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For the 2006 film, see Thiruvilayadal Aarambam.
Thiruvilayadal Sivaji.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by A. P. Nagarajan
Produced by A. P. Nagarajan
Written by A. P. Nagarajan
Starring Sivaji Ganesan
K. B. Sundarambal
Music by K. V. Mahadevan
Cinematography K. S. Prasad
Edited by Rajan
T. R. Natarajan
Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures
Distributed by Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures
Release dates
31 July 1965[1]
Running time
154 mins
Country India
Language Tamil

Thiruvilaiyadal (English: The Divine Game) is a 1965 Indian Tamil fantasy film written, directed, produced and distributed by A. P. Nagarajan. The film features Sivaji Ganesan and Savitri in the lead roles with R. Muthuraman, Nagesh, Manorama, K. B. Sundarambal, T. R. Mahalingam and T. S. Balaiah playing pivotal roles. The film's soundtrack and score were composed by K. V. Mahadevan.

The film is based on the tales from the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam, a collection of 64 Saivite devotional epic stories which record the actions and antics of Lord Shiva appears on Earth in various disguises to test his devotees. Out of the 64 stories, four are depicted in the film. The first being that of the tale of Dharumi (Nagesh). The second being that of Dhatchayini (Sati). The third is where Parvati is born as a fisherwoman and how Shiva retrieves and remarries her by disguising as a fisherman. The last being that of Banabhathirar (T. R. Mahalingam). The soundtrack received positive reception and songs like "Pazham Neeyappa Gnaana Pazham", "Indroru Naal Pothuma", "Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha", "Paattum Naane" became popular. The length of the film was 4,450 metres (14,600 ft).

Thiruvilaiyadal released on 31 July 1965 to positive critical feedback, with praise directed at the screenplay, dialogues and performances of Ganesan, Savitri, Nagesh and T. S. Balaiah. The film became a trendsetter for devotional films as it was a time when Tamil cinema focused on making films based mainly on social melodramas. The film was dubbed into Kannada as Shiva Leela Vilasa and was the first Tamil film to be dubbed into Kannada after ten years.


Shiva gives a sacred fruit brought by the sage Narada to his elder son, Ganesha for outsmarting his younger brother Muruga in a competition for winning the fruit. Angered by his father's decision, Muruga goes to the hill abode of Palani in the guise of a hermit. Goddess Parvathi comes and narrates four of the divine games of Shiva to calm Muruga down.

The first story tells of the opening of Shiva's third eye when he visits Madurai, the capital city of the Pandya Kingdom, ruled at that time by Shenbagapandian. Shenbagapandian wants to find the answer to a question posed by his wife (whether the fragrance from a woman's hair is natural or caused by the cosmetics she uses on her hair) and announces a reward of 1000 gold coins to anyone who could come up with the answer. A poor poet named Dharumi desperately wants the reward and starts breaking down in the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Shiva, who hears his cries, takes the form of a poet and gives Dharumi a poem containing the answer. Overjoyed, Dharumi takes it to the court and recites the poem, but the egoistic Tamil poet Nakkeerar claims the poem's meaning to be incorrect. After arguing with Nakkeerar about the poem's accuracy, Shiva burns him into ashes. Later, he revives Nakkeerar, saying that he only wanted to test his knowledge. Nakkeerar requests the king to give the reward to Dharumi, and he promptly does so.

The second story is when Shiva marries Dhatchayini against the will of her father Dhatchan. Dhatchan also performs a Mahayagna without inviting his son-in-law. Dhatchayini asks Shiva's permission to go to the ceremony but Shiva refuses to let her go as he feels no good will come out of it. Dhatchayini disobeys him and goes there, only to be insulted by Dhatchan. Dhatchayini curses her father and returns to Shiva to find him angry at her for disobeying him. Dhatchayini asserts that they are one and without her, there is no Shiva. Shiva refuses to agree with her and burns her to ashes trying to prove her wrong and performs his Tandava, which is noticed by the Devas, who pacify Shiva. Shiva decides to restore Dhatchayini to life.

The third story describes Parvathi being banished by Shiva when her attention wavers for a moment while listening to Shiva, who was explaining the essence of the Vedas to her. Parvathi, now born as Kayarkanni, is the daughter of a fisherman. When playing with her friends, a strange fisherman (Shiva) approaches and flirts with her, despite her disapproval. The fishermen often face problems due to a giant shark that disrupts their way of life. Shiva asserts that he alone can defeat the shark. After a long battle, Shiva kills the shark (which is actually Nandi) and remarries Parvathi.

The last tale narrated by Parvathi is when Shiva takes the form of a firewood vendor. Hemanatha Bhagavathar, a skilled singer, tries to conquer the Pandya Kingdom when he challenges the kingdom's musicians. The King's minister advises him to seek the help of Banabathirar, a devotional singer, to challenge Hemanatha Bhagavathar. When all musicians reject the competition, the King orders Banabathirar to compete against Hemanatha Bhagavathar. Knowing that he cannot win, the troubled Banabathirar prays to Shiva. Shiva, in the form of a firewood vendor, shows up outside Hemanatha Bhagavathar's house and shatters his arrogance by singing the song, "Paattum Naane". When Hemanatha Bhagavathar realises that the vendor was Banabathirar's student, he gets embarrassed and leaves the kingdom that very night, leaving a note to Banabathirar informing him of his departure. Shiva gives the letter to Banabathirar and reveals his true identity to him. Banabathirar thanks Shiva for his timely help.

After listening to these stories, Muruga's rage finally subsides and he reconciles with his family.


