Principal photography commenced on 3 March 2014. Uttama Villain was released on 2 May 2015 after disputes between producers and financers. The film received positive reviews from critics but a box office failure.
Manoranjan (Kamal Haasan) is a leading film star who is immensely popular among his fans; however, he is beset with several personal problems. 25 years back, he had been forced to marry Varalakshmi (Urvashi), the daughter of noted film director Poornachandra Rao (K. Viswanath), despite being in a relationship with a woman named Yamini. He is an alcoholic and his teenage son Manohar (Ashwin) despises him. He has a daughter Manonmani (Parvathy) who was born out of wedlock to Yamini and was raised by Yamini's husband Jacob Zachariah (Jayaram) after Yamini's death. She also despises Manoranjan. He has been diagnosed with advanced stage brain cancer and has only a few more months to live, which is unknown to anyone including his own family. He is treated by his family doctor Dr. Arpana (Andrea Jeremiah), with whom he has an extramarital affair.
One day, Manoranjan decides to withdraw from a film produced by Poornachandra Rao and instead act in a film produced by himself and directed by Margadarsi (K. Balachander), who was his mentor with whom he had fallen out when he married Varalakshmi and started acting in films directed and produced by Poornachandra Rao, who is a sworn enemy of Margadarsi. Despite their personal differences, Manoranjan wants Margadarsi to be the director of his last film before he dies. Margadarsi initially refuses to direct Manoranjan, but when he hears from Arpana about Manoranjan's terminal illness, he becomes moved and accepts to direct Manoranjan. When Poornachandra Rao and Varalakshmi find out about Manoranjan's plan, they get enraged and leave his house along with Manohar. Undaunted, Manoranjan goes ahead with his film.
Manoranjan's film with Margadarsi is titled Uttama Villain. It is a fantasy-comedy film which tells the story of a street artist named Uttaman (played by Manoranjan) who has dodged death several times and hence is believed to be immortal. With the help of a princess named Karpagavalli (played by Pooja Kumar), he works to defeat the evil Muttharasan (played by Nassar), who is obsessed to gain Karpagavalli and the whole Theeyam empire. During the shooting of the film, Manoranjan's condition worsens, and he is hospitalised several times. Margadarsi convinces Manoranjan to inform his family about his condition. This leads to a rapproachment with Poornachandra Rao (and also between Margadarsi and Poornachandra Rao) and a father-son bonding with Manohar. Varalakshmi, on the other hand, suffers a heart attack on hearing the news, though she soon recovers. She apologises to Manoranjan for her actions to forcibly separate him from Yamini so that she could marry him. Later, Manoranjan finds out that a letter he had written to Yamini shortly after they had separated, had not been delivered to her. When Manonmani reads this letter, which tells about Manoranjan's support for Yamini's decision to not undergo an abortion despite being pregnant out of wedlock, her hatred towards her biological father turns to love and she finally accepts him as her father.
After completing the shooting of Uttama Villain, Manoranjan becomes very sick, suffering from delirium as well as slurred speech and movement, and faints. He is immediately rushed to hospital. Margadarsi completes editing the film and plays it in the hospital. The people present in the hospital, including all the loved ones of Manoranjan, enjoy the film, which ends with Uttaman killing Muttharasan in a stage drama (Iraniya Naadagam), thus dodging death yet again. However, in real life, Arpana informs Manohar and Manonmani that Manoranjan had died.
The film ends with a screening of Uttama Villain in a theatre, which is enjoyed by the audience and turns out to be a massive hit.
Ghibran, Subbu Arumugam, Shamdat and Vijai Shankar make cameo appearances as themselves, working as technicians on the film in the film. Rajesh M. Selva, the first assistant director, appears as a spy in the film.
In early 2013, director-producer N. Lingusamy made an official statement confirming that Kamal Haasan had agreed to direct and feature in a film to be produced by the production house, Thirrupathi Brothers. The actor had handed Lingusamy three scripts and the pair chose the most commercially viable option, with the early working title of the film being Bitter Chocolate. In June 2013, the project was retitled Uttama Villain, with Kamal Haasan himself writing the script for the film, while Crazy Mohan was involved in early discussions for the film's dialogues. Yuvan Shankar Raja was signed on to compose the film's music, while reports also incorrectly suggested that Rajesh was added to the scripting team for the film. In July 2013, Ramesh Aravind took over the task of directing the film from Kamal Haasan. It was later announced that M. Ghibran, who had worked with Kamal Haasan in Vishwaroopam II, would compose music for the film instead of Yuvan Shankar Raja. Shamdat Sainudeen and Vijay Shankar were also subsequently announced as cinematographer and editor of the project, respectively, while Gautami Tadimalla was selected to handle the costume designing for the film. According to Ramesh Aravind, Kamal Haasan wrote the majority of the dialogue and that Crazy Mohan's input and suggestions were recorded.
