Punnagai Mannan (Eng: King of Smiles) is a 1986 Indian Tamil-language romantic-drama film written and directed by K. Balachander. The film stars Kamal Haasan and Revathi in the lead roles. Punnagai Mannan was released on 1 November 1986, during Diwali, and ran for 25 weeks in theatres. It was later dubbed into Telugu as Dance Master, and into Hindi as Chacha Charlie in 1996.
Lovers Sethu and Ranjani arrive at a cliff where they plan to commit suicide due to the pressure put up by Ranjani’s parents against their marriage. Sethu, who is the son of an ordinary drunkard cook, is not accepted as groom for Ranjani by her parents. The parents threaten Ranjani that either they would kill Sethu or commit suicide. While jumping from the cliff, Sethu accidentally gets trapped in a tree and escapes but Ranjani dies. Despite the attempts made by Ranjani’s father to jail Sethu by framing a fault case that Sethu killed Ranjani, no strong evidence is there to prove it. Sethu is jailed for the offence of attempted suicide for one year.
A year later, Sethu is released. His aunt Padmini, who owns a dance school, provides him a job of dance master as he is the former student. Sethu visits the cliff regularly as a remembrance of his love. On his way he sees a girl who attempts suicide for her failure in examination and stops her. He again meets the girl in a gallery. The girl introduces herself to him as Malini but he ignores her. Malini again meets Sethu at a tourist spot where she clicks photos without his knowledge, but Sethu realises this and destroys her camera. Malini chases him to his school as his student. Sethu repeatedly insults her but Malini develops love for him.
Malini coincidentally meets Chellapa, uncle of Sethu who dresses himself like Charlie Chaplin and makes people laugh. She comes to know about Sethu’s failed love from him, which increases her affection towards Sethu. Chellapa helps her to win Sethu’s heart. Malini is actually a Sinhalese girl because of which she faces trouble from her classmate many times and is every time rescued by Sethu. Though Sethu humiliates her all the time, he develops a soft corner in his mind. Sethu realises that he has started to love her but gets confused what to do as he is a failed one. Sethu’s repeated attempts to prevent himself loving Malini fails and he takes a sign of blessing for his new love from Ranjani at the cliff side. He finally confesses his love for her and proposes to her.
Malini continues to spend time with Chellapa as she enjoys his sense of humour. This makes Sethu jealous, so he attempts to mimic Chellapa’s mannerisms, but ends up injured. Sethu finds that Chellapa is a failed lover who, to forget his past, has worn a mask of Chaplin. Sethu and Malini unite Chellapa and Padmini who is a spinster. Sethu again faces pressure from Malini’s father as Malini is of Sinhalese origin and Sethu is a Tamilian. Both of them struggle hard to win in their love. Malini goes to the extent of escaping from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu to join with Sethu. After understanding the tight bond of Malini with Sethu, Malini’s father approves their marriage.
Ranjani’s father, who hears about Sethu’s marriage, wants to take “revenge” for his daughter’s death. On the day of Sethu’s engagement, he gives a basket full of apples which has a time bomb in it to Sethu’s father, pretending to be his gift for his son. Sethu’s father who does not know about the bomb keeps the basket in Chellapa’s car. Sethu and Malini leave to visit Sethu’s love cliff in Chellapa’s car which has the bomb. Sethu’s father and Chellapa come to know about the bomb and try to stop Sethu and Malini, but fail; the bomb explodes at the same place where Sethu-Ranjani attempted suicide and Sethu-Malini die in the explosion, leaving Chellapa and Sethu’s father heartbroken. Chellapa later showers flowers in the place where the three of them died.
Directed by K. Balachander
Produced by Rajam Balachander & Pushpa Kandaswamy
Written by K. Balachander
Starring Kamal Haasan, Revathi
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Ragunatha Reddy
Edited by Ganesh-Kumar
Production Kavithalayaa Productions
Distributed by Kavithalayaa Productions
Release date 1 November 1986