Avvai Shanmughi

Avvai Shanmugi is a 1996 Indian Tamil-language comedy film inspired by the English-language film Mrs Doubtfire.[1] It was directed by K. S. Ravikumar and written by Crazy Mohan. The film features Kamal Haasan in the lead role with Meena, Gemini Ganesan, Nagesh, Heera, Manivannan and Nassar. The film's score and soundtrack were composed by Deva, while the film was produced by Ravindran and Hari. Avvai Shanmughi received high positive reviews and became a "Blockbuster" at the box office.[2]

Avvai Shanmugi
Theatrical release poster
Directed byK. S. Ravikumar
Produced byR. Ravindran
K. P. Hari
Written byCrazy Mohan
Music byDeva
CinematographyS. Murthy
Edited byK. Thanikachalam
Sree Mahalakshmi Combines
Distributed bySree Mahalakshmi Combines
Raaj Kamal Films International
Release date
  • 10 November 1996 (1996-11-10)
Running time
161 minutes

This film was remade in Hindi as Chachi 420, released the following year and met with the same success as latter.


Janaki, a married woman who lives separated from her husband Pandian, applies for divorce. She offers various reasons for wanting a divorce. She has married Pandian against the wishes of her rich father Vishwanathan Iyer. But she is not able to come to terms with living in Pandian's small house without amenities. Pandian is an assistant dance choreographer with a modest income and is not able to spend much time with the family. All this accumulates and Janaki decides to apply for divorce, which is granted. The court orders that Pandian can meet his daughter Barathi, once a week and this is his only solace. Barathi, however, loves him a lot and dislikes the arrangement.

Basha, Pandian's Muslim friend, advises him to steal his daughter from Janaki. Pandian assents, but in doing so, he is discovered; now he cannot meet her at all. Pandian later learns that Vishwanathan has advertised for a woman to look after his granddaughter. In conversation with Joseph, a makeup artist, Pandian gets the idea of playing an old woman, so that he can be with his child and ex-wife without them knowing. Joseph agrees to this plan and the transformation is done from Pandian to "Avvai Shanmugi", a dignified, elderly Iyer woman.

Shanmugi applies for the job, but is rejected as another woman had been chosen. But when Barathi is hurt shooting fireworks and catches fire, Shanmugi throws her into a pond against the wishes of the household, who believe that wrapping in woollens is the proper way to put out a fire. When a doctor comes to take a look at Barathi's wound, he praises Shanmugi for administering the right treatment, which causes Vishwanathan to reject the earlier hired nanny and hire Shanmugi. Soon after that, all the family members start to become closer to Shanmugi, including Janaki and Barathi. When Barathi gets to properly meet Shanmugi, she recognises her as Pandian almost immediately, but agrees not to reveal his secret.

Rathna is a girl who is in love with Pandian, but is constantly rebuffed. Basha takes up the role of a mute Iyer cook and is admitted into Vishwanathan's house on the recommendation of Shanmugi. However, Basha is caught later while doing his namaz, thereby blowing his cover. Hilarious circumstances follow and slowly Shanmugi manages to convince the household of her sincerity. So much so that Vishwanathan begins to develop a liking for Shanmugi and in fact proposes to her too. Around the same time, Mudaliyar, the house-owner of the place where Pandian lives, happens to bump into Shanmugi and sympathises with her for being a widow. Eventually, Mudaliyar too begins to develop a liking for her.

Meanwhile, Pandian slowly begins to realise that Janaki has not totally forgotten him. Shanmugi rebuffs Vishwanathan's proposals by saying that her husband is alive. Adding to the chaos, she tells Vishwanathan that Joseph is her husband; while Pandian tells Sethurama, Vishwanathan's secretary, that Mudaliyar is Shanmugi's husband. There is much confusion after this, but it is resolved at last. Avvai Shanmugi convinces Vishwanathan that Janaki's right place is by her husband. While Janaki's father goes off to talk to his estranged son-in-law, Shanmugi reveals her true self as Pandian to Basha by removing her blouse. This is seen by Janaki, who misunderstands the scene and believes Shanmugi to be a seductress.

Janaki goes to Pandian's house to reclaim him, but upon seeing Rathna waiting there, and Shanmugi's clothes lying around, thinks that her husband, too, is promiscuous. Janaki leaves and attempts suicide by trying to jump into a river, but Shanmugi stops her. Shanmugi reveals her identity as Pandian. Janaki and Pandian reconcile, while Pandian "kills off" Shanmugi by attributing her "death" to drowning while attempting to save Janaki from committing suicide.



