Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Krishnan Nair|
|Produced by||R. M. Veerappan|
|Screenplay by||R. M. Veerappan|
|Music by||M. S. Viswanathan|
|Edited by||C. P. Jambulingam|
Rickshawkaran (lit. The Rickshaw Man) is a 1971 Indian Tamil-language vigilante film directed by M. Krishnan Nair and produced by R. M. Veerappan, who doubled as screenwriter. The film stars M. G. Ramachandran, Padmini and Manjula in the lead roles. The film deals with Selvam, a rickshaw puller and ex-military officer who witnesses the murder of another rickshaw puller, and decides to unearth the mystery behind this murder.
Rickshawkaran was released on 29 May 1971. It was a major commercial success, with a theatrical run of over 100 days. For his performance, Ramachandran the National Film Award for Best Actor, becoming the first South Indian actor to do so, though he also became the subject of criticism for allegedly using political influence to his advantage. The film was later remade in Hindi as Rickshawala (1973).
At the end of a rickshaw competition the winner, Selvam, an ex-military officer, witnesses a murder, that of another rickshaw puller named Manickam. With his girl Soussi in the arms, this one was chased, killed and burned on the spot by a notable of the region, merciless Kailasam. The latter imagines above the laws for a very good reason, he is defended by the judge Dharmaraj who is also his brother-in-law. Dharmaraj knows perfectly the weaknesses of the judicial system and does not hesitate to exploit them in defiance of the morality. Meanwhile, Selvam got back the orphan girl Soussi and wants now that justice is returned for the girl and his deceased father. But nice Selvam is very far from suspecting that behind this murder hides in fact a vast network, specialised trafficking in persons, especially women led by vile Kailasam. Noticing that the justice is ineffective, Selvam decides to tidy up there in his own way.
- M. G. Ramachandran as Selvam
- Padmini as Parvathi
- Manjula as Uma
- S. A. Ashokan as Kailasam
- Major Sundarrajan as the judge K. Dharmaraj
- R. S. Manohar as "Kathikuthu" Karmegham
- Thengai Srinivasan as Vandu, a rickshaw driver
- Cho Ramaswamy as Pitchumani
Rickshawkaran was directed by M. Krishnan Nair, and produced by R. M. Veerappan under Sathya Movies. The story was written by Veerappan (who also wrote the screenplay), S. Jagadeesan and Radha Veerannan. Editing was handled by C. P. Jambulingam, and the cinematography by V. Ramamoorthy. There were conflicting views on the selection of the female lead between lead actor M. G. Ramachandran and Veerappan. Regarding the female lead, Ramachandran wanted his frequent co-star Jayalalithaa for the role while Veerappan wanted to include someone else to break the proximity between Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. The result went in Veerappan's favour and Manjula was cast, thereby making her debut as a lead actress. Padmini was cast Ramachandran's elder sister; this casting caused some backlash among the public since the duo had acted as a couple before. The director was billed in the opening credits as "M. Krishnan", omitting his surname Nair at Ramachandran's suggestion. Ramachandran disliked the song "Azhagiya Thamizh Magal" and requested Veerappan to remove it, but after Veerappan convinced him, the song was retained. The song was shot on a large set that was nearly 40-feet high, and was budgeted at approximately a lakh. The song "Kadaloram Vangiya Katru", picturised on Ramachandran and Manjula, was shot on the bridge across the Adyar River, which was later known as the Broken bridge.
According to critic Gautaman Bhaskaran, Rickshawkaran, like most other films starring Ramachandran, portrays him simultaneously as an action hero and champion for the downtrodden. Tamil Canadian journalist D. B. S. Jeyaraj also felt the same, adding that Ramachandran portrayed different roles in his films "so that different segments of the population could relate to and identify with him", citing his role of a rickshaw puller in Rickshawkaran, a coxswain in Padagotti (1964) and an agriculturist in Vivasayee (1967) as examples. Sri Lankan historian Sachi Sri Kantha described Rickshawkaran as being a "sympathetic movie" about rickshaw pullers in Madras (now Chennai).
S. Rajanayagam, author of the book Popular Cinema and Politics in South India: The Films of MGR and Rajinikanth, noted that in most of his films such as Rickshawkaran, Ramachandran took care to behaviourally exhibit his character's subaltern identity by showing the character engaged in a specific action that characterises the occupation. He also considered that the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, C. N. Annadurai, Subramania Bharati and Crucifix being props in Selvam's hut was an example of Ramachandran subtly manipulating cinema to maintain his identity as an artiste of the political party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and simultaneously propagate his own vision of society. Rajanayagam felt the title Rickshawkaran, like the titles of many other Ramachandran films, was "sober, occupation-oriented and positive", while also referring to the subalterns in the third person non-honorific singular (rikshaakaaran), which is commonly considered disrespectful. Writing for the journal Jump Cut, Kumuthan Maderya felt that Ramachandran wearing a red shirt and black pants in the film was an "anagrammatic" reference to the colours of the DMK flag.
