Retro Review - Mudhalvan - A magnificently-woven political fairy tale

Retro Review - Mudhalvan - A magnificently-woven political fairy tale

20 May 20 @ 5:16 PM | By Divya Nair

Retro Review - We present the reviews of some of the films that offer great cinematic experience as if they are released now (currently). We present the content in such a way that we have just come out of the theater and penned out our thoughts fresh. You can enjoy the reviews and relive the moments in a different way. And try to watch the films like they're new, once again.

For the irate citizens who wanted a messiah to save the country from corrupt politicians, are at loggerheads with the government’s policies and are desperate to wash the dirt from the system, Mudhalvan is the ideal pick, which may give oodles of motivation to the frustrated law-abiding citizen. 

Director - S Shankar

Producer - S Films

Music - A R Rahman

Cast - Arjun, Raghuvaran, Manisha Koirala, Manivannan

The Plot 

Disclaimer- The writer is not trying to promote or disparage any political party/ politician/ religion

We are familiar with many anti-corruption activists like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi CM) and we have looked up to them like our saviors, who spoke for the common citizens, who spear-headed the anti-corruption drive. A ray of hope, a quantum of solace, a gleam of happiness - We admit we got mixed emotions when we found a few men with spine who fought against the existing system. 

Any law-abiding citizen who thinks in the best interest of the country have millions of times wanted to jump into the dirty game of politics, fumigate the State Assembly and The Parliament, cleanse the system and bring about a Rama Rajya in India ( No, I am not talking about Ayodhya issue and forcing Hindu ideologies. Rama Rajya is considered the Best Governance in Indian scriptures)

Let us focus on Mudhalvan- Pugazhendi aka Pugazh(Arjun) is a TV reporter who seems contended with his life, but gets a revelation when he records the orders given by the ruling TN CM Aranganathar (Raghuvaran) not to arrest the rioteers as they belong to his political party. He also gets a God-given opportunity to rip off the wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

He is assigned as the interviewer for a show involving the CM himself. Pugazh presents his points with proper data and recordings and the CM is left red-faced in the TV channel’s interview. Pugazh gets challenged by CM to take over as the CM of the state for just a day to know the intricacies and troubles faced by someone in that respectable position. Though reluctant, Pugazh accepts the challenge, much to the chagrin of the CM.

Pugazh - the one day CM starts his day. He shows the world how an ideal CM should be, how a CM should work for the people, how he should never turn a blind eye to the needs of the people, how a CM must be THE law-abiding citizen himself. The day ends with a long list of tasks that Pugazh successfully accomplishes and he wins the hearts of the public.

Continuing in politics was least of Pugazh’s priorities, as he is content with his mundane life involving his aged parents and hopes to get married to a village belle Thenmozhi (Manisha Koirala), their relationship facing stiff opposition from her dad. But, the ruling CM has already marked Pugazh as his destroyer and wanted to eliminate him. He hires henchmen to get him killed but our hero escapes. He plants a bomb at Pugazh’s house and unfortunately, Pugazh’s parents get killed. This devastates Pugazh and he enters politics to challenge and change the system. The citizens had already got a taste of Pugazh’s one day governance and he wins the elections by a huge margin.

We are also treated to Pugazh’s romantic encounters with Thenmozhi but that does not hinder the flow of the film. The political mud-slinging continues between Pugazh and Aranganathar. In the end, Pugazh himself was forced to think like a dirty politician to eliminate his opponent.

The Mastermind

Shankar S, the man who is known for grandeur, extends a palette of delicacies - both sweet and sour to the lovers of political drama in the form of Mudhalvan. The treat is indeed a sumptuous one. Shankar has always camouflaged societal issues in his big scale entertainers but does not compromise on the cinematic experience while trying to convey an inspirational thought.  Be it in the form of tight screenplay, out of the world music, impeccable performances, high-octane action, Shankar never ceases to make the movie lovers go wide-eyed. But the beauty of most of his films lie in its screenplay. Though we go to a wonder land while watching his films, we never lose our focus from the message the director intends to convey. 

How else can you describe a 21 year old movie that we find contemporary! Shankar, perhaps, spins stories that are way ahead of the time or those that may not lose sheen despite aging. Mudhalvan has a plot that may not be practically viable, but it does make every citizen fervently wish for a redeemer who can save them from the corrupt political system.  

The mass scenes

Mudhalvan has many adrenaline-pumping/ mass/ elevation scenes like the live interview of the CM by Pugazh, the sequences that showed the adventures of one-day CM, the scene involving the huge crowd that gather at Pugazh’s house to cajole him to join politics, the delegation of different duties to bureaucrats and elected representatives, etc. How we wished these happened in the real world of politics!

The Performances

Choosing a heavy-weight role, Arjun as Pugazh is at its best. He was so under-utilized by his previous filmmakers that he needed someone like Shankar to show the world what he is capable of. Shankar and Arjun had worked together in Gentleman, a film also in the same lines of Mudhalvan (fight against corruption) but got a different treatment. 

Manisha Koirala looks beautiful as the village belle - her pristine beauty and her innocent looks were a huge plus for the character. We also have note-worthy performances from Manivannan as Pugazh’s adviser, Vadivelu to lighten up the facial muscles to bring a smile on the audience's lips. It would be grave injustice if we do not speak about the vile CM Raghuvaran. What a terrific performer he is! Though he looks lanky, he is one of the best villains of the industry who is capable of giving us jitters with his eyes and voice. 

The support crew and cast

Shankar gives utmost importance to music in his films. And the composer knows it too. AR Rahman has given some of the best to Mudhalvan - be it the soothing Azhagana Rakshasi or Kurukku Chiruththavale or the thumping Mudhalvane, all songs were great on not only the eyes but also on the ears. Special mention for the ‘special song’ (not the sleazy item song ) Shakalaka Baby which has amazing lyrics suiting the modern woman’s idea of romance and some stunning dance steps by the gorgeous Susmitha Sen, quite audacious for the 1999 film audience. The slick editing by B Lenin and VT Vijayan, the spectacular frames by KV Anand deserves special mention. Shankar could not have delivered this kind of a bang with the film if not for his support crew.


That fulfilling feeling! A good film always gives you immense satisfaction and makes you feel full in heart and mind. Mudhalvan does that to you!


1)The film was turned down by three most popular heroes of Kollywood- Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay.

2) The idea of one day CM was inspired from an incident involving legendary Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan who was invited for a day’s honorary Mayor post in the US.

3) Peter Hein, popular action director turned into body double for Arjun, for the nude scene in which the hero had to run naked after an attack on him.

4) Meena was the original choice for the heroine's role which later went to Manisha Koirala.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Divya Nair

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