Even though she stays close to Guruvayoor temple, Balamani (Navya Nair), the servant maid of Ambalapattu Tharavad never gets to go to the temple because she is overloaded with work. Like the servant characters played by Manju Warrier in Sallapam and Mammotty in Rapakal, she too talks a lot, mostly to herself. Unlike the other two characters, she talks to a photo of Guruvayoorappan kept in her room also. She confides her happiness, anger, frustration and sadness to the Lord.
Her main job is to look after the grandmother Unniyamma (Kaviyoor Ponamma) who had a fall recently and cannot walk. There are three other maids in the household, all old, and they relax, eat food and get the work done by Balamani. The other characters around the house are the poojari Kummidi (Jagathy), Kesavan Nair (Innocent), and the neighbor Janu Chechi (Kalaranjini) who is waiting for the arrival of her son Unni.
The story takes a twist with the arrival of Unniyamma’s grandson Manu on a brief vacation before he heads to Los Angeles. Manu takes a liking for the chirpy Balamani and she too likes him. She is warned of the consequences of this love by various people as it is between two people belonging to two different social status. When she is in doubt, she talks to Guruvayoorappan to see if she is wrong but Manu convinces her that he will marry her and there is nothing to worry.
Manu’s mother Thankam (Revathi) arrives for the vacation and notices a change in her son. She is more worried about getting him married since he is going abroad and fixes an alliance with her classmate’s daughter who is settled in Los Angeles without asking Manu. On knowing this Manu is devastated and he wants to confront his mother. Balamani forbids him saying that it would be a sin to break that single parent’s heart.
Still Manu tells his mother but it is too late. The preparations for the marriage start and relatives start appearing. Suppressing the sadness in their hearts, Balamani and Manu go through the days. Then one day Janu Chechi’s son Unni appears. Always found with a beaming smile and a radiant face, he is always an optimist. He also seems to know everything in Balamani’s heart and reassures her that everything will be fine. He knows the love between them and even the dreams which Balamani had not told anyone.
Meanwhile Thankam is grilled by the relatives for the tight marriage schedule. Then news comes that the girl with whom the marriage had fixed had eloped. A replacement girl is offered by one of the relatives. Kummidi rules that the horoscopes do not match. They call another astrologer and Balamani is worried. Unni once again reassures Balamani that everything will be fine. The news comes that the astrologer has met with a car accident. Then an emboldened Thankam proposes the marriage with Balamani and there is an absolute revolt among the relatives. They want Balamani to be sent away immediately. Then Unniyamma takes a stand and decides to unite the lovers.
If you look at it, this is a simple love story of a rich boy and a servant maid. There is nothing unique about it. What is unique though is Ranjith’s script which gave fresh perspective to this oft repeated tale. The divine angle in the story played very well without looking laughable. It merged well with the narrative and when finally things start going well for Balamani and Manu, you start feeling a sigh of relief.
The second aspect which makes the movie interesting are the characters. Though we have seen characters like Unniyamma, Thankam, and Manu before Balamani is a very memorable one. Like any live wire girl, she is opinionated, works hard and dishes out her verdict on anything and anyone if you want it or not. The supporting cast too had some memorable ones, like Kummidi, Kesavan Nair and the three old women in the house who are supposed to work along with Balamani.
The third aspect of the movie is Ranjith’s dialogue. When Manu tells his mother that he loves Balamani, she tells him, “You could have told this to me earlier. Like any mother I would have opposed this. I would have used words like family status also. In the end I would have agreed”. When Balamani is asked to leave the house on the day of the marriage, Unniyamma calls her. She asks her about the new dress. Then she asks Balamani to sing a song. Unniyamma does not ask her not to leave, but at the end of the song, everything turns around. With refreshing dialogue and beautiful scenes Ranjith holds our attention.
The final aspect of the movie is Raveendran’s divine music and Girish Puthenchery’s lyrics. The songs Aarum, Gopike, Manassil Mithuna Mazha, and Mauliyil are a delight to hear and see. The song Sreela Vasantham was enacted by Yesudas himself, but the heartfelt rendering of Karmukil by Chitra stays in the mind forever.
Ranjith, one of the best script writers in Malayalam cinema proved that if you have a refreshing narration a movie can do well even if it does not have superstars. His talent lies in bringing to life a simple world, making it believable and getting us interested in the result. When she acted in this movie Navya Nair was not a famous actress, but she lived the character of Balamani in a flawless performance. Prithviraj making is debut held against veterans like Revathi and Kaviyoor Ponamma. There are a host of special appearances by Kalabhavan Mani, Jagadeesh, Sai Kumar, and Siddique.
The movie does not end with the marriage. After the marriage Balamani rushes to Janu Chechi’s house to see Unni and she is told that he has fever and could not attend the marriage. Rushing upstairs Balamani sees Unni (Sudheesh), but he was not the same person with whom she was talking all along. Then the realization hits her that the Unni she saw was Guruvayoorappan. She runs to the temple. Since a VVIP is visiting the temple was closed for visitors and once again she does not get to see the Lord. As she prays from far away and is turning, she sees the Unni near the gates, dancing with a smile and she tells Manu, “I saw. I alone saw”.
This beautiful movie is a must see.