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Review: Manichitrathazhu

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Towards the end of the film, Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal) asks Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) to tell his wife Ganga (Shobhana) not to go shopping. She might question him, but Sunny asks Nakulan to be firm. The camera follows Nakulan as he walks into the room where Ganga is getting ready. He asks where she was going and she replies, “I told you, for shopping”. Nakulan tells her strongly not to go that day.

First Ganga asks why not and Nakulan keeps on saying that she should not go.Suddenly Ganga’s voice turns angry, her face turns menacing with the eyes rolled up and her whole body language changes. She points her finger at Nakulan and shouts in Tamil, and with the other hand lifts a wooden bed. Nakulan is terrified, but he shouts her name at the top of his voice. Ganga pauses and returns back to normal. Then she realizes that the mental patient of Madambally is herself and not Sridevi (Vinaya Prasad).

This is one of the powerful scenes in this movie which starts when Nakulan and Ganga come from Calcutta to Kerala for a project. Ignoring the warnings by their uncle Thampi (Nedumudi Venu), they decide to stay in an ancestral home which is considered to be haunted. The story is that a Tamil dancer Nagavalli was bought by the local king and she fell in love with another dancer. The king did not like this and had her killed. Her ghost was loitering around looking for revenge. and so they perform some pooja and lock the ghost in a room.

Ganga does not believe this and opens the room and various incidents start taking place. Sometimes vessels and stones are flung around, sometimes saris catch fire and the suspicion falls on Sridevi. Nakulan asks his uncle to show her to a psychiatrist, but he does not. Irritated, Nakulan calls his friend Sunny Jospeh to come and help him. How Sunny Joseph cures Ganga is the climax of the movie.

The story of this movie is very unique and has not been told before. First we thought it is a supernatural story, but as we understood the dual personality of Shobhana we got very interested in this character and how she would be able to get out of her predicament. The characters in the movie, Sunny Joseph, Nakulan, Ganga, Ammavan are all memorable and have been portrayed with realism.

Even though this is a ghost movie, there are no special effects. Director Fazil uses simple tricks like shadows on the wall and sounds to heighten the tension. In one scene, the whole family goes to watch a Kathakali performance. Sunny sits in the front and occasionally turns back to see if Ganga is alright. The sound of the drums heighten in the background. Then, once when Sunny turns back, there is silence and Ganga is not there. The intensity of the scene is heightened by the lack of any background sound, which we thought was a very innovative but subtle technique.

In this movie, the script by Madhu Mattom is the hero and Shobhana is the heroine. Shobhana had two roles, one as the mild mannered Ganga and the other as the revenge seeking Nagavalli. It during the Nagavalli phase that you see her transformation, in her voice and in her mannerism. Shobhana won a truly deserved National Award for this role.

Mohanlal makes his entry just before the interval, which is unconventional. From that point onwards, it is his show and the character he portrays is that of a fun loving psychiatrist. He is unconventional in his treatment style also. Mohanlal does not have much histrionics in this movie and plays a very subdued role.

For a movie which is a psycho-thriller, it has excellent comedy provided by Innocent, Lalitha and Mohanlal himself. There is a scene where Mohanlal goes to take bath and takes the clothes of Lalitha who was bathing in the next stall. Their conversation across the wall had us in splits.

There is only one scene which irritated us. There is a scene where an angry Sunny, takes Sridevi to a room and locks her up in front of the whole family. While everyone is stunned, Sunny Joseph breaks into a song, which was very odd. Mohanlal thinks that only Fazil could have pulled it off.

The story, screenplay and dialogue is by Madhu Mattom and we liked all three of them. There are no unnecessary scenes in this movie and each scene in the screenplay sustains our interest in the story. We also are impressed by the craft of director Fazil for making this movie very interesting. The movie also had a second unit by directors Sathyan Antikkad and Priyadarshan. M.G.Radhakrishnan has provided some memorable music for this movie. All the songs are nice to hear, but our favourite is Palavattom Pookalam

This movie is one of our favourites and is a must watch.

See Also:  Can Manichithrathazhu be remade?

