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Avvai Shanmugi is a 1996 Indian Tamil comedy film inspired by the English-language film Mrs Doubtfire starring Robin Williams.[1] It was directed by K. S. Ravikumar and written by Crazy Mohan. The film features Kamal Haasan in the lead role 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
Directed byK. S. Ravikumar
Produced byR. Ravindran
K. P. Hari
Written byCrazy Mohan
Screenplay byK. S. Ravikumar
Story 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.


The film starts in a courtroom where a woman Janaki (Meena) is fighting for divorce from her husband Pandian (Kamal Haasan). She offers various reasons for wanting a divorce. She has married Pandian against the wishes of her rich father Vishwanathan Iyer (Gemini Ganesan). But she isn't able to come to terms with living in Pandian's small house without amenities. Pandian is an assistant dance director 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. His daughter, however, loves him a lot and doesn't like the arrangement. Basha (Nassar), Pandian's Muslim friend who works in a hotel as a chef, advises him to steal his daughter from Janaki. Pandian goes about trying to do as his friend suggests. In doing so, he is discovered; and now he cannot meet her at all. Then Pandian finds out that Vishwanathan Iyer has advertised for a woman to look after his granddaughter. Joseph (Nagesh) is a makeup man in films. In conversation with him, Pandian gets the idea of playing an old woman, so that he can be with his child and ex-wife without knowing them. Joseph agrees to this plan and the transformation is done from Pandian to "Avvai Shanmugi"-- (Kamal Haasan) a dignified, elderly Iyer woman. She applies for the job, but is rejected as another woman had been chosen. When Barathi is hurt shooting fireworks & catches on fire, Shanmugi throws her into a pond against the wishes of the household, who believe that wrapping in woolens 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 the family to dismiss the other girl and hire Shanmugi. When Barathi gets to properly meet Shanmugi, she recognizes her as Pandian almost immediately, as she could recognize her father's smell. Pandian begs her not to reveal his secret, to which she happily agrees.

Rathna (Heera Rajgopal) 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 Iyer's house on the recommendation of Shanmugi. However, Basha is caught later while doing his namaz, thereby shattering both lies—that he is mute and an Iyer. Hilarious circumstances follow and slowly Shanmugi manages to convince the household of her sincerity. So much so that Janaki's widowed father begins to develop a liking for Shanmugi and in fact proposes to her too. Around the same time, Mudaliyar (Manivannan), the house-owner of the place where Pandian lives, sympathizing with her for being a widow, happens to bump into Shanmugi. This happens many times and Mudaliyar, too, begins to develop a liking for her.

Meanwhile, Pandian slowly begins to realize that Janaki hasn't 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 (Delhi Ganesh), Vishwanathan's secretary, that Mudaliyar is Shanumgi'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 began production on the film after his project with director Balachandra Menon's Kandaen Seethayae 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 Rajgopal.[3] Ann was introduced as the girl who played Kamalhasan's little daughter.[4] Stunt master Kanal Kannan appeared in a small role of a street rogue.[5]

Kamal dedicated this film to his mentor stage actor 'Avvai' T. K. Shanmugham, who was known for playing female roles in stage plays.[6]

The make-up artist Michael Westmore provided advice for the film alongside K. M. Sarathkumar. 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.[7] Kamal wore a nine-yard saree in the film for the female character.[8]

Meena later said she was forced into doing the infamous shower scene since she wanted to work with Kamal badly and she didn't want to do a lip to lip kissing scene with him. The scene where she appears in black bra is usually cut when it is broadcast on TV


The film won positive reviews and performed well at the box office. 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".[9][10] The film won two Tamil Nadu State Film Awards with K. M. Sarathkumar winning Best Make-up Artist and Ann Anra winning Best Child actor.[11]

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.[12]


The music composed by Deva and the lyrics were penned by Vaali. The song "Rukku Rukku" is based on Sahana (raga).[13]

# Song Singer(s) Duration
1 "Rukku Rukku" Kamal Haasan, Sujatha 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


  1. ^
  2. ^ Srinivasan, V S. "Chachi comes a-visiting" (Archive). Rediff. 19 December 1997.
  3. ^ "Tamil Movie News-Pudhu Edition 3 – soc.culture.tamil – Google Groups". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  4. ^ "The countdown begins". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Grill mill". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  6. ^ Kolappan, B. "Avvai Shanmugam's centenary passes off without fanfare". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Rediff on the NeT: Kamal Hasan returns to Bollywood"". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Ayyo Rama". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Avvai Shanmughi". The Hindu. 15 November 1996. Archived from the original on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  10. ^ Ramanujam, D.S. (14 February 1997) Not a good year. The Hindu
  11. ^ Raaghavan Krishnamurthy. "Boddunan – Boddunan". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Mudslinging turns Chikni Chachi into Stree 420". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  13. ^ CHARULATHA MANI. "A Raga's Journey — Soothing Sahana". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2015.

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