Despite being hugely successful at box-office and critically acclaimed ,its still difficult for movies to please all audiences equally. Some viewers don't like action movies, some don't like the comedies if they go over the top even slightly and some just cant stand the heartbreaking tearjerkers. A fine case of an exception , a movie that is perhaps loved by almost everyone who has watched it once ,would be Fazil's 1993 epic masterpiece - Manichitrathazhu.
Madhu Muttam's script with a theme that was very unusual in 1993 but still looks fresh and relevant even today (for that matter it may ,even after few years too) was the pivot around which the entire movie revolved. A whole lot of scenes still keep you glued to your seats - when Mohanlal talks for the first time to Nagavalli asking her intentions, when he reveals to Suresh Gopi about Shobhana's multiple personality disorder , when Thilakan meets Mohanlal and tries to recollect who he is and their subsequent conversation on how to cure Shobhana , the intriguing climax and above all the legendary scene where Sobhana's alternate personality is revealed when Suresh Gopi denies her to go outside.
Fazil was so confident of the product in his hands that even as the movie just released , he used to mention in his interviews that Manichitrataazhu would win 3 national awards - The best popular movie , best actress for shobhana and best actor for Suresh Gopi. Except for the best actor award, it did win the other two ! Fazil realized the enormous potential of the script beforehand and lined up the best team available for the movie. Front-line filmmakers- Priyadarsan, Sibi Malayil, Siddique-Lal donned the assistant director roles. From top leading actors -Mohanlal, SureshGopi to Shobana to the immensely versatile veterans - Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu and Innocent ,all were part of the huge cast. M.G Radhakrishnan's songs and Johnson Master's background score added further class and grandeur to the classic. Venu's cinematography was top notch. Mohanlal as always added his charm and energy to the comedy scenes as the playful and mischievous stranger in the house and when things turn serious towards the end, his transformation to the calm and brilliant Psychiatrist was riveting. Suresh Gopi had limited screen-space but excelled whenever he got a chance.
To completely steal the limelight in a movie that featured two Superstars is not a simple task for an actress but that's exactly what Shobana achieved in Manichitrathaazhu. It's no wonder that Fazil rightly predicted that Shobana would win the National award having been behind the camera and watched directly her stunning act in the 'Vidamatte' scene and the climax. Well I guess if National awards were announced once in 5 years, she might have still won it ! Shobana sent chills down our spines when she lashed out her alter ego during that terrific scene when Suresh Gopi asks her not to go for shopping .Her face turns menacing ,she points her finger at Suresh Gopi, starts shouting in Tamil and with other hand , lifts a wooden bed ! If you have the slightest apprehension that it is not absolutely great acting , just place it along with the performances of other actresses when Manichitrathazhu was remade to other languages and you will be entirely convinced. Jyothika , Soundarya and especially Vidya Balan are all fabulous actresses but it is also a fact that they could not match up to the vigor, verve and ferocity that Shobana's Nagavalli displayed.
Manichitrathazhu broke a number of box-office records and won a lot of major awards but even more fascinating is that how it also holds very high TRP ratings every time its screened in television over the years.A friend from Chennai once told me that the only one Malayalam movie he watched was Manichitrathazhu and he was really thrilled about the great movie experience. He then wanted me to recommend few similar Malayalam movies like Manichitrathazhu. Well I had to pause and think really hard. Movies that come close to Manichitrathazhu .. that's indeed a rarity !