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  2. RIP : KPAC Sunny
  3. Mohanlal’s dubbing institute
  4. Review: Perumazhakkalam

45 Comments

  1. Thought I’d chip in with few more trivia on this classic:

    * The movie’s comedy scenes was co-directed by Priyan,Siddique-lal, Sibi Malayil

    * Manichitrathazhu was at the time, the highest grossing Malayalm movie. Additionally it fetched hefty royalties for the Kannada (Aptha mitra) and Tamil versions (Chandramukhi) for Appachan, the producer. But Madhu Muttam, who’s brainchild Manichithrathazhu was, did not benefit financially as he was not paid for the Tamil/Telugu versions. (Chandramukhi grossed around 100 crores and Aptha mitra ran for 365 days in Kannada)

    * In Malayalam, Nagavalli talks Tamil in the climax. Chandramukhi spoke Telugu in the Tamil Version.

    * Read somehwere that Shobhana who is a brilliant dancer herself, was understandably very eager to do the dance sequence at the climax. She would ask Fazil each time when this would be shot. He kept it off till the end, adding to Shobana’s frustration. Fazil claims that the scene came out very well because Shobhana put some much energy into the cliamx, which was the hall-mark of the movie.

    * As mentioned in the article, Fazil send us shivers through our spines, without any “graphics” (Vinayan, please note). The opening scene where Innocent goes about searching Madambally for Raghavan/Rajappan and finds chairs rocking, paint brushes brought down brings that spooky feeling into our minds even now

    * MohanLal has to be applauded not just for his performance, but also for brushing aside his heroic image and appearing just before the interval of the movie.

    * The “Manichitra” “poottu” became such a hit that it became a permanent fixture of many houses constructed during the period.

    * Aptha Mitra was Soundarya’s last movie. VishnuVardhan as Vijay and Rajnikant as Saravanan enacted Mohanlal in the Kannada and Tamil versions.

  2. I was sort of surprised to see a review of Manichitrathazhu here. It can be classified as one of the best Malayalam movies ever made. And rather than reviewing it, I think you could have titled this post as “Remembering Manichitrathazhu”!!

  3. Unnikrishnan,

    We have added a new category called Classic Reviews, that’s where we have put Manichitrathazhu. We do agree with you that Manichitrathazhu is no ordinary movie.

    Also if you look around the web, there are no reviews of Manichitrathazhu. We want varnachitram to have reviews of all possible movies, both old and new.

  4. Hi,
    Does anyone know the name of actor who dances with Shobana at the climax ? Someone said he was from Telugu film, but I’m not sure. Please help me.

    vc,
    Thanks for the great review.

    Unnikrishnan,
    Thanks for the interesting trivias. They’re totally new to me.

  5. Good Review, VC!

    But, I was never a fan of Fazil. I mean he is not worth the hype!

    Unni said “The movie’s comedy scenes was co-directed by Priyan,Siddique-lal, Sibi Malayil”.

    In fact, I had inside sources (I have lot of friends in the movie industry) telling me that the whole movie was split between Priyan, Siddiue, Lal and Sibi. Well, we can tell that from the quality. Fazil wouldn’t have done this alone.

    Cheers!
    Rajeev

  6. One of the best movies of all times…especially without any graphic effects which we see in all ghost movies..and brilliant display of acting prowess by Mohanlal,Shobana..Thilakkan also was stunning in the movie with a small role..The way in which the movie moves on to the climax..its amazing..keep on good work all vc guys..

  7. The one and only face that comes to my mind when I hear the name “Manichithrathaazhu” is the one and only Shobhana. I admire her a lot. For her beauty and the great acting talent. :-)

  8. I think you have forgotten the eternal comedian,Kudiravattom Pappu in this review.Let this be a tribute to him too…I wish!
    In my opinion it had a Sibi Malayil touch rather than Fazil’s.No doubt,the movie is worth watching a hundred times…
    Thanks,

  9. By and far the best “Horror” movie i have ever seen! Infact this movie was too long to be recorded on one VHS cassete, and I still remember that this movie when released as a VHS Cassette had 2 parts!
    THis movie was the first Malayalam movie to be released as a VCD, and i can proudly say that I possess a copy of the same!

  10. Yep,
    I gotta agree. I love this film. It’s by far the best malayalam film I have seen. (Of course, I have seen very little).

    I couldn’t stomache the Tamil version, after seeing the brilliant yet simply made malayalam version a few years back.

    Also, it is very sad that the writer did not get any payments. That is wrong on Fazil’s side. Man, I wish there was something called copyright in India.

