A Blog on Cinema

Palery Manikyam – A counter point


Reader Abhilash, submitted this as a comment, it’s not every day we get such detailed analysis and this one particularly stands out among other eulogizing reviews.

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.


  1. Though i think abhilash did an overkill ,minutely analyzing the intricate details,I tend to agree with him rather than with the others.The movie got an adulation it didn’t deserve .The period part is well taken with excellent performances by the new faces.But it turns aritificial when it portrays the present times.Mammootty as Haridas is a misfit.While one has to concede that it is a cut above the rest,compared to the movies made in the 70s and 80s Paleri Manikyam is not a movie to brag about.

  2. I totally agree with Abhilash and Ajith – “The period part is well taken with excellent performances by the new faces.But it turns aritificial when it portrays the present times. Mammootty as Haridas is a misfit.” –

    Mammooty as Haridas was not convincing at all. The scenes between Haridas and the crime analyst were very unnatural.

    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.

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