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Theatrical release poster
Directed by M. Krishnan Nair
Produced by R. M. Veerappan
Screenplay by R. M. Veerappan
Story by R. M. Veerappan
S. Jagadeesan
Radha Veerannan
Music by M. S. Viswanathan
Cinematography V. Ramamoorthy
Edited by C. P. Jambulingam
Sathya Movies
Release date
  • 29 May 1971 (1971-05-29)
Country India
Language Tamil

Rickshawkaran (lit. The Rickshaw Puller) is a 1971 Indian Tamil-language vigilante film directed by M. Krishnan Nair and produced by R. M. Veerappan. The film stars M. G. Ramachandran, Manjula and Padmini in the lead roles. It was a major commercial success and won Ramachandran the National Film Award for Best Actor. It was remade in Hindi as Rickshawala (1973).[1]


In the early 1970s, at the end of a rickshaw competition the winner, Selvam, an ex-military officer, witnesses a murder, that of another rickshaw puller named Manickam. With his girl Soussi in the arms, this one was chased, killed and burned on the spot by a notable of the region, merciless Kailasam. The latter imagines above the laws for a very good reason, he is defended by the judge Dharmaraj who is also his brother-in-law. Dharmaraj knows perfectly the weaknesses of the judicial system and does not hesitate to exploit them in defiance of the morality. Meanwhile, Selvam got back the orphan girl Soussi and wants now that justice is returned for the girl and his deceased father. But nice Selvam is very far from suspecting that behind this murder hides in fact a vast network, specialised trafficking in persons, especially women led by vile Kailasam. Noticing that the justice is ineffective, Selvam decides to tidy up there in his own way.



Rickshawkaran, directed by M. Krishnan Nair, was launched in 1968. There were conflicting views on the selection of the female lead between lead actor M. G. Ramachandran and producer-screenwriter R. M. Veerappan. Regarding the female lead, Ramachandran wanted his frequent co-star Jayalalithaa for the role while Veerappan wanted to include someone else to break the proximity between Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. The result went in Veerappan's favour and Manjula was cast,[4][3] thereby making her debut as a lead actress.[5] Padmini was cast Ramachandran's sister; this casting caused some backlash among the public since the duo had acted as a couple before.[6] Ramachandran disliked the song "Azhagiya Thamizh Magal" and requested Veerappan to remove it, but after Veerappan convinced him, the song was retained.[6] The song was shot on a large set that was nearly 40-feet high, and was budgeted at approximately a lakh.[3]


According to critic Gautaman Bhaskaran, Rickshawkaran, like most other films starring Ramachandran, portrays him simultaneously as an action hero and champion for the downtrodden.[1] S. Rajanayagam, author of the book Popular Cinema and Politics in South India: The Films of MGR and Rajinikanth, noted that in most of his films, Ramachandran took care to behaviourally exhibit his character's subaltern identity by showing the character engaged in a specific action that characterises the occupation, citing his role of a rickshaw puller in Rickshawkaaran as an example.[7] He also considered that the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, C. N. Annadurai, Subramania Bharati and Crucifix being props in Selvam's hut was an example of Ramachandran subtly manipulating cinema to maintain his identity as a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam artiste, and simultaneously propagate his own vision of society.[8]


The music was composed by M. S. Viswanathan.[9]

No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Kadaloram Vangiya Katru" Vaali T. M. Soundararajan  
2. "Ange Siripavargal Sirikattum" Vaali T. M. Soundararajan  
3. "Pambai Udukkai Katti" Avinashi Mani T. M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela  
4. "Ponnazhaguppenmai" Vaali P. Susheela, L. R. Eswari  
5. "Kattruvaanga Ponen" Vaali T. M. Soundararajan  
6. "Azhagiya Thamizh Magal" Vaali T. M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela  

Release and reception

Rickshawkaran was released on 29 May 1971.[3] Ananda Vikatan, in a review dated 13 June 1971, wrote that the film was an excellent companion to spend three hours in a theatre, and also praised the story.[10] The film was a major commercial success, playing for 163 days at the Devi Paradise theatre, and for 100 days at 12 other theatres all over Tamil Nadu. To celebrate the film's success, Ramachandran gave raincoats to around 6,000 rickshaw pullers in Chennai.[6] R. Kannan, author of MGR: A Life, considered the film his "biggest box office hit ever'.[4] At the 19th National Film Awards, Ramachandran won the National Film Award for Best Actor for his role,[11] the first South Indian actor to do so.[6] Critics promptly said that the award was inspired by the political party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, with Blitz alleging that Ramachandran paid 40,000 (equivalent to 1.4 million or US$20,000 in 2017) for the award, a story that was carried by Dina Thanthi with gutso. Ramachandran retorted, "At no time, have I run seeking position, title and fame. I have the belief that they should come looking for you."[12] He initially considered returning the award, on account of being criticised for allegedly using political influence to his advantage, but relented when the committee explained its reasons for awarding him.[6] Politician M. Karunanidhi said that Ramachandran was "fully deserving of the award".[13]


  1. ^ a b c Bhaskaran, Gautaman (9 August 2016). "MGR's Rickshawkaran, refreshed and restored, to hit screens soon". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "எம்.ஜி.ஆர்-ன் சிறந்த சாதனை படங்கள்...!". Dinamalar (in Tamil). 17 June 2015. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "MGR anew". The Hindu. 1 October 2016. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Kannan 2017, p. 154.
  5. ^ "Southern industry in shock at actress Manjula Vijaykumar's sudden death". The Indian Express. 23 July 2013. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Did you know?". The Hindu. 2 October 2016. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2016. 
  7. ^ Rajanayagam 2015, p. 67.
  8. ^ Rajanayagam 2015, p. 25.
  9. ^ "Rickshawkaran (1971) All Songs Jukebox". YouTube. Saregama. 20 January 2016. Archived from the original on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018. 
  10. ^ "ரிக்ஷாக்காரன்". Ananda Vikatan (in Tamil). 13 June 1971. (Subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ Ramachandran, T. M., ed. (1972). "India's Prize-Winning Films - 1971". Film World. Vol. 8. p. 47. 
  12. ^ Kannan 2017, p. 155.
  13. ^ Kannan 2017, p. 168.


External links

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