It was the first film in India (for any language) to be screened continuously for over one year in a multiplex, and holds the record for the longest-running film at a multiplex in addition to having the highest recorded box-office collections for Kannada cinema. It ran over 865 days in Karnataka and collected an estimated ₹50–75 crore (₹500–750 million). It was remade in 2008 in Telugu as Vaana, in 2008 in Bengali as Premer Kahini and in 2017 in Marathi as Premay Namaha.
Preetam (Ganesh) is on a visit to Eva Mall in Bangalore; amidst a heavy wind, he spots a pretty girl, Nandini (Pooja Gandhi). While staring at her, he inadvertently falls into a manhole. Nandini rescues him from the pit, but in the process loses her heart-shaped watch she had just bought.
While accompanying his mother to Madikeri, Preetam confronts a man named Jaanu (Neenaasam Ashwath). Jaanu, who has been following Nandini, beats Preetam thinking that he is in love with Nandini. Preetam, unaware that Jaanu has vowed not to allow anyone near Nandini, trashes Jaanu and his gang in revenge.
In Madikeri, Preetam unexpectedly meets Nandini. He identifies himself and expresses his love towards her and offers to tie the watch as an indication for their marriage. Nandini, who is already engaged, rejects his request. Nonetheless, Preetam vows to marry Nandini if she meets him again. In the meantime, Preetam discovers that his nearly-deaf host in Madikeri, Col. Subbayya, is Nandini's father and that Nandini's marriage is only a week away. Dejected, Preetam throws Nandini's heart-shaped watch away. But Nandini telephones him and taunts him to return. Delighted, Preetam goes in search of her watch and spots a rabbit, which he calls Devadas, and brings it along with the watch.
Since Nandini's friends are due to arrive from Mumbai for the marriage, Preetam takes Nandini to the railway station. The train is delayed by five hours, so Nandini and Preetam decide to visit a nearby hill-temple. While returning from the temple, Preetam and Nandini are caught in rain. An old couple offers Preetam and Nandini to take shelter inside their hut. Preetam, still in two minds about expressing his love to Nandini, grabs a couple of toddy bottles, goes out in the rain and starts drinking. However, when Nandini walks towards him, offering an umbrella, he is under a state of intoxication and tells Nandini that he'd better stay away from Nandini to remain a decent boy, rather than to propose or elope with her.
Nandini is now in love with Preetam and is in a dilemma as her wedding is due in a few days. She asks him to take her to the top of a waterfall where she expresses her love for him while standing at the edge.
Preetam, intent on marrying Nandini, takes Subbayya for a morning jog to discuss the matter. But Subbayya, a heart patient, tells Preetham that he's expected to die anytime and his only aim in life is to get Nandini married to Gautam. The night before the wedding, Preetam goes to a road-side bar to drink. Gautam asks the bar-owner for directions to Subbayya's home; when Jaanu tries to kill Gautam, Preetam saves Gautam and convinces Jaanu that only Gautam is the best person to marry Nandini.
The next day, Preetam brings Gautam to the marriage house, just in time for the ceremony, but declines to attend. Gautam asks for the heart-shaped watch as a remembrance but Preetham leaves, unwilling to part with it. There is a search for Preetam, and only his mother knows the truth about his love, but hides her worry.
Resignedly, Preetam watches the arch proclaiming "Gautham weds Nandini". As he leaves, he spots Devadas and takes it with him. He drives towards Bangalore, all the while expressing his disappointment to Devadas, but later comes to realize that Devadas is dead.Ganesh as Preetam
Pooja Gandhi as Nandini
Ananth Nag as Colonel Subbayya, Nandini's father
Sudha Belwadi as Kamala, Preetam's mother
Padmaja Rao as "Bubbly" Babita, Nandini's mother
Neenasam Ashwath as Jolly
Diganth as Gautam, Nandini's fiancé
Jai Jagadish as Preetam's father
Sanchita Shetty as Nandini's friend
Director Yograj Bhat, who had earlier dabbled in advertising and corporate films, began working on the script of Mungaru Male. He read the script to Puneet Rajkumar who rejected it. Ganesh introduced Yograj Bhat to producer E. Krishnappa, who agreed to finance the film. Bhat cast a relatively unknown actress, Pooja Gandhi, for the lead female role in the film.