  11. even though mohanlal appeared in the second half of the movie still he was fabulous …i think mohanlal makes acting look quite easy,but shobana was awsome no doubt bout it …shes one of the best dancers too(especially i m the one who dont love bharatnatyam but with shobana in u cant just avoid it she’s so graceful)

  12. I agree with Unnikrishnan. Kuthiravattam Pappu is my favorite comedian in the Malayalam cinema. Jagathy, Innocent or anyone else come second. And in his last days, we have seen he was able to do serious roles as well, but interesingly in the movies of a highly commercialized director Shaji Kailas.

  13. The very fact that the tamil version was made by P.Vasu(also called a more suitable Peevaasanai or P.Vasu anne) is enough to make one puke.

    Peevaasanai went ahead to take liberties with the characters to screw up a truly great story and script and spoil it for the unintelligent Tamil Audience.

    Rajinikanth effectively removed all subtlety that Mohanlal portrayed. Jothika was like the most scary part of the movie(I mean really….without the make-up). And 9-tara-the lesser said the better. She was the experiment-pad for peevasanai’s stinking contribution to indian cinema.

    Nothing to beat the original. A true masterpiece.

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  15. Hi

    Someone asked about who the male dancer was with Shobhana. It is Sridhar (Kannada) along with Vinaya Prasad who is also from Kannada film industry

  16. Vinaya Prasad is a household name after the Asianet soap – Sthree Janmam :-)

  17. am a great fan of shobana,but i missed this film.i saw the tamil n telgu version.could i get the dvd of this film any where in hyd

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  20. dont forget abt the music part in the film. the bg music by johnson is simply classic. with out any utter sound he created mood.
    song my mg radhakrishnan is so good and perfect for the scenes.

  21. This is undoubtedly one of the finest movies ever made in Indian film Industry. Even at those time there was no exposure for Oscar nominatins at that time, but if this film is taken in the same manner it could have striked Oscar for best foreign films. The today’s great directors who seemingly profess themselves as masterbrains of ‘quality’ must study the film like this, which have immense natural script and cinematography.

    What is more highlighted in the film is that the actors in the movie have worked together to bring a wonderful work, not aiming at creating a special image for their own.

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  25. The movie was excellent . The credit goes to all the people who worked for that movie.But i think that a persons has not given the credit of the movie.
    I agree that sobhana is a good dancer & actress.
    But did any one think about the voice of sobhana as ganga in that movie.Its the voice of a veteran dubbing artist ‘Bhagyalekshmi’.
    Her voice made that character strong enough and that is why nagavalli/ganga is still lively when we see the scene vidematte……. and the climax scenes.
    I am a big fan of bhagyalakshmi and her voice has been given to almost all actresses in malayalam cinema and serials.Some are
    1.Shobhana 2. Urvashi 3.Samyuktha Varma 4.Sangeetha 5.Old Karthika 6.Amala 7.Parvathy 8.Aswathy 9.Girija 10.Renjini 11.Sithara ………
    In serials for Chippi,Rekha Mohan……

  26. Muttams script is hero no doubt. Shobana, especially the unforgettable dance, is unimitable. She has got right into the skin of the Nagavalli. The malayalam version is unbeatable. Fazil’s excelled too.

    Very unlike conventional Indian films. I would place it as the best among malayalam movies, and rank it as one of the best in India.

  27. “Manichtrathazhu” is the favorate movie from malayalam….. The story of this movies was excellant….I appreciate madhu muttam & Fazil… This is the masterpiece movie of Shobhana…..I am also appreciating her great talent in this movie……

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  30. Manichitrathazu ….wat can i say…one of the best n masterpiece of Shobana…Really a great movie..script,music,comedy,choreography all wer fantastic..My all time favourite movie .The huge success of the movie is the result of a gud team work..but in the case of remakes..ha ha .really a waste of time..those who watched the original…..will never like the duplicates….

  31. Manichithrathazhu is a great film. Teamwork is one major thing that should be noted about Manichithrathazhu. Fazil did a great job. Strong Support from Priyadarshan, Siddique, Lal, and Sibi Malayil made the film brilliant. What I mostly liked about the film is it’s Hitchcockian feel. For Example, the scene where Mohanlal (Dr. Sunny) finds out the coffee for Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) is poisoned. Through the use of Suspense, the directors were able to control the audience and involve them much more into the subject of the film.

  32. There is one more slight hint in the movie:
    1) When the first time they tantrics enter the house with the water vessel and they feel they have seen tamilian lady. Post the scence Sridevi comes to Nakulas room calling for his help. They way Ganga opens her eyes on hearing the knock is also a hint.

