Manjummel Boys Movie Review: What's God? Is God some light that comes from the sky to bless the devotees, as Khalid Rahman's character tells Sreenath Bhasi's non-believer in a scene from Manjummel Boys? Or is God the innate humanity and goodness of heart inspiring individuals to perform superhuman feats in the face of adversity? Perhaps God is the embodiment of resilience, emerging as a survivor against all odds—a true miracle. The many answers to the spiritual question continued to linger in my agnostic mind as I was done with Chidambaran's immensely captivating sophomore film, Manjummel BoysManjummel Boys Review: Soubin Shahir and Sreenath Bhasi’s Film Is an ‘Absolute Triumph’; Director Chidambaram’s Survival Drama Leaves Audience Impressed.

The Guna Tribute

Based on an incredible true story that happened in 2006, Manjummel Boys is about a life-altering experience for a group of friends from Manjummel, a town near Kochi, during their trip to Kodaikanal. One of their places of visit was the Guna Cave, famously featured in Kamal Haasan's 1991 film Guna, that is also the location for the lovely Ilayaraja composition "Kanmani Anbodu". It is incredulous to think how this film - a survival thriller made in Malayalam - ends up being such an astounding ode to this evergreen Tamil song. Not satisfied with just placing the track in the opening credits or using the film's location as the central setting, Chidambaram also drops the song in Manjummel Boys' most affecting moment, and I just can't describe what an incredible effect it creates with that needle-drop!

Watch the Trailer of Manjummel Boys:

Ah, returning to the plot, our Manjummel boys go to the Guna Caves, where they venture into the forbidden region where the film is actually shot. What they don't know is that Guna cave also has another name among the locals there, 'Devil's Kitchen', and it is too late for them to learn why it's called so.  Disaster strikes when one of the friends, Subhash (Sreenath Bhasi), falls into what is deemed to be a bottomless pit. Despite the locals and the cops telling them that he is a lost cause (thanks to the hole's checkered history), his friends persist in their hope of rescuing him, and what happens next forms some of the most thrilling moments I have seen on the big screen in recent times.

Ye Dosti...

Genre-wise, while Manjummel Boys departs from Chidambaram's debut film, Jan.e.Man, a whimsical dramedy with great rewatch value, they share a common theme - celebrating humanity through the bonds of kinship. A recognising trait when it comes to an accomplished storyteller is how he or she doesn't need to underline everything to make a point. Just see how Chidambaram establishes the camaraderie within the group.

A Scene From Manjummel Boys

There is a very realistic vibe given to how these friends interact with each other, and I found myself reminiscing about my own gang trips in the first half of the movie (thankfully, there was no tragedy to bookend those journeys). The protagonists don't have major backstories, and you won't even remember all their names, yet I could easily relate to every one of them. Including the lad, who was the most traumatised by the disaster and had to sit out of the rescue efforts, though he also plays a crucial part later on. There were no celebratory songs and effusive drama used to 'add depth' to the bonhomie. By underplaying the amity aspect, the film then uses the card at the right opportunity to create a stirring impact, a minor example being the scene where some of the boys desperately try to stop rainwater from falling into the pit.

A Well-Made Survival Thriller

Manjummel Boys doesn't ignore the conventions of the genre, but how the film works around those conventions is where it leaves a mark. For example, just observe the scene when the tragedy befalls the group. It is a moment you know is coming, and any other filmmaker would have created a buildup around it either with a suspenseful background score or through tense frames. But Chidambaram surprises you here by making the fall happen at the most unexpected moment, even when you are on an alert anticipating the same.

A Scene From Manjummel Boys

Even the 'predictable' tropes are used in a very effective manner. In the first act, the protagonists are shown failing at a tug-of-war competition, and you know that this would be used as a Chekhov's Gun later on. This is exactly what happens, and yet you won't be patting your back for guessing it right; instead, you, like me, would find yourself at the edge of your seat cheering on the boys.

Police Police

A slight issue I had with the film is how Manjummel Boys treats the police shown in the movie. Not a pacing issue as such, but the uncooperative nature of the cops felt antagonistic for the sake of it. I am not sure if that's the experience that the real Manjummel Boys also faced, and it's not a major contrivance since their abrasive nature adds to the tension in the proceedings. However, I can't help but observe that recently, in Malayalam Cinema, the police forces in other states have not always been painted in a fair light, so it has almost become a caricature of sorts. Thankfully, the film makes it easy to look beyond this pitfall.

A Nail-Biting Third Act

Unpredictably, it is the final half an hour or so when Manjummel Boys is at its most intense and gripping. These are the moments where the film's driving factors - the direction, the cinematography (Shyju Khalid), the editing ( Vivek Harshan), the background score (Sushin Shyam) and the actors - that were working together in utmost cohesion till then began to bear the fruits of that collaboration to create a totally nail-biting experience for the viewer. Plaudits must also be sung for the incredible production design (Ajayan Chalissery) in creating that harrowing cave experience.

What a Cast!

And there are the actors. It would be unfair to single out any of them since all play their parts to the right measure. However, Soubin Shahir and Sreenath Bhasi do get to stand out because of how the movie has to make room for them to work out in a separate space. That said, Balu Varghese, Ganapathi S Poduval (also the casting director, kudos there!), Jean-Paul Lal, Deepak Parambol, Abhiram Radhakrishnan, Arun Kurian, Khalid Rahman, Chandu Salimkumar, and Vishnu Reghu manage to leave a mark whenever needed. Jean-Paul Lal (Driving License) and Khalid Rahman (Thallumala) are established directors, so it was fascinating to see more of their acting side here.

A Scene From Manjummel Boys

PS - Malayalam Cinema is presently going through some exciting times, and movies like Manjummel Boys (and last week's Bramayugam), are precisely the reason why. When some of the Indian cinema industries are busy churning out propaganda after propaganda and brainwashing their audience, it is heartening to see Malayalam filmmakers using their craft to create some very meaningful cinema and earning the epithet of being the best in the country. Hope the momentum never stops here... Bramayugam Movie Review: Mammootty Terrifies With Sinister Brilliance in Rahul Sadasivan's Spellbinding Horror-Fantasy.

Final Thoughts on Manjummel Boys

With tight treatment, fine-tuned performances, and technical brilliance, Manjummel Boys is a testament to Chidambaran's admirable prowess as a filmmaker and a storyteller. Each element, from direction to acting, converges to create a nail-biting and immersive journey that also doubles up as a triumphant celebration of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit. Do not miss this!


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 23, 2024 11:41 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website