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’!!!


  1. Yes... This is my favourite too. I and my friends would talk about this movie through the night and would be afraid to return to our homes alone! Aage kya kahen... Sab kuch ek sapne jaisa lagta hai. The movie was released, we all talked about it and now how many years have passed!

    Yours truly
    ANAND ala Nagavalli style :P

  2. Whatever u said about the film is true... It's a true masterclass... There was a big army behind this creation... Like in most hollywood films, Manichitrathazhu included a second unit crew for all the indoor shots, with the likes of Priyadarsan and Siddique-Lal for direction and a master called Venu, behind the camera... But the real backbone of the film, and the factor that makes us want to see the film again and again is the script... It's good that u commented on Lal's acting, 'cause he's simply superb... Saw Bhool Bhulaiyya too... It may be a hit in hindi, but the acting is sub-standard compared to the likes of Mohanlal, Sobhana, Nedumudi Venu and Thilakan (two names u didn't mention)... and the screenplay is the same (just a translation of dialogues)... even the camera angles are the same!!! and Chandramukhi??? No comments on that!!!

  3. Thanks for the comments...
    By the way, I did mention Nedumudi Venu and Thilakan !

    On Chandramukhi-
    If Manichitrathazhu was a woman-centric movie (Shobhana being crucial), Chandramukhi was made to be Rajni's show all the way!
    That's where I disagree with it's Tamil version. Rajni's presence doesn't justify tweaking the script to glorify the larger-than-life persona of Rajni. And I believe they had many 'special effects' (Rajni's daughter did it, I heard).



  4. didnt know somebody could write so much about one single movie.even the director would not have been able to write such a long analysis after the movie was made ...absolutely huge .

  5. There were seperate units for the film, and each unit shot scenes the genre in which they were comfortable. Some of the scenes were shot at my place and Siddique-Lal were in charge of that unit. Also, becoz of that I could go and witness some scenes which were shot at Hill Palace, and Sibi Malayil was in charge of that unit.

  6. Oh! So we have someone here who witnessed it. But why the anonymity?

  7. I agree, its the best movie ever. I've actually seen it back-to-back LOL!!!. I still get scared watching it.
    Oh by the way, you should see the remake, just for laughs. Especially the tamil version EWWWW disgusting performance . I watched it all except rajmohol, mainly cause i couldn't find a copy LOL!
    You were right to say that the movie is nothing without the lady who gave the voice for nagavalli. "YAAR ADA? NAN DA NAGAVALLI"
    The comedy is so rich not the slap stick kind. Love Innocent, he is so cute. I remember his wife's reaction when the guy tell her "KAKOOSLA" LOL! her expression is unbelievable.

    1. Wow! I'm surprised that it's been 4 years since I wrote this post, and it still managed to get a comment! Thanks Anon - though you should have left your name!

      Hehe. Indeed, this movie has the kind of humour that you don't find these days. And the kakkoosa scene - hehe. That's one I missed on mentioning. But no way I'm gonna watch remakes - not even for laughs D:D

  8. Thanks for the great review. I have watched all these remakes (except Bengali) and also the Telugu version (dubbed from Tamil) and am very sure you're in the money on your belief, the original is the best and nothings comes even close to the magic of Manichitrathazhu in Malayalam (I am a Telugu person, but manage to understand a little bit of Malayalam in movies)..


    1. Sorry for the late reply, Ramarao! Thanks for stopping by!
      Boy, am I glad that a non-Malayali recommends this over any other version... absolutely thrilled :D

    2. Hi! Here's one more non-Malayali. I'm a Bengali who's grown up in Tamil Nadu. Jyothika's performance is comical, I felt. Shobhana chechi did full justice to the role. Btw, I have watched the dance sequence of Rajmahal. That is even more comical than Chandramukhi!! Manichithrathazhu is the best!!

  9. Hi, i absolutely love Manichitratazhu, and i truly agree with your point on the remakes. Bhool Bhulaiyaa looks silly and Chandramukhi does not seem to carry the fact that she has a psychological disorder, not possession by a ghost.

    Great review

    1. Thank you Loli... glad you liked the review. And thanks for stopping by ;)

  10. Wonderful movie! seen all remakes except bengali one but Original is the BEST!
    Loved it! Already have watched it around 30-40 times.
    I dont understand Malayalam but could relate the Dialogues from Bhool Bhulaiyaa, but the Acting of Shobana is truly award-winning. I have become her Fan since I watched this movie.

    1. Hey Anon! Please leave your name the next time around. And you've seen almost all except the Bengali version? That's cool! Which is your native language?

      Shobana is, was and always will be a brilliant actress. Sadly, we don't get to see much of her in movies these days. Thanks for the comment and your presence :)

  11. Hi Vinitha

    I saw the Hindi version first coz I'm from a small town in Rajasthan. Then one of my Tamil friend recommended Chandramukhi which was quite different from the Hindi version. I liked the concept very much, that I did a little research on Wiki. Came to know that Manichitrathazhu was the original film. So I watched it!

    Since then I have become a fan of Mohanlal, Shobana and ofcourse Malayalam movies.
    Every actor in the movie was brilliant. I am trying to learn Malayalam now. Saw some more movies of Mohanlal last week. Was very hard to understand most part but was able to figure the concept.

    I think the producers should release Malayalam movies along with their Hindi dubbing and/or subtitles so others can also understand and appreciate the class that Malayalam movies maintain and the original concepts they have in their movies.

    In the end, thanks a lot for writing this post.


    1. Wow! Thanks Abhishek for dropping by. I am amazed that this post still gets views - and responses too! I am thrilled to hear that you're from Rajasthan, and yet took the effort to watch a Malayalam movie. I am super, super thrilled! :D

      Hindi dubbing - well, frankly, I think that might not happen. When taking the effort to dub/sub-title movies, the reach would be a factor. Hindi being a regional language might not be the best option. I think English subtitles is a better option and should work for all. I believe Manichitrathazhu with English subtitles is around?

      By the way, how did you understand this movie then? You saw this, without subtitles, and yet were able to appreciate it this much? That's lovely!

  12. Everything is just so awesome abt this movie but the one thing that haunts me till date n never fails to send a chill down my spine is johnson maash's bgm... Omg... And that song .. Neeyillai inge naanum edhu... Out of the world... Pure awesomeness

  13. Could you please create a thread to discuss manichitrazthazhu fan theories. I am sure there are many out there.



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