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Review roundup: Palery Manikyam


Renjith is on a roll, and 2009 seems to be good year for Malayalam cinema.  As per the reviews, what makes Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha a winner is Mammootty, screenplay and direction. Movie got released in just 40 centers, which is half the number of usual super star guerrilla attack releases. We’ll have to wait for some more time to see if good cinema translates to good collections.

Vibe Talkies reviews:

On the whole, Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha is a very intriguing watch. It might not be liked by the common mass audience. But for people who like watching interesting stories and ideas and good cinema, without the trappings of usual commercial cinema, this film would be very interesting. Ranjith is slowly turning into a new-age Padmarajan of sorts. He is trying bold, mature and interesting themes (Thirakkatha, Kaiyyoppu) and daring experiments (Kerala Cafe) and his storytelling skill is intact in this new movie also. The movie is not suitable for children as it handles an adult theme and has certain scenes which may not be suitable for children to watch, even though they are done very aesthetically and effectively. Mammootty gives some neat performances in his different roles. It is great to have the actor in him back through movies like Loudspeaker, Pazhassiraja and this one now after a series of duds. Ranjith has delivered a fine film with a minor hiccup in the climax (not that it was bad, just that it didnt come up to the standard set by the whole movie). The movie has taken a good opening and it was great to see all kinds of people, including a lot of ladies, watching the movie on second day.  With the help of some good marketing, this movie should end up being a success.

Berlytharangal says: reviews:

Palery Manickyam could easily boast of its remarkable cast that has none of the big names in business, barring a few. The film brings to the forefront a bevy of real talented actors from theatre, and resourcefully draws out astonishing performances from all of them. Leading this cast is none other than Mammootty himself who puts in a hypnotic act as Ahmed Haji, yet another pitch perfect feat from the actor this year. Equally proficient is the incomparable Shwetha Menon who is gradually carving a niche for herself with daring performances in markedly different films.

Ranjith’s Manickyam is a rarity of a film that exceeds expectations and offers a psychedelic high for the viewer. There would be no surprise if it ignites some sort of a controversy for the boldness that it displays. For the discerning viewer though, this might perhaps be one of the best films to have come out this year.

I would refuse to attribute the art house flavour to it. Rather, it’s an uncompromising film that grabs you by your throat and simply refuses to let go. comments:

It is with absolute awe that one would come out of the theatres, especially for Ranjith, who has made perhaps one of the finest films in Malayalam history, based on Rajeevan’s brilliant novel. There are flaws and scope for further improvement for sure, but the writer-director’s ability to handle such an intricate tale needs to be appreciated wholeheartedly.

With a spectacular performance that can leave you spellbound, Mammootty underlines why he is easily regarded among the best actors in the country. His charisma, screen presence and style give an altogether different meaning to the characters and his portrayal of Ahmed Haji will remain as one of the best to have happened in Malayalam films, ever.

Very rarely does a film satisfy our expectations. But director Ranjith’s latest Malayalam film Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha does.

The film is near perfect with minor ignorable blemishes. It is based on T P Rajeevan’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of a private detective, who returns to his birthplace to solve a murder mystery that occurred on the same night he was born.

Dectective Haridas (Mammootty) takes up a case just to satisfy his curiosity, not to find or punish the culprit, as all the suspects in the case are dead. His purpose, which seems vague in the beginning, achieves clarity only halfway through the story.

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  1. Ranjith has done a superb portrayal of an intricate story. Unlike most investigative stories, this had an aesthetic appeal althrough. The scenes that tell the present times doesnt stand against those that portray of a time 50 years ago, though there were clear distinction between them. The director has blended them such a way, so that the distinction doesnt take the viewer out of the picture at times. A four line gazal, and its translation has not been knitted to the story, but weaved to it. Good dialogues with a lot of wit, beautiful scenes..
    Way ahead Ranjith.

  2. Its a good movie to watch…. Good review

  3. I agree with everyone that Ahmed Haji is indeed a great performance by Mammootty. I felt that the movie could improve in several areas:

    1. Some of the actors were completely expressionless. Haridas’ companion, who had a lot of screen time, should have been replaced. Also, some of the policemen displayed pathetic acting skills.

    2. The climax. I beg to differ from Vibe Talkies. The glitch was not a minor one. If it was the way shown in the movie, then people, at least Balan Nair (Siddique) would have ‘recognized’ Haridas (from his face and his voice). That is quite big a glitch!

    3. The background score. I’m surprised that no one’s talking about it. The background score was so damn loud (and unnecessary 90% of the time). I couldn’t concentrate on the story because of the music.

