Manichithrathazhu, one of the most popular Malayalam films ever made, this year marks 25 years since its release. The psychological thriller, set against the backdrop of an old house called Madampally, starred Shobana, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, along with a large star cast.
After a stellar run at the box office (the movie broke many records and, according to various news reports, earned around Rs 7 crore), the movie still lives on in popular imagination—it has been remade in various languages (Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Hindi, Chandramukhi in Tamil) and is shown on TV at least once a month, if not more times.
Actress and dancer Shobana, whose performance in the movie won her multiple awards including the National Award for Best Actress in 1993, said it felt fabulous that the film is still appreciated by fans.
“It’s great that even after all these years the film is not forgotten and in fact appreciated more... It really feels fabulous and I’m sure all the other artists, director and technicians would also feel the same. My respect and love all of them,” she wrote on Facebook last week.
Shobana’s Ganga/Nagavalli is still held up as a model of great acting, and some scenes in the movie can still send a chill down the viewer’s spine.
In an interview with Scroll, director Fazil credited “terrific team work” for the film’s continuing success.
“All those years ago, when I first saw what we had made, my first impression was that this movie has everything that cinema needs – drama, comedy, music and a terrific climax. I had a feeling it would succeed, but it went beyond my expectations.
Today, 25 years later, the reason Manichitrathazhu is still standing is because everything came together to make the film happen. The casting, locations, costumes, music – everything was 100% perfect. All of Manichitrathazhu was about terrific team work,” he said.
Dr Sreedhar Sreeram, who played Nagavalli’s lover Ramanathan, has said still gets phone calls when the film plays on TV. Sreeram’s dance routine with Shobana in the iconic song “Oru Murai Vanthu Parthaya”, is one of the most well-choreographed songs in Malayalam cinema.
“Though I acted in around 65 Kannada movies as the main protagonist or in supporting role, Ramanathan is still my unforgettable character. The dance routine between Ramanathan and Nagavalli is the most beautiful choreography ever seen in Malayalam cinema,” Sreeram told Malayala Manorama.
In 2003, Mohanlal listed the film as one of those closest to his heart. His character, psychiatrist Sunny Joseph, enters the movie only near the interval, but it is still remembered as one of his finest performances. “Manichitrathazhu is one of those films that do not get made often. Even today, when it is shown on television, people call me up and talk about it passionately,” he said.
The film’s many remakes, any Malayali will aver, never quite managed to capture the haunting magic of the original. If you have never watched the movie and want to see what the fuss is about, it’s available on Hotstar.