Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei (Eng: The King of Torture, Pulikecei the 23rd) is a 2006 Indian Tamil language historical-comedy film written and directed by Chimbu Deven. The film stars Vadivelu in his debut as a lead actor. Monica and Tejashree play the female leads, while Manorama, Nassar, Ilavarasu, Sreeman and Nagesh play supporting roles. Sabesh-Murali composed the soundtrack album and background score. S. Shankar produced and distributed the film under his production banner S Pictures.
Set in the late 18th century during the early stages of the British Raj, the film tells the story of twin brothers separated at birth. Pulikecei XXIII, the foolish elder brother, becomes a puppet of his uncle, the Chief Minister, while Ukraputhan, the wise younger brother, becomes a patriot intent on saving his land and his brother.
Principal photography began in November 2005 at Prasad Studios. Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei was released on 8 July 2006, and was the first historical Tamil film released since Madhuraiyai Meetta Sundharapandiyan (1978). The film received positive reviews, with critics praising the screenplay, the performances, and the dialogues. A box office success, the film won two Tamil Nadu State Film Awards and one Filmfare Award.
In the South Indian kingdom of Cholapuram Paalayam in the year 1771, Raja Mokkaiyappar and his queen, Rajamatha Bhavani Ammaiyar are desperate for a child, as all their previous twenty-two children have died at birth. Unknown to them, Bhavani’s brother, Sangilimayan, who is also the Rajaguru (High priest), is responsible for the death of their children. Sangilimayan is shocked to see that his sister has given birth to twins. Before informing the king about the birth, he calls the palace astrologer, Chinnavadayaan, who predicts that the elder twin will be incapable of making decisions on his own while the younger one will be smarter. Sangilimayan orders the palace doctor, Kailasakaruppan, to kill the younger one, but Chinnavadayaan tells Sangilimayan that his actions would not be good for the kingdom. Instead, Sangilimayan orders the palace doctor to abandon the child in a nearby river. The elder child is named Pulikecei XXIII. Maragathavalli, Kailasakaruppan’s childless wife, rescues the abandoned child from the river, and the couple decides to raise him as their own, naming him Ukraputhan.
Twenty-five years pass, and Pulikecei is now the king of Cholapuram Paalayam. As foretold, he is foolish as well as lecherous. He is a puppet in the hands of Sangilimayan, who collaborates with the British for his own personal gain, and does not attend to the needs of the people of his kingdom. Pulikecei also tortures his subjects. He creates an outdoor stadium for different castes to fight against each other and punishes his palace guards even when they make the slightest of mistakes; he also uses his guards as targets for shooting practice. Ukraputhan, now an educated revolutionary, collaborates with his friends to overthrow the British. Ukraputhan falls in love with Vasantha Sundari, who reciprocates his feelings. When Ukraputhan tries to kill Pulikecei, he is shocked to see that they look alike.
Ukraputhan then learns about his birth from his foster-parents. To save the land from Sangilimayan and the British, Ukraputhan captures Pulikecei and trades places with him as the king whilst sending Pulikecei to prison. As the king, Ukraputhan joins Agandamuthu, the commander-in-chief, and helps brings about new reforms. He converts the palace harem into a playground and helps fund and provide for the education of children; to grow crops, he creates fertile land for tilling the soil. In a break with past policies of the kingdom, Ukraputhan refuses to pay tributes and taxes demanded by the British. Bhavani Ammaiyar praises Ukraputhan’s reforms, unaware that Ukraputhan is disguised as Pulikecei. In jail, Pulikecei is taken care of by Soolayini, who provides refreshments to the soldiers. Eventually, the two fall in love.
All of this happens while Sangilimayan is away on a business trip visiting British officers in Chennaipattinam. When he learns of the new reforms, he confronts Ukraputhan, who defies him. Later, Pulikecei escapes from prison and overhears a conversation between Ukraputhan, Agandamuthu and Chinnavadayaan. Pulikecei learns the truth about his birth and confronts the trio. He joins forces with Ukraputhan to reform the kingdom, but is beaten by one of Sangilimayan’s men and is locked up in the palace. However, he escapes with the help of Kollan, the palace blacksmith. Believing that Agandamuthu was responsible for Pulikecei’s change of mind, Sangilimayan arrests him and Ukraputhan. After escaping, Pulikecei appears before Sangilimayan as Ukraputhan but is recognised by his minister, Mangunipandiyan. A fight between Ukraputhan, Pulikecei, Sangilimayan and the British follows; Sangilimayan is overpowered by the twins and is about to be killed when Bhavani Ammaiyar intervenes. Feeling guilty for betraying his kingdom, Sangilimayan has a change of heart and apologises to his sister; she forgives him. The kingdom attains independence from British rule and Pulikecei and Ukraputhan get married to their respective lovers, Soolayini and Vasantha Sundari.