  4. Just wanted to add that I liked the film. Much better than the overhyped Pazhassi Raja.

  5. This is mainly intended for those who have come across raving reviews about the movie and are eagerly looking forward to seeing it. The movie has been hyped up so much, that when I finally saw it, I was more than a bit disappointed.

    The screenplay and direction seem to be full of pitfalls.

    The story is told thru’ Haridas, a private detective, who wants to unravel a 50 yr. old mystery. For what? At the beginning, he reflects to Sarayu that he had for long tried to escape (as if it was haunting him) from the story and from Manikyam, and that now though he is submitting himself to investigate it. At another stage, halfway thru’ the movie, he also adds that his motive is to ‘discover’ Ahmed Haji. Both don’t hold water. It may be that he was born on the same night of the murder and in the same village, but he is not directly linked to the story for it to become sufficiently personal for him to haunt him. Besides, it is too old for any of the events related to the story or its investigation or aftermath to be visually imprinted in his memory. There is also no new development related to the murder that necessitated raking up an old story. It would have been much better if Haridas was shown to be investigating plainly for the sake of simple curiosity.

    And certainly, the story itself betrays that his proclaimed desire to know more about Ahmed Haji was not the reason for the investigation. Haridas left the village in his youth, and till then must have heard and seen sufficiently enough about Haji, especially since he had an added reason to know more about him. What he came to know during his investigation didn’t add anything to what he must have already known about the man. Also, very little of the post-Manikyam Ahmed Haji is revealed in the movie. That is poor returns for somebody who claims to have come for knowing about the man more than the murder.

    It should not have needed a story told by Keshavan to Haridas to illustrate the cruelty of Haji. Haridas himself must have received an overdose of these stories while growing up.

    It is amazing to see Haridas procuring official police documents of a crime committed more than 50 years back so easily. Also, when the investigation loses wheels at any point, out pops the most unlikely characters with clues and evidence. The playwright somehow produces documents (apparently sensitive ones) conveniently ‘obtained from a friend in the Home department’, and the village lunatic chips in with his bit too. Breaking the stereotype, uh? Ranjith has cut corners wherever he felt like.

    But the biggest mess is the one caused by using the same actor for 3 roles. It might have been conceived as a marketing strategy, but how can anyone even think of hoodwinking the viewers like that nowadays? The list of characters who unquestioningly accepted Haridas’ looks and ignored the resemblance to AH and K is uncomfortably long.

    The character of Sarayu needn’t even have been there. She was created for the sole purpose of providing a listener to Haridas’ story, but most of what he had to tell could have been told as voice over. Sarayu inevitably becomes a big liability for the writer – director. The scenes where the two appear together all look contrived and hollow. Their relationship is also not sketched properly. They seem to be regular bedmates, and seem to have left their legal partners for good. However, after one missed call from G, Haridas seems to be able to very callously suggest to her to try to retrieve her original relationship. And, surprisingly, she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with that too. That was not compatible with how the relationship was portrayed till then. If she was only a missed call away from resuming her marriage, could she have willingly went that far into an affair with Haridas? And then try to go back effortlessly? I don’t think a woman does that. Apparently, all Ranjith wanted to show was some casual illustration of the morally ambiguous nature of today’s sexual relationships and society’s gradual acceptance of it, without actually caring for the genuineness and accuracy of what he was portraying.

    Ranjith seems adamant to display her as a smoker, but it is obvious that the actor playing Sarayu doesn’t know how to smoke. Ranjith has attempted to cover this up in some scenes either by unnaturally prolonging the interval between puffs, or by directing the camera elsewhere when she is supposed to inhale. But the absurdity still sneeks through. Why persist on the character being a smoker and take unnecessary risks? Why couldn’t Sarayu have been a non smoker?

    The movie doesn’t make any compromises on the conventional star-centric style when introducing Haji and Khalid. The approach shot to AH particularly is very reminiscent of those south Indian action movies.

    The second conspiracy gathering that Kesavan overhears also appears to involve Laksmanan (or did I not see alright?). But Lakshmanan was drafted into the investigation at a much later stage. I like to think that I didn’t see alright, but I believe that it was Lakshmanan who was present.

