Thursday, April 24, 2008


It was the Vishu weekend and we switched on the TV. All the channels were dishing out their usual fare. As we surfed the channels, we chanced across one channel showing Manichitrathazhu. And needless to say, our search ended.


Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) and his wife Ganga (Shobhana) come back to his native town for a vacation. They insist on staying at the Madampally tharavadu, much to the discomfort of his uncle Thampi (Nedumudi Venu), who is displeased at their decision. Nevertheless, he gives in to his non-superstitious nephew, but with a terse warning never to unlock the Thekkini. The reason is this: the house was haunted by the ghost of a Bharatanatyam dancer of yore, Nagavalli. The Karnavar (or the King) apparently didn’t approve of the love that bloomed between Nagavalli and a local dancer, Ramanathan. Hence, he is said to have killed her. The ghost is said to have been haunting the place since then. After much trouble and pujas, she has been trapped into the Thekkini. And unlocking the room means unleashing the troubled ghost thirsty for revenge.But one day, Ganga gets a duplicate key made and unlocks the thazhu of Thekkini (much like opening the Pandora’s Box) that leads to a series of strange, inexplicable occurrences.

Misfortune befalls the family. Plates break mysteriously, sarees catch fire, a forlorn voice sings Tamil songs at odd hours of the night, a girl is almost suffocated to death and a ghost walks the house with her ghungroos creating havoc than music!
Nakulan refuses to concede to the ‘ghost theory’ and concludes Sreedevi (Vinaya Prasad), his cousin, is mentally unstable and is the one behind the mysterious happenings. Nakulan beckons Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal), his friend and renowned psychiatrist, to pitch in and cure Sreedevi of her ailment.

And one day, truth unveils itself, as Sunny realizes that the real patient at Madampally tharavadu is not Sreedevi, but Ganga. And how he goes about to save Ganga from her psychotic alter ego forms the crux of the movie.


Undoubtedly, Shobhana takes the cake. The contrast she brings in her portrayal of the affable Ganga and the blood-thirsty Nagavalli is remarkable. No one can forget the scene where she is denied permission to go shopping for gold. The change in her facial expressions and intonation (along with the super-human feat of lifting a cot single-handedly) engrosses the audience and leaves one spell-bound. Sample this:

When she growls, Vidamatte??, a chill goes down our spines!
As also her dialogue that starts: “Innekku Durgashtami...unne naan konnu...”
And she puts her dancing skill to good use, in the climax, where Ganga has been completely taken over by Nagavalli. The song ‘Oru murai vanthu….’ is a tribute to her exceptional talent.
No wonder then, that this performance got her a National Award.

Another person who needs to be mentioned for contributing to her splendid performance is the dubbing artist, Bhagyalakshmy. The role wouldn’t have been half as effective, if it weren’t for her voice.

Mohanlal appears towards the latter part of the movie, but is highly effective in his role. He goes on to show that it’s not the quantity but the quality that matters. The scene where he discloses that Ganga is the psychotic patient, to Nakulan, is a classic. His style of narration is absolutely riveting.

And of course, the climax, which he masterminds and compels Nagavalli into believing that she has avenged her death is brilliant:

He also carries off the comical scenes well, like:
** His arrival- the way he elaborately ‘enacts’ how he reached Madampally.
** The bathroom tiff with Lalitha
** Scenes with Vinaya Prasad (when he goes to check on her)
** ‘Kindi’ scene (with Sudheesh)

Suresh Gopi is adequate as the doting husband. He is convincing as the non-superstitious, new age guy who finds manthravadam and puja karmams out-dated.

The others, including Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Lalitha, Vinaya Prasad, Kuthiravattom Pappu, Ganesh Kumar, Thilakan, etc have also given commendable performances.


The songs are good and appropriately placed in the movie. They are not forced into the plot (except for maybe “Pazham tamil paattu…”). Special mention must be made of Johnson’s background music. Most of the time, the suspense and ‘horror’ is created and sustained by the background music alone.


Fazil has done a brilliant job as the captain of the ship. It is also common knowledge that Priyadarshan, Sibi Malayil and Siddique-Lal helped with the direction (some say, even split and directed the entire movie). This movie could be slotted into the ‘horror’ genre. But it’s interesting to note how the director doesn’t rely on graphics, weird animations or bhoots in white saris holding candles (!) to create the aura of horror.

My Take:

I can never tire of watching this movie. I have watched this umpteen times, since the movie released (I was 8 years old then). It never fails to thrill me. This movie, for me, is equivalent to wholesome entertainment.
I have never ‘dared’ to watch the remakes of this movie. It has been re-made in Kannada (Aaptamitra), Bengali (Rajmohol), Tamil (Chandramukhi) and off-late, in Hindi (Bhool Bhulaiyya). It’s purely because I am dead-sure that NOBODY can recreate the magic of Manichitrathazhu. Nor can anyone be as convincing as Shobhana.
It is, no doubt, a classic. Watch Manichitrathazhu and unlock the ‘spirit’!!!


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