Mudhalali (Eng: Proprietor) is Muktha Srinivasan’s 1957 Tamil directorial debut. This drama film was produced by M. A. Venu under M. A. V. Pictures. Mudhalali stars S. S. Rajendran and debutante Devika in the lead roles, while M. N. Rajam, A. Kannaiyan and T. P. Muthulakshmi play in supporting roles. Mudhalali’s soundtrack and background score were composed by K. V. Mahadevan, while the lyrics for the songs were written by Ka. Mu. Sheriff.
K. Ramachandran and T. Vijayarangam handled cinematography and editing respectively. The film is based on a stage play of the same name originally written by Venkat Ramanujam. Film development started during the making of Sampoorna Ramayanam, whose own production was temporarily shelved. The film was released on 22 October 1957 with a length of 160 minutes. The film became a hit for its soundtrack and story line, running for over 100 days and establishing the career of actors S. S. Rajendran, Devika and director Srinivasan.
Vasanthan (S. S. Rajendran) goes to America to further his education. During his absence, his widowed mother Karpagam (C. T. Rajakantham) manages their glass factory in Salem with the help of manager Balu (T. K. Ramachandran), who has a relationship with Vasanthan’s niece Kokilam (M. N. Rajam). Since Vasnthan’s mother does not understand how to manage the factory, Balu brings everything under his control and swindles the company by various means. Vasanthan returns to India several years later. He lands at Bombay en route to Madrastin order to reach Salem. While there, he meets a hotel boy, Poongavanam (R. Pakkirisamy), who causes Vasanthan to realize the need to understand the life of a worker before becoming a factory owner. He informs his mother that he has to go on another tour and will arrive in Salem in two months, but lands in Salem as a worker under the pseudonym Varadhan. He joins the factory with the help of Valli (Devika), who works in the factory with her father.
Slowly, Vasanthan comes to understand the misdeeds of Balu in managing the factory, and learns of his niece Kokilam’s relationship with Balu. Meanwhile, Vasanthan and Valli fall in love. Vasanthan’s mother becomes desperate to find her son and starts spending money to trace him. Vasanthan decides to reveal his true identity and goes out of town. Balu has an eye on Valli, and when she does not accept his lecherous advances, he throws her and her father out of the factory quarters. They leave in search of Varadhan, who has left Salem. When Vasanthan returns, his mother becomes happy. He meets the workers and promises changes since he now understands the misdeeds of the manager. Gradually, he starts addressing all the workers’ issues. Manager Balu is kept in his place and brought under control. Unable to accept his reduced status, and being under excessive control, Balu starts spreading rumours that Vasanthan is not the real owner, but an imposter. Varadhan has come as Vasanthan. Even Vasanthan’s mother starts doubting this, since Vasanthan (who was found of Kokilam before going abroad) is not behaving as before with her. Vasanthan proves that he is the real owner and exposes all of Balu’s misdeeds. With the help of a Cycle — rickshaw puller, he traces Valli in Madras (who had gone there search of him) brings her back, and marries her.
Directed by Muktha Srinivasan
Produced by M. A. Venu
Story by A. K. Venkat Ramanujam
Starring S. S. Rajendran, Devika, M. N. Rajam, T. K. Ramachandran, C. T. Rajakantham
Music by K. V. Mahadevan
Cinematography K. Ramachandran
Edited by T. Vijayarangam
Production Rathna Studio
Distributed by M. A. V. Pictures
Release date 22 October 1957
Running time 160 minutes