    At the beginning, Haridas describes Chandappan leaving the village on the night as a big mystery. This was apparently based on hearsay. The whole village was at the play during the time. Given the time and occasion, how many would have seen him leaving the village? Given that he has no family, didn’t tell anyone about leaving, and is known as a rover, how long after his actual leaving will his absence be noted? In the odd scenario that a few folks might have seen him leaving, what is the chance of them associating his disappearance with the murders, of even remembering that they happened on the same night, and of the fact then to become part of village hearsay? Even if the police had made a genuine investigation at that time, they would have had to dig very very deep to find somebody who accurately remembered Chandappan’s disappearance, even if somebody might have actually seen him go. So, how does that piece of information become part of village tales and how can Haridas have it from very early on in the story?

    The behaviour of AH’s associates on the night is confusing. After the alteration of initial plans regarding disposal of the stiff, how come they did not inform others who were in on the death regarding the turn of events, so that they could change their lies? Of course, they must have met AH again that night because of B’s death, and must have then notified him of the twist that occurred on the steps; and in view of the hanging, the epilepsy story wouldn’t hold, so, either they should have dragged back the body to the house and stuck to the epilepsy story, or should have left it hanging and alerted Ch as to the change of story. But instead, they left the stiff hanging, forgot to tell Ch, and to add to that, themselves spread the story of epilepsy the next day. Not even the dumbest of criminals seem to make such a mistake, and AH does not seem to be one.

    How come the revolver at the end was found loaded? Are we to suppose K keeps a revolver fully loaded in an unlocked area when he potentially has no threats? Could have been better if the revolver was not shown at all.

    The movie marketers claim it is a detective story in a different vein. Despite all the guise, when it came to concluding the plot, the makers use the cheap tricks of investigative thrillers with abandon. Overall, it looks like old wine in a new bottle, although a sepia tinted bottle.

    Several shots were unnecessary and could have been deleted…the montage at the beginning, shots of Manikyam dressing up when H introduces the character, the scene of Adiyodi handing over files to the DySP. (repetition of what was said)….would be too many if one continues to the end.

    Lots of unnecessary slow-mos as well. Irritating.

    Also, Haridas is only supposed to recollect what he knows from hearsay and documents. He excuses his conclusions at the end as only assumptions, but there are other areas where assumptions are presented as facts….. AH discussing with his associate about the need to get the neighbours away, Othenan’s murder, Ch surrendering to AH for the first time at a specific location (who told Haridas the exact location?), AH spotting Manikyam and Ch for the first time (again, location, how?….H seems to be somehow definite they were at the kulikkadavu), Mohandas meeting up with Lakshmanan to hand over the case report (how does H know it even occurred?)

    Superimposition of Haridas on the old sets seemed unnecessary and showy, when a simple voice over would have done. It looks like the experiment the viewers don’t want.

    Background music was a constant irritant, and reminded of star-centric action flicks. Sharath’s number was good, but it was lost on the screenplay. The recurring song would have suited if the viewers were able to feel a fondness and sadness shrouded in mystery for the largely unknown Manikyam, but the screenplay didn’t let that happen. The cinematography was not particularly good, with several unnecessary vertical pans, the slow-mos, and occasional shakes as well. Among the actors, Shweta was the pick. Mammootty was good in the role of AH (because AH doesn’t know English?), but certainly not his best performance. Both H and K seem to stiffen up as in ‘the King’ when delivering the Queen’s language. Settings good, lighting good.

    Overhyped movie, certainly not the best of the season.

  6. Pingback: Palery Manikyam review | varnachitram

  7. Abilash's critique reminds me of the classic biblical scene " Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone…", seriously while your depth of reasoning needs to be lauded, it needs to be ridiculed a thousand times more in the light of facts that Paleri Manikyam is a movie based on the first rape and murder in Kerala.Not many facts are known and the author and the screenplay writer have taken creative liberties to assume at different points in the movie.This is what good cinema is about, a good script,great cinematography and less trappings of stardom.Its not a thesis or a prosecution report and can afford its loopholes so long as the narrative does not bore you.Cinema is probably your cup of tea Abilash or if it is, lets see you create a better one.

  8. Rejin,

    Firstly, I didn’t say the movie was rank bad. The whole point of my comment was that while the movie was slightly better than the average mainstream Malayalam fare, it certainly was overrated. There was widespread talk that it was great and was near-perfect. The movie, though a just about decent flick, doesn’t deserve such eulogy. My comment was limited to that particular aspect.

    Secondly, I don’t think I have to prove my worth by making a movie before I can earn my right to comment on the film. I am not a professional reviewer, and what I said was only my opinion of the movie as a viewer. I think I obtained my legitimate rights to air my opinion on the movie when I bought a ticket to see it. You can comment on the performance of a car or a phone you buy and use, without bothering to first become a car–manufacturer or a phone-manufacturer. It is your right as a customer.

