‘Manjummel Boys’ movie review: Chidambaram pulls off an immaculately-crafted survival thriller

A scene from ‘Manjummel Boys’

A scene fromManjummel Boys’

Nothing exists without a reason in Chidambaram’s sophomore film Manjummel Boys, not even the habit of one character to scream loudly whenever he is excited, causing much irritation to those around him. Or, even a tug-of-war competition that the hot-headed principals indulge in, quite early on in the film. Each of these elements comes back into the picture, when you least expect it, delivering satisfying pay offs.

With his debut Jan-E-Man, Chidambaram proved what he is capable of, deftly balancing the tonal shifts from the humorous to the morbid. In Manjummel Boys, inspired from a real-life incident, he is not required to do such balancing acts, but no less are the challenges. Especially so when the audience is aware of how the events will turn out in the end. Yet, it is quite a feat that we are kept invested in the story all through.

Things take off rather casually in Manjummel Boys, with the gang having fun as uninvited guests at a wedding party and getting into tiffs with a rival gang. The easygoing mood is maintained right till the moment one of them falls into a ravine. But, by this time, a good number of the eleven friends get registered in our head, thanks to the standout traits written for them. This connection proves vital in the latter half of the film, which rests on the emotional pull of the bond they share with each other.

Manjummel Boys (Malayalam)

Director: Chidambaram

Cast: Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi, Balu Varghese, Ganapathi, Jean Paul Lal, Chandu Salimkumar, Deepak Parambol, Abhiram Radhakrishnan, Arun Kurien, Khalid Rahman

Run-time: 135 minutes

Storyline: A group of eleven friends head to Kodaikanal for a trip, but things unexpectedly go wrong when one of them falls into a ravine

Though the survival thriller part of it brings back memories of Bharathan’s Malootty, this one takes a different path by tying the events closely to their friendship. As one of them lies precariously perched on the edge of a rock, unseen to the anxious friends peering down from the top of the ravine, the scene cuts to their childhood, to a hide-and-seek game and of them swimming in a river. These are not just random memories; the actions of the little ones back then inform the events in the present, in their hour of crisis.

Ajayan Chalissery’s production design, especially of the bat-filled ravine where much of the action takes place and Shyju Khalid’s visuals of the rescue, combined with Sushin Shyam’s immersive but understated background score, give one the feeling of being there at that point of time. But, at a key moment, Sushin takes a step back, and lets Ilayaraja’s classic ‘Kanmani Anbodu Kathalan’ from Gunaa take the centre-stage. That sequence, which also works as a tribute, is so elegantly pulled off that it almost manages to rewrite the memory of the scene in the original starring Kamal Haasan.

The references to the original event in the epilogue, with snapshots of the real people involved, adds to the impact of the film. The casting really does play a part in the success of the film, as most of them deliver exactly what was required. With Manjummel Boys, Chidambaram pulls off an immaculately-crafted survival thriller. Clearly, he is here to stay.

Manjummel Boys is currently playing in theatres

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