Saturday, 9 February 2008

Review of the Malayalam Movie Manichithrathazhu

Wait!! Don't run away seeing this rather long title!! I promise this won't be boring (hopefully!:-D)
What comes to your mind when you think of Indian cinema? Of course- Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai etc. etc. But there are other film industries in India and a number of great actors as well. Kerala, a small State adorning the western edge of the Indian Peninsula has a number of superb movies to its credit. Let me elaborate with an example :-)

Manichithrathazhu is one of my most favourite Malayalam(regional language of Kerala) movies. In my opinion it has all the elements of a good movie- a great story, nice cast, excellent music and good photography.


Movie: Manichithrathazhu (1993) (Manichithrathazhu is a type of lock)
Director: Fazil
Cast: Shobana, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Nedumudi Venu

The story revolves around the happenings in a haunted mansion called Madampalli. The legend behind the haunting is something like this…

The vampire of Madampalli
A long time back the ‘Karanavar’ (= the eldest member of the family, also used as a title) of Madampalli Tharavadu (Tharavadu=traditional house of Kerala) brought from Thanjavoor a dancer named Nagavalli. The Karanavar became obsessed with her but she had fallen in love with Ramanathan, another dancer . When the Karanavar knew about the affair he got into such a fury that he killed them both in the Thekkini (a room located in the south). But Nagavalli was so full of anger and revenge that she came back from the dead in the form of a Brahmarakshasu (very powerful vampire) to kill the Karanavar. Somehow he escaped and with the help of many sorcerers trapped her spirit in the Thekkini. Finally he too committed suicide and his spirit was confined in this room as well.

Enter Nakulan and Ganga
Back to the present day. To this infamous house comes the young couple Nakulan(Suresh Gopi) and Ganga(Shobana). Their relatives look upon this with concern and advices them not to live there. But neither of them is superstitious and pays no heed to their warning. Nakulan’s uncle asks them not to open the Thekkini atleast . Well, who listens to advice?:-) Ganga opens the door to the Thekkini…Everyone is so scared for the couple that Nakulan’s cousins Sreedevi and Chandu move in with them.

A song from the movie (with English subtitles)... Sung by K.S. Chitra, the Nightingale of South India, (oh she has such a great voice!!Did you know that up till now she has sung around 16,000 songs in 9 languages??:-o)

If you want to listen to the songs in the movie you can try

The ghost awakens
Soon strange happenings ensue. Things get broken mysteriously. A mysterious woman in white saree(Kerala ghosts are usually in white sarees:-)) is seen by several people. Ganga’s saree catches fire under odd circumstances. Everyone is alert, scared and on the edge.

Help arrives
Nakulan’s uncle is convinced that the reason for all the chaos is the spirit of Nagavalli. Nakulan on the other hand has other doubts. Sreedevi has been suffering from depression because of a bad marriage . Nakulan strongly believes that she is behind all the strange happenings. He contacts his friend Dr. Sunny(Mohanlal) who is a world famous psychiatrist and asks for help…What follows is more suspense, action, music, a little bit of humour and a wonderful climax!

This movie which kept on running in theatres for about 600 days(!) is one of the most popular and successful movies ever to be released in Kerala. I think there may not be many Malayalis who haven’t seen this movie! Manichithrathazhu has been remade into other Indian languages as well- Chandramukhi (Tamil), Aaptamitra (Kannada) and more recently Bhool Bhulaiya(Hindi). I have to say that the original is certainly the best!!!
Some of the things that I particularly liked about the movie:

  1. First of course the performance of Shobhana. It was totally good. Well, no wonder she won the National Award for the Best Actress!!

  2. The location. Several scenes of the movie were shot in the very beautiful Padmanabharapuram palace(Take a look at these pics). It was well suited to the movie. It created an atmosphere accentuating the story theme.

  3. The music was really nice. The background music was really creepy! All the songs were excellent and meaningful

  4. There were a lot of funny scenes which I enjoyed very much.

Real ghost or just a superstition?? The movie finally leaves a question to the viewer whether to believe in the deep-rooted superstitions or in the modern rational explanations offered by psychiatry…

Warning!! Spoiler video!! Take a look at Shobhana's acting in this scene. Sorry, no English subtitles but do watch it!

Hope you enjoyed this review and had a taste of Malayalam movie!


Spice Boy said...

That was a nice review. Can you please write about the remakes in tamil and hindi also.

Paul said...

I agree, K.S.Chitra has a great voice ... and I stand in awe of anyone who can speak more than one language fluently, let alone nine and let alone sing in them. Thanks for providing this insight into malayalam movies and for extending my understanding beyond a limited knowledge of Bollywood. And a very big THANKS for adding me to your blogroll.

Anonymous said...
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Novice Writer said...

Thank you Spice Boy! I will try to write about the Hindi remake soon:-)

Paul,Of course K.S.Chithra is just great! Thanks for the comment:-)As for the Blogroll pleasure is all mine:-)

Arv said...

This movie is an example of why any indian cinema lover will love malayalam movies. A classic. {remakes are only for those who cant understand the original language; though i would prefer watching the original with subtitles}

Nice insights about the movie. Learned a bit more about it. Shobana gives an excellent performance, Lal-etta is a class of his own as always.

Anyone who has seen it, please this original version rather than the remakes.

Novice Writer said...

yea i agree with you arv! glad that you liked the review:-)