    Your argument of ‘loopholes’ becoming acceptable in view of the historical challenge of the movie doesn’t hold. Kerala’s viewing public did not force Ranjith to make a movie on this specific case. Nor did it force him to adopt a narration and case-solving anchored at the present moment of time. These are handicaps that Ranjith chose to impose on himself rather needlessly, so I guess he is responsible when the final product doesn’t look good. He could have easily chosen another case or an absolutely fictional event with similar circumstances, and the point of narration could have been switched further back (as in the novel). Does the case being the first one of rape-murder in unified Kerala have any real relevance for the movie? The director doesn’t seem to be making it a big point. The movie too, to its credit, does not attempt at being a historical account of the case (something you seem to have missed, and, unlike you seem to assume, I said nothing about the authors not sticking to the facts of the case, and have no complaints about it at all), nor does it try to suggest a solution to the original r-m case. That it is the first such case is only presented as a minor added interest in the movie (I don’t know about the novel). Therefore, allying the challenges posed by history as an excuse to explain away the loopholes doesn’t hold good, as this is not a historical movie, but a period fictional one, with time frames of the director’s choice. Also, if the investigator chooses to grope on a five decade old case, he must be shown to experience the difficulties of raking up long lost details, and not have records and clues presented to him as if at his whim.

    Furthermore, several of these ‘loopholes’ are not related to the difficulty associated with bridging a gap of 50 years in narration, but to the choice of the actual narrative style and avoidable oversight. For example, Haridas claims at the beginning that almost all that he knew about the case were based on the judgement report and newspaper reports. However, what he then proceeds to narrate in the first half of the movie are things that he mostly has no chance of knowing from these reports. Remember that Mohandas’ case report was a doctored one. It was the one that was presented in court. So Haridas couldn’t realistically have known anything about the ligature marks, the scenes of questioning at the police camp (would have been doctored), about Chandamman, about Kesavan sharing suspicions with Hamsa (or that even such people existed), about Pokkan mourning his wife’s death (after his release), Pokkan joining the Congress party etc. Well, from what is shown in the movie, Haridas couldn’t even have known for sure that Mohandas’ report was doctored – an assumption unfortunately drilled into us from the very beginning. Also, he couldn’t even have got a hint that any hanging really took place (he doesn’t procure the original autopsy reports).

    It is not as if these are unavoidable loopholes. Either by using someone like Kesavan for narrating events that Haridas didn’t know (Kesavan and Haridas instead of Haridas and Sarayu as narrator and questioner looks good), or by doing away with person-based narration, these could have been avoided. Alas, Balan Nair also thereafter joins the narrative bandwagon blurting out things he barely has an idea about.

    That is only about the narration. The problems with eulogizing AH, using the same actor for 3 roles, using the needless Sarayu, the presence of Lakshmanan at the conspiracy gathering ( more than a big error), the final scene altogether, Haridas’ irrational explanation of events (which doesn’t even provide a motive) which claims to solve the case, Haridas’ pretentious language are all big ‘kallukadis’. A Labrador retriever cleanly picks up the scent of precisely Kunjikkannan and Velayudhan several days after the murder (when Mohandas takes charge of the investigation from Adiyodi), AFTER several visitors had been to the kadavu (at least to see the body). Amazing, isn’t it? Without that stupendous feat of canine magic, the whole plot wouldn’t have been there. The flaws don’t stop here, but there is no point stabbing a corpse.

    Funny thing is, these are all avoidable ‘loopholes’. Not due to technical errors either. They don’t therefore come under the fancy names of ‘cinematic licence’ and ‘creative liberties’. They certainly shouldn’t belong to a good movie. Good movies are about creativity while minimizing such liberties. I agree making a movie is a pretty difficult task, but that doesn’t mean we have to tag every film as ‘great’ especially when there are better templates.

    I guess you are a fan of the movie or its lead actor or its director. Instead of vaguely slandering someone else’s opinion as ‘a thousand times more ridiculous’ in a fit of emotional rage, it would be more appreciable if you could read others’ comments a bit objectively, and come out with some facts if you think they are wrong.

  9. Abhhilash,

    I liked Palery Manikkam a lot, but what you have said in your last post, makes a whole lot of sense to me. It has come to a point when it is difficult to criticize a Superstar film without irking some fan. Using common sense might perhaps be asking for too much on their part, but I wish they had the ability to exhibit some restraint at least.

