Movie - Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha(Malayalam)
Director - Ranjith
Producers - AV Anoop, Subair
Cast - Mammootty, Mythili, Shwetha Menon, Sreenivasan, Siddique, Gauri Mangal and a host of newcomers.
Music - Sharath, Bijibal
Cinematography - Manoj Pillai
Editing - Vijai Shankar
Story - TP Rajeevan
Screenplay, Dialogues - Ranjith
Release Date - 5th December 2009
This movie cannot be put into the genre of the usual 'Investigative Thriller' films in Malayalam. As the title suggests, it is the 'Story' of a murder of a girl called Manikyam that happened at midnight at a village called Palery. So if you're going in expecting a CBI style narrative where a lot of irrelevant investigation is done only to find a completely different culprit, you will be grossly disappointed. This film has to be watched for the unraveling of the story, rather than the suspense thriller element. And it is that unraveling, which makes this movie very interesting. And let me tell you in the beginning itself, that this film is not everyone's cup of tea. It has a mature, adult theme and many bold dialogues as well, which may not go down well with children and families. (They can watch if they come without their children though, and I didnt see the Censor Certificate, so I dont know about the rating of the film). Having said this, this film tells the story of the murder very interestingly and keeps the audience hooked throughout. It was very surprising to see lots of lady audience for a film like this on second day at Thiruvananthapuram Anjali theatre. That is indeed a great sign. Lets get to the review now.
The movie is about the first rape-murder case that was registered during the jurisdiction of the first elected cabinet in the Government of Kerala, in 1957. Haridas (Mammootty), a private detective, gets an instinctive feeling to investigate this 52 year old onsolved mystery and solve the mystery behind it. Later it is revealed that he also had a personal reason for the investigation of the case, which was as old as him. Manikyam (Mythili) was the bride of the village idiot Pokkan, who was the son of one of Palery's most desired women, Cheeru (Shwetha Menon). The morning after the whole village leaves to see a brand new drama in the town and Pokkan leaves along with a magician to perform some rituals, Manikyam is found dead in Cheeru's house. An investigation follows when Manikyam's brother finds out that she had been murdered. But the case does not reach anywhere, even though the whole town thinks that the rich landlord Ahmed Haji (Mammootty again) is behind the murder. Haridas travels through Palery finding out more and more about the story of the murder, which had become a legend in the town, 50 years later. He is assisted by his girlfriend Sarayu (Gauri Mangal). Haridas' findings form the rest of the story.
Ranjith begins the movie by showing visuals of a rape attempt and a child being born and cuts to Mammootty as Haridas, who begins his narration saying that the child was none other than himself. The whole background of the Palery Manikyam case is established through Haridas' narration, which is addressed directly to the audience. I found that a little putting off first, but it became better and I got used to it as the movie progressed. Ranjith has used a different writer's story for the first time in his career. TP Rajeevan had written this story as a novel which was serialized for a popular weekly earlier. Ranjith writes his own screenplay keeping that story as the base. As I have not read the novel, I do not know whether Ranjith has done justice to the novel or not. But his screenplay works big time and the unraveling of each mystery is done very interestingly keeping the audience hooked throughout the movie. The characterizations of many key characters are really good. Ranjith had conducted an extensive workshop to select actors playing various important roles in the movie. Except 3 of them, most of them disappoint with no expressions, poor dialogue delivery and out-of-sync dubbing. But this hasnt affected the impact of the movie thankfully because the content is very interesting. Even though the acting might be bad, the dialogues by some of these people were written very well. And as far as the others in the cast are concerned, Ranjith has been successful in extracting good performances from most of them. Dialogues are one of the most interesting parts of the film. The film is full of brilliant dialogues, delivered by various characters ranging from random villagers to the characters played by Mammootty. The film also criticizes both the Communist and Congress parties for their hypocritical ideologies and presents the political situation of Kerala in the 50s very subtly, without deviating from the main story. In fact, it only adds more value to the main story and works as a good backdrop for the turn of events. I want to discuss some more really good aspects of the characterizations by Ranjith, but since that would give away the plot, I am forced to stop myself.
