Revisiting the iconic Malayalam thriller Manichitrathazhu 25 years later

There are some movies you watch and forget almost at once. Then there are those that you can watch a few times without getting bored. However, there are only a handful of movies that can be watched again and again. Manichitrathazhu, the iconic Malayalam movie celebrating 25 years this year, is one such. The cult classic is one of the best psycho-thrillers made in the history of Indian cinema.
What makes this movie so enjoyable is the tight script by Madhu Mattom. While most psycho-thrillers can be a bit illogical, there aren’t any loopholes in this one.  All the loose ends come together beautifully in the end. As the climax nears, you will find yourself remembering subtle nuances that you missed earlier. 

So it’s no surprise that this blockbuster Malayalam movie has been remade in different languages. For the record, it’s been remade into Kannada (Apthamitra, with Vishnuvardhan and Soundarya), Tamil (Chandramukhi, which starred Rajinikanth and Jyothika), Hindi (Bhool Bhulaiyya with Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan in the lead) and also in Bengali (Rajmohol starring Prosenjit and Anu Choudhury). Here’s one fun fact – the Hindi remake was directed by Priyadarshan who was the second unit director of Manichitrathazhu. 

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But none of the remakes came anywhere close to Manichitrathazhu directed by Fazil. The movie tells the story of Nakulan and Ganga who come to Kerala from Kolkata and decide to stay in their ancestral home. The movie begins with a clear hint of the supernatural. It’s only in the later part of the movie that we come to know that Ganga suffers from a split personality disorder.

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Coming to the performances, the cast is close to perfection. Shobhana essays two diametrically opposite personalities. Her transformation from the mild-mannered Ganga into the revenge-seeking Nagavalli is stunning. A trained classical dancer, Shobhana is a delight to watch in emotive scenes and particularly in the dance sequences. She lets her eyes do most of the talking throughout the movie. Her superlative performance in the movie won her a National Award. 

Shobana
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Mohanlal is brilliant as the boisterous, almost-mad psychiatrist Sunny Joseph. Although the veteran actor plays a pivotal character, he makes his entry only around interval time. But once he appears, the focus clearly shifts to him. His comic timing and the way he slips into a serious role is commendable. 

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Manichitrathazhu used music as a part of the narrative, to take the story forward. The melodious Varuvaanillarumee gives us insights into Ganga’s childhood and the reasons for her personality disorder. The entire climax is filmed beautifully through the well-known track Oru murai vanthu paatthaya. The song was beautifully choreographed by Shobhana.

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