Kajal Aggarwal was initially reported to have signed on to play the lead female role though her manager later confirmed that she was not approached and that her dates were already allotted for other projects. Asin and Deepika Padukone were also reported by the media to be cast in the lead female role, though neither reports materialised. The team later held discussions with actresses Divya Spandana and Lekha Washington for roles in the film, though neither were signed. A month prior to shoot, three female lead characters were touted to appear in the film. Kajal Aggarwal, Tamannaah and Trisha Krishnan were actively considered for the three roles. The three roles finally went to Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah and Parvathy. Pooja played the role of a non-Tamil-speaking modern-day actress, who was offered a character that spoke classical Tamil. Pooja also performed 3 song sequences in the film, unlike in Vishwaroopam (2013), where she had no song sequences. Kamal Haasan's daughter Shruti Haasan was considered for the role of his on screen daughter in the film but her unavailability meant that the team chose to pick a new actress instead. Another actress Parvathy Nair was added to the cast after impressing the team in an audition and was select to be paired opposite Ashwin, a debutant who plays Kamal Haasan's son in the film. Actors Sarath Kumar and Vivek were reported to have been added to the preliminary cast, but the actors later noted the news as untrue. Santhanam was also said to be involved in the film, but his inclusion remained unconfirmed. In January 2014, noted director K. Balachander was selected to play a pivotal role in the film and sported a beard for his character. Producer Lingusamy himself was reported to be playing a role in the venture, after being seen sporting a new look during the making of his directorial project Anjaan (2014). Director K. Viswanath also joined the film's cast as did Jayaram, and the pair began filming scenes in March 2014. Anant Mahadevan, who featured in Vishwaroopam (2013), was given the role of the manager of Kamal Haasan's character in the film. More details about the film were shown in mid-March with a detailed cast and character list released to the media. In May 2014, actor Nasser was roped in to play a supporting role. In July 2014, director Chithra Lakshmanan joined the team to play a small role in the film. Actress Abhirami was selected to dub for Pooja Kumar in the film. Ramesh Aravind himself was to make a cameo appearance in the film, but the director did not reveal much about it and kept his decision under wraps.
In mid February 2014, the team carried out make up tests involving Kamal Haasan in Bangalore with a photo shoot being held with the actor. Principal photography began on 3 March 2014. The team then shot for two weeks in Bangalore, before moving on to film sequences in Chennai with Gouthami joining the team as a costume designer. In early April, parts of the film were shot in Madhya Pradesh before the team returned to Bangalore to film scenes involving Parvathy Nair and Ashwin. Further scenes involving Kamal Haasan in the role of a star actor were filmed at a shopping mall in Bangalore, with several hundred onlookers used as extras. Posters from a fictional film in the plot, Veera Vilaiyaatu, were put up around the mall by the film's art direction team. After initially planning a trip to Australia to film the songs from the soundtrack, the team later opted to fly to Turkey instead. Many scenes in the film, including a song featuring Kamal Haasan and Pooja Kumar was consequently shot in Istanbul. The cast performed night rehearsals to get their expressions and dialogues right. The portions featuring Kamal Haasan as an aging superstar were completed with the shoot of the song. The 21st century portions were completed by mid-May 2014. In between, Kamal Haasan took a break from the shoot to attend the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and to inaugurate the Indian Pavilion there. Another schedule was started on 21 May 2014 in Madhya Pradesh and then Chennai, with the team filming scenes that take place in the 8th century. In early June 2014, Andrea had completed her portions in the film. Kamal Haasan sustained a small muscle pull during the film's shooting and was advised a day's rest. The majority of the film's portions were shot by the end of July, with only patchwork and dubbing left. On 9 August 2014, Ramesh Aravind confirmed on his Twitter account that the shooting of the film had been completed with a song sequence which would feature in the 8th century segment of the film.
