Flipping through channels on TV is a ritual that’s being seriously threatened by the arrival of binge watching and i was honoring this time old tradition the other day when the sight Mohanlal,Thilakan,Innocent and Nedumudi in a single frame made me stop and put the remote down.Manichitrathazhu was playing on Asianet,for the umpteenth time but i didn’t find myself complaining, rather was only too happy to sit back and watch though the film was almost close to its ending.The fear of ghosts and darkness i had outgrown as a kid, when I realized that the living were far more sinister and dangerous but Manichitrathazhu managed to stir up my fears of the unknown every time I watched it, especially the scenes where Nagavalli starts making her presence felt.I can’t decide if it’s just the visuals or the background music, maybe bit of both, in fact I’ve been told that the makers researched raagas that invoked fear for the haunting BGM that has attained cult status today.
The film needs no introduction and it has been remade in all the major regional languages but the original remains a class apart, the fact that the best minds in the Malayalam film industry came together behind and in front of the camera, being just one of the reasons why. Manichithrathazhu is what happens when a Malayali filmmaker sets his mind on making a horror-thriller for a Malayali audience, that is to just say, a thinking man’s horror film. You could rightly debate that the film is a psychological thriller and not a horror film in the true sense but then again, you didn’t know that until the end credits had rolled.
While even the most celebrated Hollywood horror movies have resorted to demonic possessions and supernatural presence to send a chill down the viewers spine, Manichitrathazhu delves into the complexities of the human psyche with a subtlety and realism that is indeed the hallmark of malayalam movies our times ,notwithstanding the fact the protagonist does break into a song at the most crucial of moments in the film, but thats just our way of telling a story and i wouldn’t want it any other way either.
The movie does not attack the customs and traditions of the largely patriarchal community against the backdrop of which the story unfolds, rather it chooses an inclusive narrative, treading a middle ground where scientific methods and cultural symbols find equal footing in the progression and culmination of the tale.That the film successfully managed to scare the living daylights out of the viewers without any special effects sequences speaks volumes of the skills of Madhu Muttam, the reclusive script writer and Fazil the director, though the movie is also known for the collaborative efforts of the most successful filmmakers of the time.