It has been quite some time since a movie of this kind has hit our screens. ‘Munnariyippu’ is not a movie that tells you the story from start to finish. It makes the viewers think, and that too at different levels, perhaps for several days after they watch it. In a way, that is the biggest scoring point of this movie, packaged as a suspense thriller. We rarely get to watch movies that force cerebral contemplations in malayalam. Even if they do, not many of them are commercially successful that many of us get to watch. 'Munnariyippu' directed and filmed by Venu is scripted by R Unni based on a story line by Venu. It is edited by Beena Paul, who highlights the uniqueness of the narrative. The success of this movie dispels the usual notions about such movies that are often regarded or discarded by the viewing public as 'award' movies. It proves the point that any work of art, crafted with skill, simplicity and sincerity in a way that does not challenge viewers' intelligence but demands their involvement and attention while stimulating their thinking will be accepted by all.
The movie explores the interactions of a budding freelance journalist Anjali Arakkal (Aparna Gopinath) with a life-time convict CK Raghavan (Mammootty) who continues to live in the jail even after completing his prison term. She happens to come across Raghavan while undertaking a ghost writing assignment for a Jail Superintendent of Kerala Police, Rama Moorthy (Nedumudi Venu). Raghavan’s life imprisonment is due to a double murder which he was accused of – murder of his wife Ramani and a Gujarathi girl by name Pooja (Raghavan was then working as Pooja’s father’s driver) despite his claims of innocence. He does not want to leave his prison cell, but Anjali manages to free him from the prison but only to take him to another 'cell', hoping to write a book on him. Raghavan agrees to share his past to Anjali, but dithers on his promise. Life turns tense for Anjali, when deadlines from the corporate publisher who she had contracted with for writing the book start staring at her. The climax has an unexpected turn that takes the movie to a different level, which undoubtedly is the high point of the movie.
Keeping the story at one plane, the movie takes us to a different level dwelling on the philosophical and psychological dimensions of life, taking it to an altogether different level of experience. In a way, the movie portrays an intense psychological battle between two persons – one who silently refuses to disclose his secrets to the outside world and the other who aggressively wants to expose it in the name of pursuit of truth. This battle is very sensitively captured by R Unni and ably transformed into a marvel by Venu, in his second directorial venture after ‘Daya’ (1998). There are no dramatic performances in this movie that electrify you, no emotional overtones that submerge you, or no intense conversations that arrest you. It slowly and subtly conveys to us the intensity of this battle with ease. It defines what freedom means to a person, how and when that person experiences it and what that person does when his or her freedom is violated.
Venu (director and cinematographer), R Unni (script & dialogue writer) and Bina Paul (editor) have elevated this simple but poignant story to a film of substance. Music by Bijibal accompanies each frame of the movie smoothly, without any intrusion. The visual tone of the frames backed up by deft editing and enabling music set the overall mood of the movie. Mammootty has turned out yet another classy performance, by enacting Raghavan's role in a subdued and restrained but memorable performance. Aparna Gopinath stood equal to the task by putting up a sterling performance as Anjali, an able match for Mammootty's Raghavan. Prithviraj does a cameo in a short but sweet role as Anjali’s prospective bride-groom. Others including Nedumudi Venu, Prathap Pothan, VK Sreeraman, Joy Mathew, Renji Panicker and Saiju kurup all did well in their roles.
Munnariyippu is a demanding movie, demanding your total attention, your thinking and your involvement. And in that process, it elevates itself to a high pedestal as a movie of substance.