The hype surrounding a film like Mamangam needs no introduction. The movie, which has the magnificent Mammootty as the main lead, has come in as the biggest-ever motion picture in the history of Malayalam cinema. Historical movies aren't that common but we have had some brilliant films in the past, which are still considered to be classics. Has Mamangam joined that league? Did the film live up to the expectations? Read our take on Mamangam to get a broader picture regarding all these.
Mamangam's tale is set in the late 17th century and the movie takes us through the story of the members of Chandothu Tharavadu, who had vouched to overthrow the Zamorin King during the Mamangam festival, which happens once in every 12 years.
Script & Direction
First thing first, as the director M Padmakumar mentioned in an interview, Mamangam is not a Baahubali and it is a film with the right mix of class and mass elements, with the former ruling the roost.
When it comes to films based on real incidents and history, there are limitations as far as cinematic liberties are concerned. The best part of Mamangam's screenplay is that the commercial elements are well within those expectations. They have not tried to take things overboard for the sake of heroism or mass moments. They don't claim it to be accurate (mentioned in the disclaimer) but still, the movie doesn't wander away much from the believability aspect. This makes Mamangam special and unique from the historical movies that Indian cinema has seen in recent times. The script also conveys the history behind Mamangam and the reason for the rivalry that led to bloodshed every 12 years.
In such tales, the emotional factor helps in building the intensity and Mamangam follows a similar suite. Initially, there are a few portions, which fail to hit the emotional chord despite trying much. But going forward, M Padmakumar has pulled the film on to the right track and thus, building the right intensity for the climax. The director has handled some of the sequences in a pretty interesting way. Like for instance, when the backstory of Chandroth Valiya Panicker's wife and son are narrated, they are merely through dialogues but still, it hits hard. At the same time, there are a few places where the over-dependance on dialogues backfire as it fails to give clarity about the proceedings.
Mamangam has a lot of surprises in store as far as the narrative is concerned. Some of the surprises may not be in line with the humungous expectations that mass movie lovers may have placed on the movie. Nevertheless, such attempts look pretty brave and refreshing on screen.
The investigative approach that the movie follows, through which the real story is unearthed, is pretty interesting. The build-up given to the protagonist's entry is also smashing and out-of-the-box. Interestingly, there isn't any overburden on the hero of becoming a complete saviour in all situations. The protagonist has his limitations with his own set of conflicts.
Moreover, Mamangam also keeps us guessing how the climax would turn out to be. That unpredictability about how the story is going to end is something that makes the film special. The director has served an answer to the curiosity in the most appropriate way and thus conveying what the movie has to tell. The message that Mamangam gives out in a nutshell, about bloodshed and revenge, is also one among the major takeaways.
Mammootty is just splendid as Chandroth Valiya Panicker, the warrior beyond comparisons. Once again, he steals the show in a historical character, giving everything that is required for perfection. Watch out for his performance as the character with a feminine touch, he does it excellently without going overboard. There is a scene in the film where he narrates the tale of an event that happened during their sojourn to the festival and the sacrifices of their men. The voice modulation is splendid and the metering of the dialogues is matchless. Unni Mukundan too is good in the action sequences and does justice to his role. The young kid, Achuthan is a revelation and makes a huge impact. Siddique impresses as the villain. Among the leading ladies, Prachi Tehlan is convincing in her role and the dubbing is also good. Kaviyoor Poonama and Valsala, who have brief on-screen time, put their experience to play by lifting those scenes with their strong performances. Kaniha somewhat looks like a misfit with the dubbing adding to the woes. Manikuttan is the surprise package and is excellent in the second half. Sudev Nair and Suresh Krishna's roles are poorly written.
M Jayachandran's songs are good and the surprise song sung by KJ Yesudas is the best among the lot. BGM works are solid but still, some of the scores for the war sequences could have been better. Editing is pretty good, especially in the parts used in non-linear narration. But, there are times when it feels like a few shots are used repeatedly. The action sequences are good, especially the stunts at the beginning as well as the pre-climax and climax.
Mamangam lives up to the hype and is a film, which throws light on the Mamangam festival and the story of an epic rivalry. It is one such movie that wins big time in narrating the tale to the audiences in a convincing way.