There was speculation that the first look of the film was inspired by a photograph taken by French photographer Eric Lafforgue, but Kamal Hassan denied the allegations by saying, "Theyyam is more than a 1000 year old art. The make-up was done by a good artist who is probably a third-generation practitioner of this art. My film has a Theyyam dance fusion with Tamil Nadu's Kooththu tradition". Admitting that the lighting might have had a few similarities to the photograph of the French photographer, he said that comparing the photo with his first look poster was like saying two lovers leaning on one another's chest looking in the same direction is a copy of the Ek Duje Ke Liye poster. He also stated that the poster did not depict a mask, but make-up painted on his face and that it took four hours to paint it.
The soundtrack and film score were composed by Ghibran. Kamal Hassan bought musical instruments from Bali, Indonesia for recording a song in a mythical segment in the film because the instruments sounded both Indian and exotic and both Ghibran and Kamal Hassan wanted the music to be creative. According to Ghibran, traditional tunes were mixed with orchestral symphony backgrounds and were fused with Villu Paatu and Theyyam. Ghibran also said that he and Kamal Haasan decided to not use instruments traditionally used in period films such as tabla, ghatam and dholak. The composer further told that Kamal Hassan had sung in three songs and might sing in a few more. In August 2014, Ghibran said that two of the songs would not be featured on the initial release of the album, citing that it would reveal the plot, and that the two songs would be reserved for the film. The Villu Paatu ("Uttaman Introduction") was written and performed by Subbu Arumugam, a prominent Villu Paattu exponent, along with Kamal Haasan. The base of "Iraniyan Naadagam", featured in the film's climax, was koothu "with a dash of atonality" and is built as an exchange between the characters of Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada. As the particular scene had already been shot with actors speaking the lines, Kamal Haasan and Rukmini Ashok Kumar later sang the same lines again on the track. The song "Kadhalaam Kadavul Mun" was based on the Maru Bihag raag. Ghibran had spent a year-and-a-half on the score.
The audio rights were acquired by Sony Music India. The official track list was released on 28 February 2015. It was revealed that the soundtrack album will be released with 17 tracks including seven themes from the score. The soundtrack release was held at Chennai Trade Center on 1 March 2015. It was released on an app, instead of conventional CDs. Besides the entire cast and crew, several prominent film personalities including Raj Kiran, Rajkumar Sethupathi, Snehan, Santhana Bharathi, Vikram Prabhu, Keyaar, Dhananjayan, Vijay Shankar, KS Ravikumar, Moulee, SA Chandrasekar, AM Rathnam, Vijay Sethupathi, Sanchita Shetty, Rohini, Madhan Karky, Ponram, Rahman and Fivestar Kathiresan were present at the event, which was hosted by R. Parthiban.
The soundtrack received high critical acclaim. Sify rated it 4.5 out of 5 and wrote, "Ghibran has grown leaps and bounds with this album and has indeed delivered his career best...If anyone has any problems in recognizing the effort that has gone into this album, they need to get their musical buds examined. Uttama Villain is an album to be cherished by film buffs and is not for the typical frontbenchers". The Times of India wrote, "Uttama Villain is that rare Tamil film album which doesn't merely push the envelope but has managed to create a new, different envelope". MusicAloud gave it a score of 9 out of 10, calling it "one hell of a soundtrack". BehindWoods gave it 3.75 out of 5 and stated it was "one of its kind gems in Tamil cinema music". Milliblog called it "one of the most daring and inventive musical attempts in recent Tamil cinema history".
The first look poster and logo of the film were released on 1 March 2014, depicting a Theyyam art form sketched on Kamal Haasan's face.
Kamal said that the film would release before Vishwaroopam 2, another film which featured him in the lead role. The film was initially touted to be released in October 2014, but Ramesh Aravind clarified that the film involved a lot of VFX work to be done and that it would be completed in 10 weeks. Eros International bought the rights to co-distribute the film worldwide. The satellite rights of the film were sold to Zee Thamizh.
Before the film's release, Vishva Hindu Parishad's (VHP) Tamil Nadu wing called for its ban, as they alleged that the lyrics of a song in the film had belittled a conversation between Prahalada and Hiranyakashipu, which offend the religious sentiments of Hindu people. The film was scheduled to release on 1 May, but released on 2 May after sorting out issues between the financier and the producer of the movie.
The film received positive reviews from critics.
Behindwoods rated the film 3.5 out of 5 and felt it was an "excellent cinematic viewing experience", appreciating its "unique narrative". They judged that "There could not have been a better tribute than Uttama Villain for K.Balachander". They lauded the technical work and music, commenting that "a film that is high on emotional content is rare to find these days for the simple reason that it has not many takers. But Uttama Villain scores its brownie points in this domain".
