Subtlety thy name is Mahendran. When Tamil cinema was reeling under overrated emotions, a few directors tried to break the norms of Tamil cinema. As I already explained in previous posts, I would consider this as the golden period of Tamil cinema. Mahendran played a very important role in shaping up this period of directorial excellence

Mullum Malarum (1978)

Mullum Malarum is a movie that depicts the love between a ruffian brother and innocent sister. The movie had Rajinikanth, Sarath Babu, Shoba and Fatafat Jayalakshmi in lead roles with Balu Mahendra wielding the camera and Ilayaraja composing the score. It was produced by V.Mohan (Anandhi Films) and directed by Mahendran.

50 Tamil movies to watch before you Die

Set in a rural backdrop near Annamalai Hills in Tamil Nadu, it paints the story of Kali (Rajinikanth) and his sister Valli (Shoba). Kali is a winch operator in the hills and enters Kumaran (Sarath Babu), an officer and the boss of Kali. Interesting encounters between Valli and Kumaran blossoms in to a tender love between them. Kali doesn’t approve this love while he falls for Manga (Fatafat Jayalakshmi), a bratty village girl. In a freak incident, Kali loses one of his hands. Valli is torn between the love for her brother and Kumaran. The whole village tries to arrange for the marriage between Kumaran and Valli with the help of Manga. The climax tells you who Valli chooses to be with.

Why is it so special?

1. Although brother-sister relationships have been portrayed a lot of times in the past (Paasa Malar, Pachai Vilakku), they were always filled with an overdose of melodrama. Mullum Malarum deliberately broke the rules to give more subtle, natural version of a brother – sister relationship. It broke the stereotypes and gave a honest portrayal of the relationship

2. The acting of the ‘actor’ Rajinikanth rather than the superstar. You would not believe that it was only the 3rd year in his film career. The anti-heroish act of the first half and the disabled man in the second half was simply brilliant. He was challenged in every quarters by the young Shoba (was just 16) with her portrayal of innocent sister. Her eyes showed more emotions than her face when she is torn between the love of her brother and lover.

3. The able supporting cast of Fatafat Jayalakshmi and Sarath Babu (some feel he is a miscast, but there couldn’t have been a better person given the choices for the director).

4. The brilliance of the man by the name Ilayaraja. If Senthazham Poovil is an evergreen classic, Raman Aandalum is still one of the most favourites of Rajini fans. Adi Penne is a uncelebrated classic and Nitham Nitham nellu choru provided a prelude to interesting rural orchestrations that Ilayaraja would do later in various movies.

5. The rusticity in the movie is the main reason for the honest portrayals. Balu Mahendra (Cinematography) and Mahendran have worked hard to preserve it. A deft screenplay, some wonderful writing and brilliant portrayals made the movie an instant classic

Why is it in the list?

1. It broke the stereotypical portrayals of brother and sister relationships sans the melodrama
2. For the ‘actor’ Rajinikanth – one of his best
3. The subtlety of Mahendran


1. Mullum Malarum is based on a short story by Uma Chandran that won the Kalki Silver Jubilee Issue award.

2.Mahendran had scrapped the “Senthazham Poovil” song in the original cut due to the budget constraints and producer couldn’t provide the money. Hearing this, Panchu Arunachalam gave some money to shoot the song as he thought it was too brilliant to be left out. We would have lost a classically shot song, if not for Panju Arunachalam.

3.The movie has two actresses who died of suicides, Fatafat Jayalakshmi and Shoba both committed suicide after a few years. Tamil industry lost two great actresses. Shoba won a national award for Pasi, a year later at the age of 17.

4.Mahendran was originally born as Alexander.It’s said that he changed the name in honour of a school senior, who was a famous athlete.

5.Mullum Malarum is the only movie where the 3 greats came together to work – Mahendran, Balu Mahendra and Ilayaraja. Incidentally, Kamal introduced Balu Mahendra to Mahendran.

If you think Mullum Malarum was a classic, the next movie that I am going to write about equals any international classic. A movie that I am proud that it was made in Tamil.

YouTube link for the movie

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Posted by Sylvian

Marketing Analyst by profession, a quizzer by passion, a blogger by choice, a poet by chance, a non-conformist by gene and a rebel by birth


  1. Nice blog friend. Just what I was looking for. Do you know which Tamil TV channel frequently shows movies in the 1970 to 1990 Era?

    Thanks 🙂


    1. Manoj. Thanks for the comment. You can try Podhigai channel, Raj and Raj digital movies


  2. […] Shobha was a Kurinji flower who left this world prematurely. Although we have discussed her in Mullum Malarum, this movie fetched her the national award for best actress. She still holds the record for the […]


  3. ‘செந்தாழம் பூவில்’ பாடலுக்கு உதவி செய்தது நடிகர் கமல் என்று எங்கோ படித்த நினவு . தயாரிப்பாளர் ஆரம்பத்தில் இருந்தே இந்த படத்தின் budget சற்று அதிகமாகி விட்டது என்று கூறி கொண்டே இருந்ததாகவும் சில சமயங்களில் ஹீரோ ரோல் குருவி தலையில் பனங்காய் வைத்தது போல் இருப்பதாகவும் ஹீரோ வை மாற்ற வேண்டும் என்றும் கூறியதாகவும் படித்து இருக்கிறேன் . சமீபத்தில் கூட நாயகன் திரைப்படம் பற்றி கமல் தயாரிப்பாளர் முக்தா ஸ்ரீனிவாசன் சர்ச்சை கூட செய்திதாள்களில் அடிபட்டது


    1. Krish, whether you given this song to kamal, or you written, dont make rubbish over any elements near this mullum malurum portfolio.


  4. Not to criticize, but Mahendran’s movies are not my cup of tea.. For me a movie should have something extra-ordinary that is not in real life. And the “Ethartha Cinema” genre of Mahendran does not suit me. Having said that, I do some pieces of this movie. The camera of BM in the Senthazham Poovil song is awesome and the Nitham Nitham Nellu Soru song is one of my favorite comedy songs, particularly when Rajini keeps hitting his head when Jayalakshmi keeps singing in their First Night!!


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