  33. I agree with everybody here. The only flaw in the movie (according to my opinion) is the costume of the characters. I mean, the village folk and other family members is fine. But look at the way Mohanlal, a psychiatrist from US, is dressed. In Mickey mouse watch, shirt and jeans long shorts. This is a weak attempt to portray him as the “US guy”. Also, Suresh Gopi’s dress could have been a bit better.

  34. is the film based on true story..
    if means is there any books published about this.. and can u tell me where exactly the nagavalii resides

  35. This film created waves among India and won many awards.In this psychological thriller a couple comes to their ancestral home which is bounded by a big family and surrounded by mysterious beliefs.But to the couples surprise they themselves experience strange things such as someone throwing plates and clocks etc from vaccum. This leads to Suresh Gopi’s friend mohanlal who is a psychatrist forced t come to solve this issue and the most unbelievable secrets are found .He experiences some female’s sound who was believed to be dead .He follows these sounds to find the secrets.The climax is the most best part in the film and the most horrifying one.

  36. Sum of the best movies ever made in the history of indian film industry…saw sumone cument on mohanlals dressing..bt it cant be blamed cos the tym the film was made ’93 had a diffrnt sense in mens fashion as exposure ws low… . .bt stil wher nd wen dus costumes matters?..as the lyf of the muv lies in the great actors flexibl talent..

  37. love the movie….. but it wud be greatful of u if any one of you would upload subtitles for this movie in english… i have not found it any where…. or atleast put a link for the subs….

  38. thanks for review,
    All time great one…….
    Every time i watch this particular movie,it will make me sense something new i have find.I dnot know how many time ,i hav watch this movie…….

  39. Pingback: Nagavalli’s Voice | varnachitram

  40. Hey guys,first off kudos to you guys for picking up on a movie which is a true classic and reviewing it…The number of comments for the post shows the interest this movie still has amongst us.
    One thing though ,you left out Pappu’s And Ganesh’s character from the review,Though their character is not pivotal to the story , They sure deserve mention for two of the most legendary comedy scenes in Malayalam Movies…Keep up the good work

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  42. whenever i see a film i think this film should be like a manichithrathazhu.. excellent film from a team work anyway this film can made on the base of a very special script. That is why madhu muttom remembers in our mind…… Can we see a film like manichithrathazhu in malayalam film industry?

  43. Manichithrathazhu should also be praised about the medical accuracy by which it portrays a patient suffering from Dissociate identity disorder. Split personality / multiple personality has its root causes in child-hood trauma (sexual abuse and other trauma, including dejection). Lonely childhood of Ganga has enough clues to establish roots of DID.

    More importantly movie has strong themes suggesting that the dejection from Nakulan could be the trigger for DID in Ganga’s adulthood. Watch carefully two scenes when 1) Ganga ask Nakulan to wake her up when he is ready to sleep after he complete work (both of them are newly weds as per the opening scenes from the movie) 2) Ganga passionately talks about opening Manichithrathazhu while Nakulan is still working (a work Computer in the bed room). Nakulan nods her the permission to open without even looking at Ganga.

    Though these medical backgrounds are visualized in subtle yet meaningful manner director Fazil didn’t go farther to an extend to explicitly say that a husband’s dejection could make a wife mentally ill – may be afraid of the male dominated / chauvinistic life in Kerala (elsewhere in India). This is the same area where P. Vasu’s remake missed to see the soul of the Movie – in his movies Ganga’s anger is wrongly directed to the doctor – for some reason which is only known to P. Vasu’s peanut sized brain.

    Madhu Muttom’s work is said to be inspired from the case diaries of a famous Psychiatrist.

  44. All wonderful comments. Looking back to analyze what made this film so different and great? sure , it had some great acting,great directing,story,etc but quite a few other movies from that movie had the same. What made manichitraazhu different?
    It was that it had a quality that allowed it to be viewed and reviewed multiple times and still you would observe something different that you have missed on the earlier watch. So much interesting trivia,facts,observations that it is impossible to observe all this in a single watch, but only served in tasteful morsels over multiple servings.
    Just look at the comments section on this page, 2006-2013 , 13 years after the film was released, people are still talking,debating and dissecting interesting stuff about the movie for the next 7 years. No other Malayalam film could ignite so many comments..
    Cheers…

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