Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala is a humorous portrayal of a rather grim tale of an irresponsible husband and his neglected family. It revolves around Vijayan (Sreenivasan), a village school master, a graduate in Economics, who believes that his degree in Economics is sufficient for him to succeed in the various business ventures he undertakes. He quits his job to pursue other career avenues, but fails at all. Meanwhile, his wife Shyamala (Sangeetha) struggles to keep their household running as Vijayan spends more than he earns.
As a last resort to reform Vijayan, Vidya's father (Innocent) and father-in-law (Thilakan), both ex-servicemen, suggest that Vijayan make a pilgrimage to the temple at Sabarimala. Despite his initial protests, Vijayan makes his pilgrimage, undertaking the customary forty one-day fasting and abstinence. But the plans turn out to be a complete waste, as Vijayan returns with an obsession to become a sanyasi, the other extreme!
Vijayan embraces vegetarianism and adopts a life of prayer, frugality and abstinence, eventually forsaking his debt-ridden family for a life at an ashram. Ashram for him is a place where he can escape from daily responsibilities and work. Anyway, Vinayan's ashram life does not go well with the other inmates. He returns home to discover his family now reasonably well-off from a small business his wife started soon after he left.
Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala was Sreenivasan's second directorial effort; winning critical and commercial success, it further established his position in Malayalam Cinema as a gifted comedian and screenwriter. The film won the award for Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value for 1998.