (in Tamil). Sivaji Productions. 1994.
  40. ^ Unakkaga Ellam Unakkaga (motion picture) (in Tamil). Lakshmi Movie Makers. 1999.
  41. ^ Mozhi (motion picture) (in Tamil). Duet Movies. 2007.


External links[edit]