Revisiting MMKR (1990) - A Comedy That Continues to be Hailed as a Classic
Crazy Mohan’s writing for Michael Madana Kama Rajan (MMKR) is still talked about even though it is 29 years since the film was released. The film had an ensemble cast and was a super duper hit at the box office.  As expected, Kamal Haasan cocked a snook at Tamil Brahmins (Tam Brahm) showing an elderly Brahmin woman stealing things. This is one reason why Haasan lost his popularity among Tam Brahms.
Haasan’s multiple marriages and many affairs apart, his strained relations with his brothers and his behaviour may have distanced him from Tam Brahm audiences.
Heroines were scared of acting with Kamal Haasan because of his penchant for planting kisses on his heroine’s lips. The only actress who successfully managed to evade Haasan’s manic kiss-on-the-lips overtures was veteran actress Revathi Nair. How she managed this feat continues to be a mystery even now.  
Haasan would proudly call himself an atheist but portray characters in films who were pious and visited temples (a case in point, Mahanadhi, 1994). After Nayagan (1989), Haasan never acted again with Mani Rathnam due to ego problems.  Kamal may have gelled with Crazy Mohan because Mohan was forgiving of his creative interferences.
MMKR is about a series of accidental encounters that reunite quadruplets who are separated at birth. A killer hired by their father’s evil brother takes pity on the new-borns and drops them here and there.
Michael is a crook. Madan returns to his own father becoming the scion of a huge empire. Kameshwaran is adopted by a cook and becomes a cook. Raju becomes a fire fighter. Kamal Haasan played all the four roles with aplomb. Some of the jokes did not go down well with a section of the audience. Creating caricatures of Tamil Brahmins was a favourite pastime of K Balachander, K Bhagyaraj and Kamal Haasan.  In MMKR, Kamal Haasan as Kameshwaran spoke in the Palghat Tamil dialect, drawing a few laughs.
A buxom Khushboo, an even more buxom Komal Mahuvakar and a plump Urvashi added to the glamour quotient in MMKR. Malayalam actress Jayabharati made a comeback to Tamil films and played Kamal’s mother.  Of course, one cannot imagine MMKR without Haasan and Crazy Mohan. Praveen Kumar who played “Bheem” in Mahabharata had a cameo in MMKR and the scenes where Kamal Haasan keeps calling him “Bheem Boy” are outrageously hilarious. Nagesh, Delhi Ganesh, Manorama and Naasar lent good support to MMKR.
MMKR was directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao who also directed the Kamal Haasan – Amala – Tinnu Anand starrer Pushpak that was an experimental film without any dialogues. In MMKR, Kamal Haasan sang the erotic “Sundari Neeyum” along with Urvashi with singer S Janaki doing the playback for the latter.
The climax scene that had a house hanging from the cliff was copied from the 1925 American film The Gold Rush. Eighteen years later, this climax was copied in the Bollywood super hit Welcome that starred Akshay Kumar, Mallika Sherawat, Katrina Kaif, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor and Paresh Rawal with a memorable cameo by Feroze Khan. 
The exterior portion was shot in Coonoor and the interior of the house was shot in studio, in a hydraulic set.
All of 29 years after its first theatrical release MMKR still remains a delectable watch.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
Harinee Mosur
5 years ago
Frankly the Tambram comedy was spot on and I was not offended.Its more annoying when in the name of comedy ,comedians dole out advise to communities (Vivek in Saamy) or dont do even basic research like a Iyer will never wear a namam(Aruvi and many others) its insulting. And going out of the way to cast the villian as a Tambram just to vent your bias and prejudice(Viswaroopam 2) should be discouraged.
5 years ago
The one reason why people like Balachander and Kamal Haasan took advantage of Brahmins is because they felt that Brahmins were spineless creatures. Bhagyaraj showed a Brahmin girl marrying the son of a barber. Ironically, Balachander's last days were miserable and his house was auctioned. Bhagyaraj's life is not great either - money ran out after his last films flopped; his wife has to work now; his daughter attempted suicide and till now remains unmarried. So retribution has to happen somewhere.
The film was just an average success. I recall I watched it in Krishnaveni theatre. I had just finished my graduation and was preparing for BEd. After living all my life in Chennai, I am fed up with the way Brahmanas are treated in Tamil Nadu. Today if Chennai is suffering from water crisis, it is because of all the sins committed by people.
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