  10. palerimanikyam is an exellent movie in malayalam.
    best film of mammooka after oru vadakan veeragaada.
    ranjit’s masterpiece.
    Ahammed haaji, mammooka acted brilliantly

  11. Saw “Paleri Manikyam”,felt good after watching it.Gave me a lot to think about!! Then I read a few reviews to see what others felt.But nothing matches what Abhilash has written here.He has done it in such detail, that makes me wonder if he went to the movie with a notepad.I was jealous that most of you saw the movie way back in December and I had to wait for so long.

    When I read the movie was based on a real incident,I am curious to know how much of reality is presented in the movie? And what are the writer’s/director’s add ons?

    I understand the fact that Haridas(Mammooty)was Ahmed Haaji’s son,so wouldn’t it have been more believable,if he just came back to Paleri to find out if his father was still living? And later get intrigued by Manikyam’s murder, coz he is sure to hear about it from the people.It led me to wonder if this was narrated by Haridas in the Novel too,if so how it was done.

    Have to applaud the movie makers for adding some extra ordinary new actors.

    Even though I hated the climax,I can let go of the fact that Mammooty plays both Ahmed Haaji and Khalid ,but Haridas too (and none of the people who knew Haaji seem to have a problem with it!!!)Was it Mammoty’s desperate effort to balance out the negative character of Ahmed Haaji ? Is he scared to play a villain?

    Sarayu,was a character that had so much potential if handled well. She was never there even while she was in the frame often.Her relationship with Haridas had to be much more intense than that.And there is no way she would have gone back with just a call from her husband.Why was she smoking?

    Loved Swetha Menon(Cheeru),she was just amazing!!!The director gets points for choosing a bold topic,when most of his contemporaries are trying to play it safe.

    Sensuality is beautiful if portrayed well like a poem .I guess now is the right time to make more movies which depict sex and sensuality.Don’t you think its high time our society gets educated? How many more suicides will it take to realize the need to loose our hypocrisy?

  12. Shyam, thanks for the support.

    Sara, Agree with most of what you are saying, particularly about the acting.

    I agree that there should be more movies that accept the sexual reality of life. But I don’t think ‘sensuality’ is a very real life entity to merit an urgent place in movies.

    And I didn’t carry a notepad. I was a little disappointed with the movie, probably because I had high expectations (was expecting something on the scale of Pavithran’s Utharam). At the time I saw the film, practically all of the reports on the net were gloating it up like a 10/10 flick. So I thought I would vocalise my disappointment too. Though not very good, Palery certainly is better than most of the films that graced Kerala screens since then, including MNIK.

    I had to put in the details, because I didn’t want to look like bashing a well liked movie blindly. I think I wasn’t nitpicking because if I were I would have highlighted things like the fact that most of the men in March – April of 1957 were seen wearing shirts outdoors etc.. Just said about a few things which looked rather obvious and uncomfortable.

  13. I totally agree with Abhilash. And you were not nitpicking at all. You have the right to voice your opinion. This is certainly not the best movie in recent times. Mammooty as Haridas was not convincing at all. The scenes between Haridas and the crime analyst were very unnatural. Again as Abhilash wrote, not upto par with Mammootty in Utharam. Utharam – I would consider that as one of the best investigative movies in Malayalam.

    Having said this, I think Mammootty as Ahmed Haji was great. And he truly deserved the best actor award. Recent films of his like Paleri M, Loudspeaker and P.Raja have proved that he is one of India’s best. Even Sweta Menon acted beautifully in PM. The flashback scenes were all good. What I didn’t enjoy at all was the presentation of how Mammootty as Haridas tried to solve the mystery that was haunting him.

  14. I have simphothy on u sara and abhilash, what u mean by a film??abhilash reviews was superub, trying to find out fault in story..
    yeah thare are many, but abhi mon, what u mean by movie?100% perfect story?I cannot read ur brain..

  15. yeah paleri manikkam one of the best movie I have ever seen, not only in malayalam , main reason realistic frames from real story, I am very near to paleri, I know this story before, this film took me in 50’s or 60’s which I never ever seen in my life.i couldn’t stop watching it again, 4-5 times..if that story was fiction, I wouldn’t have seen at all..I wouldn’t have got that great feel at all.anyway i am not a fan of any superstar,abhi yeah there are a lot off faults, but it is far better than uttaram, more over this is not a detective film at all, he wants to take as paleri ,small village in malabar.. thier life..and ahammed haji and that murder that’s all.haridas and khalid muhammed all unimportance characters.

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