When I first saw the trailer of Munnariyippu on social media, what immediately piqued my interest was the fact that the main protagonist played by Mammooty stating that he hadn’t killed anybody, despite the fact that he was serving a jail term for double homicide for murdering two women. Now, for somebody who had been found guilty of a crime and was serving time for that to make a statement like that meant that the movie had to be interesting. And my gut instinct served me well when I managed to watch this movie almost immediately after it hit theatres in Bangalore.
The movie starts off with Anjali Arakkal (portrayed well by Aparna Gopinath), a struggling freelance journalist who makes ends meet by ghost-writing articles and autobiographies being put in touch with Jail Superintendent Ramamoorthy who wants her to ghost write his autobiography. A chance encounter with CK Raghavan (Mammooty) at the superintendent’s office goes on to increase her interest in the prisoner and his story and pretty soon she finds herself doing an article for a leading national English magazine on Raghavan and his writings.
The article becomes a hit and soon Anjali is commissioned by a literary agent and a leading publisher to write a book with Raghavan’s story where he can unravel the truth behind his claims that he hadn’t killed anybody despite the fact that the court had found him guilty of double homicide and he had served more than twenty years of prison time for the crimes. Given that Raghavan had completed his prison sentence and could be released at any time of his choice, Anjali manages to get him released and tasks him with writing his story.
What Raghavan’s story is and whether Anjali manages to get him to pen down the same forms the rest of the movie. Suffice to say that this movie does not have the usual smattering of ‘masala’ and commercial elements, nor does it hanker to public perceptions of Mammooty’s image as the ‘mega star’ of Malayalam cinema.
This movie is made in the style of ‘classical Malayalam movies of the 1980s’ where scripts and plots ruled the roost with the actors actually playing roles that suited the story rather than pandered to their image as stars and superstars. And given this limitation, what Mammooty has done with this role is amazing. I honestly cannot think of anybody who could have done justice to this role than this giant of an actor.
This movie moves along at a slow, deliberate, meandering pace and at times tests the audience’s patience when it does not seem to be moving forward at all. But one needs to soak in the atmosphere, the setting the movie creates and slowly try to get into the mind of Raghavan to try and figure out where the movie is heading. And this, to me, contributes to how good the movie really is. The director takes his own sweet time in letting the tension build up gradually without forcing it on the audience. And Mammotty, playing the role of a lifetime, in my opinion, uses the script to the hilt and delivers well.
The last two minutes of the movie takes the cake and for sure, will leave all viewers stunned. I am more than sure that nobody can even guess the climax in any form or fashion and will surely be discussed by anybody who walks out of the theatre. And that, to me, is where the movie scores really high.
Don’t miss this movie if you are a connoisseur of good cinema and a fan of well-made movies.
Some quotes from reviews of this movie in national dailies
SR Praveen of The Hindu – “Munnariyippu, with its skeletal approach, delivers a thumping jolt to the viewer and reclaims the actor who was lost in the jungle of superstardom. One ends up wishing for a little more detail in places but at the same time it looks like holding everything back worked in the end.”
Aswin J Kumar of The Times of India – “It feels good to watch Mammootty in Munnariyippu. It’s as though the waxy glow on his face has melted away revealing a face that looks so human and so earthy.”