Kamal Haasan had desired to do a "Kramer Versus Kramer-meets-Tootsie" kind of film, which became Avvai Shanmughi.[3][4] He began production on the film after his project with director Balachandra Menon's Kanden Seethaiyai failed to get completed. The team initially approached Sivaji Ganesan to play the lead actress's father in the film, but his ill health meant that the film was launched with Meena and Gemini Ganesan as part of the cast and schedules were held in Kerala and Goa. A debutant Sri Durga was roped in to play second heroine in the film and Sanghavi was also considered, but was ultimately replaced by Heera Rajagopal.[5] Ann was introduced as the girl who played Kamalhasan's little daughter.[6] Stunt master Kanal Kannan appeared in a small role of a street rogue.[7]

Kamal dedicated this film to his mentor stage actor 'Avvai' T. K. Shanmugam, who was known for playing female roles in stage plays.[8]

The make-up artist Michael Westmore provided advice for the film alongside K. M. Sarathkumar.[9] The padding and foundation used gave Kamal Hasan an allergic reaction beneath his eyes, hence for the Hindi remake they ensured that scenes of the male role were shot first. The make-up took five hours to put on and lasts for only five more hours.[10] Kamal wore a nine-yard saree in the film for the female character.[11]


The film won positive reviews and performed well at the box office.[citation needed] The Hindu praised the film claiming "turns out to be entertainer, mouthful from start to finish". The source praises Kamal Haasan's portrayal of a woman by claiming that "few peers to Kamal Hassan who can do the female role with such perfection".[12][13] The film won three Tamil Nadu State Film Awards with K. M. Sarathkumar winning Best Make-up Artist, Ann Anra winning Best Child actor and Sujatha Mohan winning Best Playback Female Singer.[14]

The movie was dubbed into Telugu as Bhamane Satyabhamane. In 1997, Kamal Haasan made his directorial debut by remaking the film in Hindi as Chachi 420 with Tabu, Amrish Puri, Om Puri and himself in the leading roles.[15]


Avvai SHanmughi
Soundtrack album by
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Aditya Music
Sa Re Ga Ma
Hit Musics

The music composed by Deva and the lyrics were penned by Vaali. The song "Rukku Rukku" is based on Sahana (raga).[16] The song Kadhala Kadhala was reused as Gham Hai Kyon in the hindi movie Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai (2000).

# Song Singer(s) Lyrics Duration
1 "Rukku Rukku" Kamal Haasan, Sujatha Vaali 5:55
2 "Kadhala Kadhala" Hariharan, Sujatha 5:46
3 "Kalyanam Katcheri" S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 5:30
4 "Velai Velai" S. P. Balasubrahmanyam 5:26
5 "Kadhali Kadhali" Hariharan 5:44


The scene where Pandiyan looks for a sign board to think of a name for his elderly woman getup is recreated in Remo (2016) where Siva Kartikeyan looks at sign board for his nurse getup.[17]


  1. ^ Sunder, Gautam; S, Srivatsan (10 June 2019). "Best of 'Crazy' Mohan in Tamil cinema". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  2. ^ Srinivasan, V S. "Chachi comes a-visiting" (Archive). Rediff. 19 December 1997.
  3. ^ "Kamal Haasan: Robin Williams brought dignity to male tears". Rediff. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  4. ^ https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/eyecatchers/story/19961115-kamal-haasan-to-play-middle-aged-lady-in-his-next-film-avvai-shanmukhi-834094-1996-11-15
  5. ^ "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition 3 – soc.culture.tamil – Google Groups". google.com. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  6. ^ "The countdown begins". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Grill mill". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  8. ^ Kolappan, B. "Avvai Shanmugam's centenary passes off without fanfare". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  9. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080606024316/http://www.screenindia.com:80/old/feb13/south2.htm
  10. ^ "Rediff on the NeT: Kamal Hasan returns to Bollywood"". rediff.com. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Ayyo Rama". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Avvai Shanmughi". The Hindu. 15 November 1996. Archived from the original on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  13. ^ Ramanujam, D.S. (14 February 1997) Not a good year. The Hindu
  14. ^ Raaghavan Krishnamurthy. "Boddunan – Boddunan". boddunan.com. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Mudslinging turns Chikni Chachi into Stree 420". indianexpress.com. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  16. ^ CHARULATHA MANI. "A Raga's Journey — Soothing Sahana". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  17. ^ Dundoo, Sangeetha Devi (25 November 2016). "Content doesn't match the effort" – via www.thehindu.com.

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