Noted Malayalam poet Thachom Poyil Rajeevan's first novel Paleri Manikkyam, based on the case of Manikkyam, a 20-year-old woman killed in 1957, is being made into a film to be directed by Ranjith. The novel was originally in English. Its Malayalam version, translated by the author, was published last year in a weekly.
The novel was written on the basis of biographical notes, rumours, confessions, police documents and court proceedings. The Manikkyam murder was the first case to be registered in which a woman was tortured to death by another woman. The case was heard and the verdict proclaimed by the first lady judge of Kerala, Anna Chandy.
The protagonist of the novel is a crime investigator who reaches the village, Paleri, nearly five decades after the murder was committed on March 30, 1957. He meets the custodian of crime records at the police department and finds that Manikkyam was killed barely two weeks after her marriage with Pokkan. When the village magistrate reached the spot, her mother-in-law Cheeru, who was the only person at home at the time of the death, said that Manikkyam was epileptic and had died of an epileptic stroke. She gave the same version to the police. But neighbours gave a different version, saying the death was unnatural.
It was said that the body was actually found hanging from a mango tree just behind the house and brought down before the arrival of the police. According to eyewitnesses, there were some wounds, marks and stains on the body. Manikkyam"s father and brother also told the police they firmly believed that it was a clear case of murder. After the inquest, the police sent the body for post-mortem examination.
Further examination of the crime records shows that there was no consistency in the statements of the witnesses or accused. In each questioning, they changed statements. Thus, those who were culprits one day became witnesses the next day. The first information report (FIR) was also changed several times. The court acquitted all the accused in the case.