Mullum Malarum – Rajini Could Act, Once

Befitting his cult status, Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth has developed his own law.

Rajini’s Law – You know, like Newton’s Law, Boyle’s Law or Charles Law.

This is what Rajini’s Law postulates to his fans – The longer I act in Tamil movies, infinitely worse my performance will get.

Thanks to Netflix and demands from some of the blog readers, we got a chance to watch Mullum Malarum again.

We believe 99.99% of movies must be watched in the time period when they are made, i.e within 3-4 years of their release (the remaining few like Casablanca, On the Water Front, Citizen Kane or Sholay are classics that transcend time and geography).

So we were initially reluctant to watch Mullum Malarum because 30 years had passed since its release and we wondered if we could relate to the movie. After some hesitation, we decided to take the plunge.

And what a delightful treat Mullum Malarum turned out to be.

Tamil Caliban

For those of us sick and tired of seeing Rajinikanth leaping hither and thither on the big screen with lesser grace than Shakespeare’s Caliban, his performance in Mullum Malarum is a revelation.

Boy, this bloke could act those days. In Mullum Malarum, Rajinikanth has turned in a performance par excellence in sharp contrast to his buffoon-like antics in recent movies like Sivaji and the recent disaster Kuselan.

Rajinikanth was 28 then and perhaps the rough role he was playing in Mullum Malarum reflected well his violent personality of those days.

When Rajinikanth’s character Kali tells the engineer (Sarat Babu), Rendu kai, rendu kaal ponakuda, kali angarava polachikava, sir. Ketta payan sir, avan, we empathize with Kali as we never have with any of Rajini’s other characters with the exception perhaps of the writer in Aarilinthu aravathu varai.

The stars were all perfectly aligned in Mullum Malarum – stellar performances by Rajini and Shoba ably supported by Fatafut Jayalakshmi and somewhat by Sarat Babu (a bit stiff though), a moving story, solid screenplay, fabulous songs and an able hand at the rudder contributed to the movie’s phenomenal success.

More than Rajini, more than Shoba, more than Fatafut Jayalakshmi and more than Illayaraja, Mullum Malarum director J.Mahendran deserves kudos for crafting such a beautiful movie.

Set in a small village in the Annamalai Hills, the story revolves around a gruff character Kali (Rajinikanth), working as a winch operator in the area, and his sister Vali (Shoba).

Two events herald changes in the placid lives of the brother and sister, but more so in the case of Kali – the arrival of a new engineer (Sarat Babu), who also happens to be Kali’s boss; and the arrival of an old lady and her feisty and gluttonous daughter Manga (Fatafut Jayalakshmi).

While Jayalakshmi was a prettier lass, Shoba was a far superior actress and threw in a non pareil performance (by Tamil movie standards). Among the youngsters, Sandhya of dailamo, dailamo fame reminds us of Shoba.

Anger – Leitmotif

Another interesting feature of Mullum Malarum is that romance does not hog the screen-time.

Love or romance is but one element of the myriad facets of life, not the raison d’tre as the brainless twits of Bollywood and Kollywood would make it seem.

There’s ego, there’s greed, there’s anger, there’s frustration, there’s revenge, there’s envy and so many other human emotions that never get adequate play in Bollywood and Kollywood movies because love leaves no room for anything else.

Mullum Malarum dares to be different.

Anger, more than love, is the leitmotif of this charmer. What a relief that love plays second fiddle to other emotions, for once.

Fine Music

Music is another highlight of Mullum Malaram.

Who having heard it once can ever forget the maestro Illayaraja’s hauntingly beautiful music for songs like Senthaazham Poovil, Adi Pennae or Niththam Niththam Nellu.

These are songs with timeless appeal, not the cacophonic assault of funereal music on the ear-drums that you encounter in trash like Satyam, Kuselan or Dasavatharam.

Of the four main actors in Mullum Malarum, only the men survive.

Both Shoba and Fatafut Jayalakshmi died under tragic circumstances, and are probably entertaining the dwellers of whichever world they now inhabit.

What a shame, what an injustice that classy actresses like Shoba disappear into the mist early and all that we are left with are ugly bimbos like Nayanthara and Trisha to torment us.

In our restless, odyssean quest for quality Tamil films seldom have we come upon a movie as beautiful as Mullum Malarum.

What a glorious aberration amidst the stinking offal we encounter every Friday in Kollywood.

And what a Himalayan tragedy that Rajinikanth has fallen so low over the years. Perhaps, this Caliban should consider retiring permanently to the Himalayas that he’s said to love dearly.

23 Responses to "Mullum Malarum – Rajini Could Act, Once"

  1. shuaib68   August 28, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Yes, excellent comment! I have the original VCD with me in my library of classic movies which I watch when I feel of taking a trip down my memory lane.

