Revisiting A Classic – Manichithrathazhu

There are not too many movies which have the touch to achieve the Classic status after it’s theater run. This is one of the few. Manichithrathazhu (The Ornate Lock), is a psychological thriller film directed by Fazil, released in 1993. The script was written by Madhu Muttam, based on a real life-incident happened in Alummoottil Tharavadu, a famous Travancore family, in the 19th century. Directors such as Siddique-Lal, Priyadarshan, and Sibi Malayil served as second-unit directors. The songs were composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan, and the background score by Johnson.

Manichithrathazhu Mohanlal
image courtesy Moserbear and Saina

Manichithrathazhu is the best horror-drama ever made in India and the reason for this is that the plot is treated with respect, and it is not a mere scary movie. It is more than that. First thing to be mentioned is the confidence of the makers. The movie has the biggest names of Malayalam at the time – Fazil, Mohanlal, Johnson, Priyadarshan, Shobana, Sibi Malayil, Suresh Gopi, Siddhiq-Lal, MG Radhakrishnan. How they selected a story and decided to work together for making a classic and they succeeded in it!

Everything in the movie looks perfect, even after 22 years of its theater release. They together created a movie that will never fade. There are many scenes which will be remembered forever, even many words which just takes us back to the movie when spelt independently. Eg: Thekkini, Madamballi (House Name), Alli (Character Name), Nagavalli (Character Name). Even the impact of the word ‘Durgashtami’, an annual Hindu celebration, changed with this movie.

Manichithrathazhu Shobana (1)
Manichithrathazhu Shobana (1)

Nakulan (Suresh Gopi), and Ganga (Shobana) comes to his ancestral home (named Madampalli). Nakulan’s uncle Thampi (Nedumudi Venu) objects Nakhulan to stay in Madampalli, saying the house is haunted, and some spirits are locked up in the Thekkini by an ornate enchanted lock called Manichitrathazhu. The Nakhulan ignores it and shifts to Madampalli. Soon paranormal events start to happen.

  • Ganga’s (Shobana) first entry to the locked room, and the background music, which is followed by the slow version of ‘Oru Murai Vanthu Paaravayo…’ In short, it was and is THE BEST.
  • Sunny’s (Mohanlal) first night at Madamballi.
  • The song “Oru Murai Vanthu Paarayo…” and the following scene – Sunny’s second encounter with Nagavalli.
  • The song ‘Pazham Thamizh Paattizhayum…’
  • Sunny revealing about Ganga to Nakhulan (Suresh Gopi).
  • The song ‘Oru Murai Vanthu Paarthaaya…’
Manichithrathazhu Shobana (2)

Even with two super stars and veterans like Nadumudi Venu, Innocent, Thilakan in the cast, Shobana gave the most notable performance overshadowing the brightness of the rest.

Apart from top stars, Vinaya Prasad, KPAC Lalitha, Sudheesh and Ganesh looked so natural in their respective roles. It is such a wonderful experience to see all the actors giving such realistic and natural performances. It’s hard to find something which out of order or out of sync with the story, and this is one of the reasons why the original remains as a classic and all the remakes look lame even with great actress like Soundharya (Kannada). Performance vice she is the only actress, from all the remakes, who can at least consider matching to the original Nagavalli. Not only the performances but also the art design, the realistic approach, and the incredible soundtracks makes it unique.

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About the Author

PS Arjun
Cinephile. Learning the art of filmmaking. Script Writer. Director.

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