Iruvar is a 1997 Indian Tamil epic political drama film co-written, produced and directed by Mani Ratnam. The film, inspired by the lives of M. G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi, is set against the background of cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu. It stars Mohanlal and Prakash Raj as friends turned political opponents, with Aishwarya Rai, Revathi, Gautami, and Tabu portraying the women in their lives.
In the late 1940s, Anandan, an aspiring actor, goes around studios trying to land roles. He meets Tamizhselvan, a rationalist writer he respects, steeped in Dravidian ideas. On the strength of Tamizhselvan's flowery writing and his own impassioned delivery, he is offered the title role in a film.
Tamizhselvan introduces Anandan to Ayya Veluthambi, who leads a Dravidian political party. He grows to like the party's ideology. Anandan marries Pushpavalli, while Tamizhselvan marries Maragatham, from their respective villages. When the two return to Madras, Anandan's film has been cancelled due to financial difficulties and Tamizhselvan's party has become the main opposition party. Anandan is reduced to playing minor roles. He sends Pushpavalli back to their village and considers joining the army. Pushpavalli dies from illness and Tamizhselvan consoles Anandan.
Anandan's fortunes turn and he is again offered the part of a hero. He convinces the director to hire Tamizhselvan as screenwriter. The film receives tremendous response upon release. Tamizhselvan encourages Anandan to use his popularity to help their party gain more attention. Anandan marries Ramani. Ayya Veluthambi asks Anandan to contest in the upcoming elections, much to the displeasure of Tamizhselvan, who thinks other, more devoted workers deserve the candidacy.
Anandan is shot in neck by a prop gun while filming a scene, but the party sweeps elections, with 152 seats out of 234. Ayya Veluthambi refuses to become chief minister. He asks Anandan and another leader, Madhivannan, to decide who should be given the post. Tamizhselvan is resentful that Veluthambi did not involve him, but is chosen to be the chief minister with Anandan's wholehearted support. Anandan later asks to be the health minister, but Tamizhselvan refuses, on the pretext that the executive committee forbids ministers to pursue acting while in office. He offers Anandan any portfolio of his choice on the condition that he suspend his acting career. Anandan does not take it up.
Senthamarai, who had admired Tamizhselvan's daring protests, moves in with him when he writes her a poetic letter and has a daughter with him. Anandan's co-star in his new film is Kalpana who resembles his late wife. While initially distant, Kalpana's chattiness draws Anandan to her. But his indecision about another marriage, Ramani still being his wife, angers Kalpana and she leaves him.
In a memorial function on Ayya Veluthambi's death, Anandan claims party's corruption in governance was the cause of his death. His expulsion by Tamizhselvan splits the party, with several members creating a new one under Anandan's leadership.
Anandan uses his popular films to highlight corruption in Tamizhselvan's government and storms to power in the next election with 145/234 seats. But his governance turns out to be no different. Tamizhselvan's eloquent diatribes against misgovernance spark protests and Anandan orders his arrest with a heavy heart. Meanwhile, Anandan sees Kalpana at a disaster relief site and asks her to be brought. The car bringing her meets an accident and Kalpana dies.
Anandan is distraught over Kalpana's death. At the wedding of Ayya Veluthambi's granddaughter, a visibly ailing Anandan meets Tamizhselvan. They share a handshake but hardly talk. The next morning, Ramani finds Anandan dead in his bed. Tamizhselvan, in an emotional monologue set in a place where the two had previously planned dominating the Tamil state, recites poetry mourning his death.
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