    I thought, that your criticisms are directed against all the movies of Rajini and in the process that even classics would have been branded as garbage. I am wrong, you have all the good knowledge in having a critical anlysis of the cinema and also about the un-recyclable waste products being thrown at us on a daily basis as Tamil Cinema.

    Thank you for openly saying the very same things which popped up in our minds while we were experiencing the so called movies in the theatres for the first time.

  2. gandhiji   August 28, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Got a Mullum Malarum VCD somewhere too.. will watch it in the next few days.

    I like Sandhya..(Kaadhal is one of my favorite movies..) but don’t think she is anywhere near the same league as Shobha.. Shobha’s death (or was it murder) was probably as big a tragedy (to Indian cinema) as the Heath Ledger tragedy .. it also probably made her legendary.. just like Heath.

    Do you remember how Fatafut died?.. I was a bit too young then. I thought Shobha was prettier than her.. let me check again.

    Even “Raaman Aandaalum”.. was a beautiful song.. Responds:

    1. You write above: Do you remember how Fatafut died?..

    She is said to have overdosed on pills.

    2. Even “Raaman Aandaalum”.. was a beautiful song..


  3. harrydickens   August 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Do watch ‘Thillu Mullu’ too. You will get to see a pretty cool Rajni in a really good and entertaining movie. Responds:

    Added Thillu Mullu to our Netflix queue.

  4. cberameshin   August 28, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    the review was good. do review another rajini film JOHNNY. director is the same. Mahendran. My all-time favorite film. Responds:

    You write above: do review another rajini film JOHNNY

    Sorry, Netflix does not have Johnny (we are based in the U.S. and do not have easy access to old Tamil movies).

  5. ajayrocks   August 29, 2008 at 5:08 am

    can u tell me if you watched any of ajay’s movies i told and did u like them Responds:

    We watched Gangaajal – Decent.
    Zakhm – Netflix has a long wait for it. We still haven’t recvd it (we think Netflix has limited copies of these old Bollywood films & if people who borrow it and hold on to it, then there’s a long wait. We are facing a similar problem with an English film starring Rajinikant called Bloodstone).
    Company – Netflix DVD was broken and we couldn’t watch it. We’ve requested a friend to get it from India. Hopefully, we should get it soon.

    Of course, we’ve watched Apaharan, Omkara, Raju Chacha (rubbish) & a few other Ajay Devgan movies.

  6. dilip   August 30, 2008 at 6:53 am

    That’s what i said to you long back.when you said “rajni or ajit or shahrukh are just harworking and lucky stars they cannot act”. i replied “nobody cant become stars overnight, only because of their acting capabilities in the past they have become big stars now. i asked you to watch old classics of rajni like”mullum malarum” “moondru mugam””aaril irunthu aruvathu varai””moondru mudichu””ragavendara” and watch classics of ajit like”vaali””mugavari””kandukonden kandukonden””aamarkalam” and watch classics of srk like “baazigar””darr””anjam”.i hope ypu will watch this movies. Responds:

    We’ve seen Mugavari. We still think Ajith is a stranger to the notion of acting.

    We’ve seen Baazigar & Darr – songs are very good.

  7. dilip   August 31, 2008 at 6:25 am

    oh is it then watch “vaali” or “kandukonden kandukonden’.if you say even after that ajit is stranger to the notion of acting it is are expecting much from him.when you say vijay or jeyam ravi can act defintely ajit can act no doubt.

  8. What_if   August 31, 2008 at 7:23 am

    What an excellent review. Good work done there, you titled the review “Rajini could act,Once” – please correct it – it was not “once” but many times – in the past (when he was in his thirties) – under able directors like J.Mahendran, Balu Mahendra, Barathiraja and of course K.Balachander.

    In your Kuselan’s review people asked/said Rajini won’t accept to act as a Barber – He did one charector as a Barber ( in style)(out of the dual charectors he played) in “Johnny”
    What if NETFLIX doesnt have – DO try to get a copy from your contacts in Chennai, and write us your review.

    Those were the good old days – Alas ! Now a days, after acheiving “Super Star” status, he does not even have to deliver dialogues -like “Rendu kai, rendu kaal ponakuda, kali angarava polachikava, sir. Ketta payan sir, avan” – which brag about himself, he just looks around and gestures – his cohorts (like Vivek, Vadivel, Senthil etc) tell about his greatness in rhyming words to the Villian & his henchmen. Responds:

    You write: What if NETFLIX doesnt have – DO try to get a copy from your contacts in Chennai, and write us your review.

    We’ll try to get Johnny from Chennai. It’d help to know where it is available.