Approximately 80% of the scenes were filmed in the rain. Shooting locations included Madikeri, Sakaleshpura, Jog Falls Sagara, and Gadag. Krishna, the cameraman, was a part-time photographer prior to the film.
Mungaru Male was released on 29 December 2006. The satellite rights were acquired by a television channel for ₹3.6 million. The DVD of the film with 5.1 surround sound was distributed by Anand Video.
Mano Murthy scored the film's background music and its soundtrack, lyrics for which was penned by Jayant Kaikini, Yogaraj Bhat, Kaviraj and Hrudaya Shiva. The soundtrack album consists of seven tracks. Anand Audio bought the distribution rights for ₹500,000. It was released on 6 November 2006 in Bangalore.
Upon the album's release, it topped the charts with the song "Anisuthide" receiving significant radio and TV air time. The album emerged as a massive success topping every Kannada music chart. It was reported that by mid-May 2007, over 200,000 copies were sold in compact discs alone. Hindustan Times reported, "The film has just completed seven weeks, but audio sales have broken all earlier records. Composer Mano Murthy has once again created musical magic with songs like 'Anisuthidhe' and 'Onde Ondu Saari'."
The success of the film's soundtrack, especially the track "Anisutide", further propelled Nigam's playback singing career in Kannada cinema. With the song, lyricist and writer Jayant Kaikini's reputation as a writer of romantic songs further elevated, and is considered one of his best. The film also established Murthy as the most-sought composer.
Rediff.com awarded it a three-star rating and praised its cinematography, technical values, and the acting of Ganesh and Anant Nag. Nowrunning.com felt that the film lacked a credible story line and gave too much importance to music and song picturisation. Indicine.com rated the film 4 out of 5, describing Ganesh as the "life and soul of the movie". Other praise was directed at Gandhi, "Sanjana makes a confident debut. Veteran actor Anant Nag with his brilliant comic timing provides able support".
It made with a production budget ₹2 crore (20 million), the film collected ₹50 crore (500 million) in 300 days. The film went on to gross ₹50–75 crore (₹500–750 million) by the end of its theatrical run of 865 days. The film has also been released with 150 prints in Karnataka. This was the first Indian film which ran over a year in a multiplex: PVR cinemas Bangalore. Mungaaru Male was being screened at full theatres, one year after its release. According to reports it was the first Kannada film to touch ₹50 crore club in history of Kannada film industry.
Mungaru Male was released to 10 countries including the United States, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, UK, Hong Kong and Dubai. It was the highest-grossing Kannada film overseas. It had made ₹36 lakh (equivalent to ₹81 lakh or US$130,000 in 2016) in the US alone.
The film was awarded the Best Kannada Film award for the year 2006–07 by the Government of Karnataka (seven awards in total from the Government of Karnataka). It won three Filmfare awards: best music, best direction and best film. However, it did not win a single national award from the Government of India.
The success of Mungaru Male turned Ganesh into one of the most sought-after actors in Kannada cinema. He had back-to-back commercial successes in Cheluvina Chittara (2007), Hudugaata (2007) and Krishna (2007). Ganesh and Bhat delivered two consecutive films that emerged as commercial successes, the other being Gaalipata (2008). The film also proved to be a launchpad for the career of actress Pooja Gandhi.
Bhat wrote about the making of Mungaru Male in the book Haage Summane, which was released on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration for the movie.
The remake rights of Mungaru Male were acquired by Mr Suryaprakash Rao of SPR Entertainers India Private Limited for ₹1.5 crore (15 million) for both the Tamil-language and the Telugu-language versions. It was reported that Boney Kapoor was planning to remake the film in Hindi starring either Imran Khan or Ranbir Kapoor.
The movie was remade in Telugu in 2008 as Vaana, in Bengali in 2008 as Premer Kahini and in Marathi in 2017 as Premay Namaha, thereby becoming the second Kannada movie to be remade in two non-Hindi - non-south Indian languages after Milana.
It was announced in July 2014 that Shashank would be directing the sequel of the film, titled Mungaru Male 2. Ganesh reprised his role in the film, produced by J. Gangadhar under the banner of E. K. Pictures.