The role of Haridas is a cakewalk for an actor like Mammootty. He plays a character quie close to his age, after a long time. Haridas is a 52 year old, even though he never looks like one throughout the movie, thanks to Mammootty's suave looks (People who say superstars never play their age can shut up now). There is nothing special about Mammootty's performance as Haridas. It is a role which he can sleepwalk through. Haridas has a girlfriend, Sarayu who travels along with him as his companion when both their respectives spouses are in some other place. Gauri Mangal as Sarayu gives a disastrous performance. She cannot emote at all. I wish Ranjith had selected a better person for that good role. Mythili as Manikyam has very few scenes even though the movie revolves around her character. She is decent in the few scenes she has and those scenes haunt us throughout the movie. The newcomer who played her husband, the demented Pokkan, was really good and is one of the few who has been a valuable find from the acting workshop. Shwetha Menon is very sensuous as the younger Cheeru and gives a really good performance during both the younger and older versions of Cheeru. Sreenivasan as an old barber is very effective. He has one of the film's most quotable dialogues as well. It was great to see Sreenivasan playing a full-on serious character without any kind of humour or sarcasm involved. The newcomer who played the younger version of Sreenivasan was excellent. He has a striking resemblance with the veteran actor and a good screen presence as well. He is probably the best among the newcomers in the movie. The veteran screenwriter T Damodaran plays the communist Hamsa with perfection. Siddique, in a short role is extremely natural, as is expected out of him. But it is again Mammootty who gives the most effective performance in the film as the other character Ahmed Haji. He has played very few characters with negative shades in his long career. So it is exciting whenever he takes up such a role. And he gives a strong performance in that role, making you hate that character as much as possible, successfully. He delivers some great dialogues as both Haridas and Ahmed Haji. Those who missed his firebrand dialogue delivery in Pazhaasiraja would be happy hearing them. (But his dialogues in English are pretty bad. It just does not seem that he is casually speaking the language). Watch out for him in the scenes depicting his cruel and lecherous behaviour, he shows us why he is considered one of the best actors we have. Ahmed Haji is yet another brilliant performance from the actor. But it is in the climax portion that his performance as one of the characters disappoints us. Ranjith should have handled that particular scene in a more effective way. After a consistently great performance throughout the movie in his different roles, Mammootty lets us down a little in the climax sequence.
There is one song in the title sequence by Sharat and a short ghazal sung by Hariharan towards the end. The title song is sure to haunt you much after the film gets over. It keeps playing at crucial points in the film either as the song or background score and strengthen the impact of those scenes. Background score by Bijibal is effective in some places and lets us down in some other places. Cinematography by Manoj Pillai is excellent and this film would probably be his best work till date. He captures Palery in two different moods differentiating between the past and the present. The locations showcased in the movie are really good. The night shots are also done well, revealing certain things and not revealing some other things. Editing by Vijai Shankar could have been better. Art direction, costumes and make-up are really good and capture the essence of the bygone years quite effectively.
On the whole, Palery Manikyam: Oru Pathirakkolapathakathinte Katha is a very intriguing watch. It might not be liked by the common mass audience. But for people who like watching interesting stories and ideas and good cinema, without the trappings of usual commercial cinema, this film would be very interesting. Ranjith is slowly turning into a new-age Padmarajan of sorts. He is trying bold, mature and different themes (Thirakkatha, Kaiyyoppu) and daring experiments (Kerala Cafe) and his storytelling skill is intact in this new movie also. It is interesting to note that Ranjith has always given author-backed serious characters to Mammootty and larger than life characters to Mohanlal. He was never really successful in creating larger than life characters for Mammootty (Prajapathi, Valyettan, Nazrani, Black). And whenever he has tried to do something different with Mohanlal, the movies have flopped (Chandrolsavam, Rock n Roll, Mayamayooram). But I'm sure he will be able to be successful soon in creating much more greater roles which would work very well for both the superstars.
Coming back to the movie, it may not suitable for children as it handles an adult theme based on sex and rape and has certain scenes which may not be suitable for children to watch, even though they are done very aesthetically and effectively. Those scenes and certain dialogues (including abuses) are the crucial parts of the movie and cannot be avoided at all. Mammootty gives fine performances in his different roles. It is great to have the actor in him back through movies like Loudspeaker, Pazhassiraja, Kerala Cafe and this one now after a series of duds. Ranjith has delivered an intriguing film with a minor hiccup in the climax (not that it was bad, just that it didnt rise up to the standard set by the rest of the movie).
The movie has taken a good opening and it was great to see all kinds of people, including a lot of ladies, watching the movie on second day. With the help of some good marketing, this movie should end up being a success. 2009 has been a year of promise for Malayalam Cinema where a lot of great movies have come out. We have one more movie which has generated tremendous hype, Ividam Swargamanu, releasing in the coming weeks. Gulumaal, this weeks other release is also getting a lot of positive response and doing very well. Looks like this December is a good time for Malayalam movie lovers. Thank you Ranjith Sir for giving us yet another great movie soon after giving us the amazing Kerala Cafe. You are making Malayalam Cinema proud!! :) :)
Rating - 4/5