Being a sucker of the horror, I would enthusiastically watch anything on this genre. Since I am exploring Indian cinema, I came across a cult classic horror musical movie from the Malayalam industry. Just like how I usually watch, I did not read any information about the movie all I know is its language and genre. Manichitrathazhu is a 1993 epic psychological thriller film directed by Fazil, written by Madhu Muttam, and produced by Swargachitra Appachan.
Story, Frames & Score
The story is inspired by a tragedy that happened in Alummoottil tharavad, a central Travancore family in the 19th century. The movie centers on a young couple, Ganga and Nakulan, who go back to their native village to settle down for a month in Nakulan’s ancestral house. Curious and bored Ganga opens up a locked room that is rumored to be haunted. The household becomes in turmoil after series of unnatural events take place inside the mansion. In desperation, Nakulan asks for the help of witch doctors and what else…. a psychiatrist?
DOP Venu is responsible for setting the tone needed in the film through his bizarre camera angles, random shots, and shaky camera. His ample use of low-lit shots set an uncanny vibe throughout the story. With brilliant lighting and VFX, the frames deliver spine-chilling sequences.
For a horror movie, BGM plays a vital role in establishing an eerie vibe. Johnson’s musical score makes the scene intense, eerie, horrifying and electrifying, especially during the climax. I’m not really fond of singing and dancing in movies but this one is among the exemptions. The 9 tracks used in the film composed by M.G. Radhakrishnan blend well with the storyline, however, I find them unnecessary long. The solo of Shobana is heartwarming and that dance number with Sridhar is among the best scenes in the movie.
I have to commend the production design for making the house a thriller in itself. Each part of the house is like a mystery that needs to unfold. The setting is good and is well suited to the story. It helps greatly in the development of the plot.
Characters & Performances
I really like the performances of many characters in the film not only the main characters. My personal favorite is Innocent. He’s so funny and nothing of exaggeration. Vinaya Prasad is good at portraying free-spirited Sreedevi. Suresh Gopi delivers a remarkable performance as Nakulan. Sridhar leaves a memorable performance as Mahadevan despite limited screen time. Dr. Sunny (Mohanlal) nails his character with his facial expression, dialogue delivery, and body language.
As for Shobaha, she is phenomenal. Aside from her stellar singing and dancing performances, she portrays two characters with consistency and sophistication. Her whole dialogue is dubbed for her. Bhagyalakshmi is Ganga’s voice and Durga gives voice to Nagavalli. The artist, the dubbers, and the sound editing do a tremendous job in doing it in an unbelievable synchronous manner.
Screenplay & Direction
The best feat of this movie is the screenplay. It balances good humor, romance, music, psychological issue, family drama, mystery, and thriller. The plot is unique, solid, and consistent. I also like the narrative style use in the film. It starts slow giving much attention to details, backstories, and character development. Because of that, the second half delivers a thrilling sequence and breathtaking climax. Another thing worthy of sharing is how the movie changes from genre to genre. The story starts with a comedy and mystery, it gradually progresses into horror and unexpectedly turns into a psychological theme towards the climax. Sir Madhu Muttam creates a timeless and sublime script.
Manichitrathazhu is intelligently done that everything works together coherently from the opening to the closing frame. However, I find the runtime too long. I wish T.R. Shekar had chop unnecessary scenes and shorten song and dance sequences for a tighter story. From the script, frames, score, acting performances, and production, Fazil sir wraps up every element into a beautiful, exciting, and thrilling cult classic.
Manichitrathazhu is indeed a timeless gem from Malayalam cinema that should be watched by anyone fond of horror and psychological classics. I enjoyed every moment of my experience with Manichitrathazhu.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.