  9. mallukuttan   September 5, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Thanks a lot for your point of view. I have to mention something about rajni fans too. Whatever trash he throws at them they willfully accept it. What a shame. Now coming to Kuselan – The movie was a piece of shit. But i thought Rajni’s older masalas were worser. The movie became a flop just because Rajni was in guest role. If you ask who is the most overrated acter in India – I would say Rajnikanth if he didn’t act in this movie, Arilirunthu aravathu varay, etc.

    NB: I cant understand why they are protesting against a magazine who called Rajni Paithyakaran. Who else would just downgrade himself in such a manner. Responds:

    Sometimes we think, Freedom of Speech is more of a theoretical construct in India.

  10. Vasan   December 15, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Rajni could defntly act, not only once. Who expects sober movies like “Vaalvey maayem” from Rajni anyway? there is someone like kamal to do all those fancy dress competition sort of actings / dance like a women at that Rajni became a mass hero like that of MGR. Rajni’s way to success are been blindly followed like religion by Vijay,simbu et al

    U can try 6-60varai movie too for your effort to appreciate rajni acting again…else try your own way of appreciating ur acting legend “Vijay” and cont..your polambal(cry for yelavu) to all the movie… Responds:

    You write above: U can try 6-60varai movie too for your effort to appreciate rajni acting again

    We’ve seen 6-60varai (many years back). We’ll watch it again one of these days.

  11. Vasan   December 17, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    WoW!Thats a good reply.I realy appreciate your efforts!
    Rajni has a long list of good movie like…..
    6-60varai,Bhuvana oru kalvi kuri
    Thappu thalankal,Enkayo katakural,Sri ragavendra,thillilumullu..etc,before claming himself as a SUPER STAR. Responds:

    We’ve seen Thappu Thalangal.

    If we remember right, the song ennada pollatha valkai is from this movie.

  12. shiva84   April 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Good review. Have you watched Johnny another fine movie from Rajini-Mahendran combo. Ilayaraja’s music was just fantabulous. Responds:

    We’ve tried hard to get Johnny here but failed.

    Will keep trying.

  13. shiva84   May 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Have you watched udhiri pookal a master piece from mahendran Responds:

    No but we’ve heard the Azhagiya Kanne song countless times.

    • shiva84   May 24, 2010 at 1:04 am

      Can you plz review the movie if you get a chance to watch it, it is better than mullum malarum. Responds:

      Will do. Just checked. Netflix has it.

      • shiva84   May 24, 2010 at 10:23 am

        Thanks SI, i am sure you will like Udhiri Pookal.

        • shiva84   July 6, 2010 at 8:09 am

          Hi SI, did u watch Udhiri Pookal.


          No, we can’t get the DVD easily here.

    • The Mahatma   May 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

      I was about to recommend Azhagiya Kanne to you.. the whole movie is on youtube.. I doubt that the DVD quality will be any better than this..
      youtube user classictamilcinema he has two other movies too. Responds:

      Can’t watch movies on YouTube. Quality is bound to be bad. In any case, we’ll get the Uthiri Pookal DVD from Netflix in a few days.

      BTW, we purchased an Acer REVO device (the higher-end 2GB RAM, dual-core, $349 version) with HDMI output, built-in WiFi and wireless keyboard.

      One of these days, when we have lots of time we plan to hook it up to the TV.

    • boopalanj   July 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      Yes, Udhiri Pookal is a must-watch, for SI.

      Most of the movies by Mahendran – are based on short stories / novels, So is Udhiri Pookal [based on a short story by Pudhumai Pithan – Responds:

      Re-Added Uthiri Pookkal to our Netflix queue.

      One of our favorite Tamil songs is Azhagiya Kanne from Uthiri Pookkal. Listening to it now.

  14. shiva84   May 31, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Apart from mullum malarum and johnny, mahendran and rajini did another movie kai kodukkum kai which released in 1984, it has an off beat story line. This movie was just an average at the box office. A fine song from that movie. Responds:

    Nice song featuring Beauty and the Beast. 😉

  15. shiva84   June 4, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Hi SI can you also review Thillu Mullu for us. Responds:

    We can’t get the DVD of that old film here.

  16. Hari Jr   December 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

    SI, have you seen Johnny (1980) starring Rajinikanth in a dual role & Sridevi??

    It is a nice movie with exceptional music of Ilayaraja!!

    Rajinikanth & Sridevi both have put very good performances!! And Rajinikanth has excelled in the dual role!!

    Listen to some of the songs in the link below and comment 🙂

    Please give your comments and also see how classy Rajinikanth was then 😛 Responds:

    We have yet to see it because we couldn’t get the DVD here.

    The songs are nice, of course.

  17. Hari Jr   December 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I know that the discussion of you watching Johnny has been done here but still around 2 years have passed since this article was published and hence I asked you have you seen the movie 🙂

  18. Hari Jr   December 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm


    Please try and review if you manage to get access to the DVD

    I am sure you’ll like the movie 🙂

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