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1994 168’ col/scope Tamil d/s/co-lyr Shankar pc A.R.S. Films p K.T. Kunjumon dial Balakumaran lyr Vairamuthu, Vali c Jeeva m A.R. Rehman lp Prabhu Deva, Naghma, Girish Karnad, Vadivelu, Raghuvaran, S.P. Balasubramanyam

Tamil megahit and trendsetter continuing the 90s phenomenon of big budget musicals, associated mainly with composer Rehman, reaching an audience far exceeding the traditional scope of ‘regional’ cinemas. The film established the breakdancing Prabhu Deva, known until then mainly as a choreographer (e.g. the Rukmini song in Roja, 1992). He plays Prabhu, the son of a policeman (Balasubramanyam) and a student leader who falls in love with Shruti (Naghma), daughter of Kakarla Satyanarayana, the corrupt Governor of Tamil Nadu (Karnad). The reference is evidently to Tamil Nadu’s controversial governor M. Chenna Reddy, who had a public feud with the state Chief Minister Jayalalitha (to whom the film is dedicated). The love story develops alongside the Governor’s nefarious plans to bomb various public places. From the opening number, ‘Take it easy Urvashi’, set partly in an illuminated glass vehicle, the film announces its ‘postmodern’ intentions using computer-aided animation and elaborate special effects as well as costumed dance numbers, all of which set the stage for numerous comments on contemporary politics and the new mass culture. The heroine, resembling sketches from a book on traditional norms of Indian beauty, falls out with her beloved when his breakdancing comes into conflict with her devotion to the Bharat Natyam dance form. During their motor-cycle escapade to the temple town of Chidambaram, they foil the Governor’s plan to bomb the place, after which the hero is incarcerated and tortured by a female cop. His release triggers a wild west dance number and the film’s megahit, Mukkala muqabala. The film makes several references to earlier Tamil hits (e.g. to the Roja star Aravind Swamy) and Prabhu on one occasion pretends to be N.T. Rama Rao (leading to an extract from the latter’s Lavakusa, 1963). Dubbed versions of the film in Telugu (Premikudu, 1994) and Hindi (Humse Hai Muqabala, 1995) were also hits, esp. Rehman’s songs. Hindi lyrics were by P.K. Mishra. Tejaswini Niranjana and Vivek Dhareshwar analysed the film in ‘Kadhalan and the Politics of Resignification: Fashion, Violence and the Body’ (1995).