|1.||"Kadaloram Vangiya Katru"||Vaali||T. M. Soundararajan|
|2.||"Ange Siripavargal Sirikattum"||Vaali||T. M. Soundararajan|
|3.||"Pambai Udukkai Katti"||Avinashi Mani||T. M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela|
|4.||"Ponnazhaguppenmai"||Vaali||P. Susheela, L. R. Eswari|
|5.||"Kattruvaanga Ponen"||Vaali||T. M. Soundararajan|
|6.||"Azhagiya Thamizh Magal"||Vaali||T. M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela|
Release and reception
Rickshawkaran was released on 29 May 1971. The magazine Ananda Vikatan, in a review dated 13 June 1971, wrote that the film was an excellent companion to spend three hours in a theatre, and also praised the story. The film was a major commercial success, playing for 163 days at the Devi Paradise theatre, and for 100 days at 12 other theatres all over Tamil Nadu. To celebrate the film's success, Ramachandran gave raincoats to around 6,000 rickshaw pullers in Chennai. In a career spanning 133 films, he considered the film his fourteenth break. R. Kannan, author of MGR: A Life, considered the film his "biggest box office hit ever". At the 19th National Film Awards, Ramachandran won the National Film Award for Best Actor for his role, the first South Indian actor to do so.
Critics promptly said that the award was inspired by the DMK, with Blitz alleging that Ramachandran paid ₹40,000 (equivalent to ₹1.4 million or US$19,000 in 2017) for the award, a story that was carried by Dina Thanthi with gutso. Ramachandran retorted, "At no time, have I run seeking position, title and fame. I have the belief that they should come looking for you." He initially considered returning the award, on account of being criticised for allegedly using political influence to his advantage, but relented when the committee explained its reasons for awarding him. Politician M. Karunanidhi said that Ramachandran was "fully deserving of the award". Rickshawkaran was remade in Hindi as Rickshawala (1973), which did not achieve the same success.
- Bhaskaran, Gautaman (9 August 2016). "MGR's Rickshawkaran, refreshed and restored, to hit screens soon". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- "எம்.ஜி.ஆர்-ன் சிறந்த சாதனை படங்கள்...!". Dinamalar (in Tamil). 17 June 2015. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "MGR anew". The Hindu. 1 October 2016. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- Rickshawkaran (motion picture) (in Tamil). Sathya Movies. 1971. Opening credits, from 0:00 to 2:43.
- Kannan 2017, p. 154.
- "Southern industry in shock at actress Manjula Vijaykumar's sudden death". The Indian Express. 23 July 2013. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- "பாரத ரத்னா விருது பெற்ற ஒரே நடிகர் எம்ஜிஆர்: 'ரிக்ஷாக்காரன்' டிரைலர் வெளியீட்டில் ஆர்.எம்.வீரப்பன் பேச்சு". The Hindu Tamil. 22 August 2016. Archived from the original on 31 July 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
- "Did you know?". The Hindu. 2 October 2016. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- Kumar, P. K. Ajith (29 May 2018). "MGR in vintage images". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
- Padmanabhan, Geeta (29 September 2015). "Tales from the Adyar Estuary". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 31 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Broken Bridge: A haven for mischief makers". CNN-News18. 27 May 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (20 February 2016). "Kandy-born actor-politico "MGR" reigned supreme in Tamil Nadu cinema and politics". Daily FT. Archived from the original on 30 August 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
- Kantha, Sachi Sri (2008). "The Indo-LTTE War: An Anthology, Part IV: MGR's Death and the Aftermath". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
- Rajanayagam 2015, p. 67.
- Rajanayagam 2015, p. 25.
- Rajanayagam 2015, p. 129.
- Maderya, Kumuthan (2010). "The MGR phenomenon". Jump Cut. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
- "Rickshawkaran (1971) All Songs Jukebox". YouTube. Saregama. 20 January 2016. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
- "ரிக்ஷாக்காரன்". Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 13 June 1971. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
- Kantha, Sachi Sri (6 June 2015). "MGR Remembered – Part 28". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
- Ramachandran, T. M., ed. (1972). "India's Prize-Winning Films – 1971". Film World. Vol. 8. p. 47. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Kannan 2017, p. 155.
- Kannan 2017, p. 168.
- Farook, Farhana (26 December 2016). "Tracing Neetu Kapoor's life at the movies". Filmfare. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
- Kannan, R. (2017). MGR: A Life. India: Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-14-342934-0.
- Rajanayagam, S. (2015). Popular Cinema and Politics in South India: The Films of MGR and Rajinikanth. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-82203-0.