"Everyone kept telling me that I had done a superb job and at times stole the scene from the hero, so I was extremely scared it might not see the light of day as the director was struggling to trim the film's length. One day when I was in the recording theatre, Sivaji (Ganesan) walked in and wanted to see the "Dharumi" piece. He did not notice me in the dark sound engineers' room. He watched it once and then wanted to see it again – by this time I was sure that my scene, especially the solo lamenting, would be axed. To my astonishment, Sivaji turned and said, 'Do not remove a single foot from this episode as well as the episode featuring T. S. Balaiah. These will be the highlights of the film. This is my opinion, but as the director, you have the final say. Whatever dubbing additions have to be done, get that fellow (Nagesh), lock him up in the studio and don't let him run away till he completes it to your satisfaction. He has done outstanding work.' Such was his generosity to his fellow actors."

 – Nagesh, as he was quoted saying in his autobiography.[2]
Lead actors
Male supporting actors
Female supporting actors
  • Devika as the wife of Shenbaga Pandiyan
  • Manorama as Ponni/Kayarkanni's friend


The story of Thiruvilayadal was conceived by A. P. Nagarajan with inspiration taken from the tales of the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam, a collection of 64 Shaivite devotional epic stories which record the actions and antics of Lord Shiva appearing on Earth in various disguises to test his devotees.[3] He also wrote and divided the film's screenplay into five portions.[4] Nagarajan produced the film under the banner of Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures.[1] Savitri's portrayal of Goddess Parvati was the first on-screen portrayal of the deity in a South Indian film.[5] Sivaji Ganesan was cast as Shiva,[6] and K. B. Sundarambal was chosen to play Avvaiyyar, reprising her role from the 1953 film of the same name.[7] Actors Nagesh, R. Muthuraman and T. S. Balaiah were cast as poet Dharumi, king Shenbaga Pandian and singer Hemanatha Bagavathar respectively. Nagarajan himself made an appearance in the film as Nakeerar the poet.[6]


Music is composed by K. V. Mahadevan, with lyrics by Kannadasan.[8]

No. Title Singer(s) Length
1. "Pazham Neeyappa Gnaana Pazham"   K. B. Sundarambal  
2. "Indroru Naal Pothuma"   M. Balamuralikrishna  
3. "Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha"   T. R. Mahalingam  
4. "Paarthal Pasumaram"   T.M. Soundararajan  
5. "Paattum Naane"   T.M. Soundararajan  
6. "Podhigai Malai Uchieley"   P. B. Sreenivas, S. Janaki  
7. "Ondraanavan Uruvil"   K. B. Sundarambal  
8. "Illadha Thondrillai"   T. R. Mahalingam  
9. "Vaasi Vaasi"   K.B. Sundarambal  
10. "Om Namasivaya"   Seerkazhi Govindarajan, P. Susheela  
11. "Neela Chelai Katti Konda"   P. Susheela  



Thiruvilayadal was well received. Sivaji Ganesan's performance was also acclaimed and it contributed to his long string of successful films.[9] Director Ameer told S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu, "Director A. P. Nagarajan’s 'Thiruvilaiyadal' is imaginative. It treats a mythological subject in an interesting way. It is one of the best films in the annals of Tamil cinema."[10]

Box office[edit]

The film ran for 25 weeks in Shanti, a theatre owned by Sivaji Ganesan.[11]


Thiruvilayadal won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil – Certificate of Merit for the Second Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1966.


In 2012, controversy arose when attempts were made to digitally re-release the film. Justice R. Subbiah of the Madras high court, hearing a suit filed by G. Vijaya of Vijaya Pictures, ordered maintenance of status quo for two weeks in respect of digitisation and release of 'Thiruvilaiyadal'. The matter was again taken up for hearing on 16 August 2012.

In her suit, Vijaya contended that in the year 1975, Sri Vijayalakshmi Pictures, which was in possession of the rights of the film, had transferred the worldwide exclusive negative rights and all other rights such as exploitation and screening in cinema theatres in favour of Movie Film Circuit. In 1976, the latter had transferred all the rights to Vijaya Pictures.

Vijaya Pictures, perhaps buoyed by the performance of Karnan, approached the Gemini Colour Laboratory for digitisation of 'Thiruvilaiyadal' so that it could be re-released. Vijayalakshmi Pictures, however, wrote to the laboratory asking it not to release the film without their prior consent.

In her suit, Vijaya said the worldwide exclusive negative rights for distribution and exhibition would also mean digitisation, as digital format is no different from the original format except for enhancement of viewing quality.

Noting that digitisation did not require any separate licence, Vijaya said the worldwide exclusive negative rights already conferred on her will encompass exploitation and exhibition of the film in digital format.[12] [13]


  1. ^ a b Dhananjayan 2011, p. 232.
  2. ^ V. Raman, Mohan (14 April 2012). "Master of mythological cinema". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Dhananjayan 2011, p. 232; Dhananjayan 2014, p. 187.
  4. ^ Dhananjayan 2014, p. 187.
  5. ^ Tilak, Sudha G. (22 May 2004). "Mother goddesses rule the telly". Tehelka. Archived from the original on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Dhananjayan 2014, p. 186.
  7. ^ Guy 1997.
  8. ^ "Thiruvilayadal Songs – Thiruvilayadal Tamil Movie Songs – Tamil Songs Lyrics Trailer Videos, Preview Stills Reviews". Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "40th National Film Awards — page 88". Directorate of Film Festivals. 1993. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  10. ^ Friday Review Chennai : Filmmakers' favourites. The Hindu.
  11. ^ Mohan Raman (17 January 2011). "Life & Style / Society : Movie hall crosses a milestone". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Status quo ordered on digitising Thiruvilaiyadal. The New Indian Express.
  13. ^ Bid to re-release Sivaji classic ends up in court – Times Of India. (14 August 2012).


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