I am back with the 20th movie of the list and I hope to finish it by this year at least :) As I quipped in the last post, the movie I am going to talk about is the classic of Tamil Cinema. I can confidently say there hasn’t been a movie that can beat the quality of this movie. Mahendran is a master story teller who tried to weave stories that are realistic and he somehow brought the right expressions from his actors.

Udhiripookal (1979)

Udhiripookal is the masterpiece of Mahendran based on the short story titled “Chitrannai” (Stepmom) written by Pudhumaipithan. The movie had Vijayan, Ashwini, Madhumalini, Sundar, Chaaruhassan, Sarath Babu and Bhoopathy with Ashok Kumar handling the camera and Ilaiyaraaja composing the musical score. The movie was produced by Radha Balakrishnan of Dimple Creations.

The story is about a village chieftain Sundaravadivelu (Vijayan), who exploits the village and makes sure that none of them live happy in the village except him. He is married to a good hearted woman (Ashwini), who is prone to illness. Sighting her illness and children as reason, Sundaravadivelu tries to marry her sister too. But her sister (Madhumalini) falls in love with a school teacher (Sundar) who comes to work in a school owned by Sundaravadivelu. The story revolves around how villagers fight against Sundaravadivelu.

Why is it special?

1. On the first look, the story seems to be a simple good vs evil fight but the specialty of the movie resides in the way the scenes are conceived and directed.

2. Mahendran weaves a poetry on the screen with brilliant screenplay and scene conceptions. He never shows the violence and moves on to symbolism that has far more greater impact than showing the original violence itself. For instance the iconic climax scene where the protagonist is forced to jump in the flowing river is unmatched till date. The viewers end up feeling sympathetic towards the protagonist amidst the rage they have towards his atrocities. The whole movie is filled with such gems of scene conceptions.

3. Mahendran showed that you don’t need pages of dialogues to express the emotions. The film is filled with sharper dialogues mainly uttered by the protagonist’s father in law played by Charuhassan.

3. The fantastic acting of the leads especially Ashwini shows melancholy through her expressions. Vijayan as the protagonist evokes hatred. Master Raja and Baby Anju as the children give us a heart wrenching portrayal. Every actor in the supporting cast are perfectly chosen – even the smallest characters like the hair dresser and teachers in the school make a great impact in the movie. Sarath Babu gives a dignified cameo and Bhoopathy as Sundaravadivelu’s brother makes the casting perfect

4. The music. Mahendran has been collaborating with Ilaiyaraaja for all his movies. The songs in his movies go with the narration but he gives challenging sequences for Raaja to play around in the background score and Udhiri Pookal showed why Raaja is a master composer when it comes to background scores and interludes. The second interlude in Azhagiya Kanne song is the best example that blends the magic of Raaja, the brilliance of Mahendran and the acting prowess of Ashwini

5. Udhiripookal is a perfect movie that combines master class writing, direction, acting and music. It can’t get better than this.

Why is it in the list?

1. Udhiripookal is an epitome of what Tamil movies should have been. But we got lost in the process.

2. For inspiring a number of directors to come in to movie making. Udhiripookal invariably stays in the top ten movies list of most of the young and established directors.

3. There hasn’t been a movie that matched the excellence of Udhiripookal in Tamil Cinema

4.Maniratnam famously said “If I get anywhere near what Mahendran did in Udhiri Pookkal, I’ll be a happy man. Do you need a better testimonial for this movie?


1. As I have quoted earlier, the movie is based on the short story “Chitrannai” written by Pudhumaipithan. He is considered to be the father of short story revolution in Tamil Language. He wrote on progressive themes that became controversial during his time. Although his literary life was short, he is still revered by Tamil authors.

2. One of the teacher characters in the movie is played by Anbalaya Prabhakaran. He later became a famous actor/director/producer. One of his famous creations would be Vaigasi Porandhachu that launched Prashanth

3.Bhoopathy is the son of Manorama. Although quite talented, he never became successful in silver screen.

4.Charu Hassan. elder brother of Kamal Hassan and father of Suhasini Maniratnam had done interesting roles in his tenure. He also won a National Award for his role in a Kannada movie Tabarana Kathe in 1987. It’s very interesting to note that there were 3 National Award winners from the same family in 3 consecutive years. 1986 – Suhasini (Best Actress) for Sindhu Bhairavi, 1987 for Charu Hassan and 1988 – Kamal Hassan for Nayagan.

5. Udhiripookal didn’t win any major awards in the following year. No national awards. No Filmfares. The National Award for Best Tamil film had not been announced for 1980 as per records.  No awards for a movie that could have even fulfilled the oscar dream of India. The movie remains as an unsung classic of Indian Cinema.

Have a look at the complete list in the following link

YouTube link for the movie

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