Sify gave Uttama Villain 4 out of 5 stars and called it "a courageous film which breaks away from being a routine fare", describing it as "emotional as well as gripping". They also felt that "The sheer thrill of watching a film and not knowing what will happen next is one of the great pleasures offered by director Ramesh Aravind", summing it up as "a good example of an entertaining commercial film that didn't need to be lazy or senseless".
Rediff.com appreciated director Ramesh Aravind for the narrative "that skilfully alternates between fake and real which is seemingly similar situations is ingenious" and lauded the brilliance of Kamal Haasan, "the master performer for essaying two totally contrasting characters amazingly". They wrote that the film may not appeal to all due to its almost three hours length and slow screenplay, but still judged that it is "a film worth watching for stunning music and performance" and rating it 3 out of 5.
NDTV 24x7 lauded Uttama Villain as a "terrific take on super stardom and mortality, feeling it is a satire in parts when Manoranjan, played by Kamal Haasan comes to know that he has only few days to live, so he decides to make a film in which he's immortal".
IBN Live appreciated Uttama Villain majorly for three particular conversations that they placed among the best in Tamil cinema, concluding that it is "a film worthy of a eulogy speech and the grandeur is not spoilt in the name of commercialization".
Deccan Chronicle wrote that the movie lived up to expectations partially as the first half drags, but post interval picks up the momentum summing up as a Kamal show all the way, sparkling as an ego bloated Manoranjan and the simpleton Uttaman, concluding, "There are few shortcomings. Nevertheless Kamals’ amazing screen presence pulls an otherwise bit dragging film with a runtime of 2hrs 52 minutes".
Times of India rated the film 3.5 out of 5 lauding Uttama Villain as one of the "rare films with a meta narrative where the line between the real and the reel becomes hard to distinguish and it is a glorious showcase for Kamal the writer as he superbly blends subtlety with slapstick and the emotional moments never descend into full-blown melodrama that turns all eyes misty throughout the film".
Baradwaj Rangan wrote, "Kamal Haasan's writing is so dense and allusive and overstuffed and layered and indulgent that it's always a question whether even the best actors and directors in the world can come up with the kind of wit and timing needed to fully make the transition from page to screen — in other words, the best Kamal Haasan movies are probably locked up inside his head, where they reside in the most perfect possible manner. But with some of the lightweight cast and crew he's been working with of late, this material doesn't stand a chance".
A delay of one and half day in release affected the collections in India. The film suffered huge loss and traders say that Uttama Villain lost approximately ₹120 million (US$1.9 million) in India, whereas from Tamil Nadu alone the film lost ₹80 million (US$1.2 million) and from the rest of India, the loss is ₹40 million (US$620,000), still the film collected ₹8.5 million (US$130,000) from 170 shows in Chennai itself, while it has got a tremendous start at the US box office earning ₹30 million (US$470,000) in 7 days from 98 screens. It earned ₹12 million (US$190,000) from Malaysia, ₹7 million (US$110,000) from Australia, ₹7 million (US$110,000) from UK and Ireland and ₹4 million (US$62,000) from Canada box office. In Kerala, the film had a slow start collecting only ₹6.7 million (US$100,000) from two days.
Uttama Villain collected ₹7.7 million (US$120,000) from 316 shows in its 2nd weekend and the film had 183 shows on weekdays raking up₹8.44 million (US$130,000) making the total collection in Chennai at ₹24.4 million (US$380,000) and ₹54 million (US$840,000) from US box office in two weeks beating Mani Ratnam's O Kadhal Kanmani, ₹4 million (US$62,000) for its Telugu version from US, ₹5 million (US$78,000) from Canada,₹10 million (US$160,000) from UK and Ireland,₹10 million (US$160,000) from Australia and ₹45 million (US$700,000) from Malaysia box office.The film also collected₹5 million (US$78,000) from various European markets and ₹2.5 million (US$39,000) in the rest of the world Box Office.
The film was introduced as "The Pure-Hearted Villain" for the festivals.
The film won five awards at the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival—Best Film, Best Actor (Kamal Haasan), Best Original Music (Ghibran), Best Song (Ghibran), and Best Sound Design (Kunal Rajan).
At Russian International Film Festival, it won the Best Original Music Award.
In International Independent Film Awards it Won the Platinum Award for Original Score and 2 Diamond Awards for Original Song "Iraniyan Naadagam"&"Kaadhalaam"
In Prestige Music Award "Kaadhalaam" song was chosen as the "Gold Winner" and "Iraniyan Naadagam" song was chosen as the "Silver Winner" in World Music category