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Featuring Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, with Fazil holding to a camera at the bottom
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFazil
Produced bySwargachitra Appachan
Written byMadhu Muttam
Music by
Edited byT. R. Shekar
Distributed bySwargachitra
Release date
  • 23 December 1993 (1993-12-23)
Running time
169 minutes
Budget3.5 million
Box office35 million

Manichitrathazhu (transl. The Ornate Lock) is a 1993 Indian Malayalam-language horror psychological thriller film directed by Fazil, written by Madhu Muttam, and produced by Swargachitra Appachan.[1][2] The story is inspired by a tragedy that happened in the Alummoottil tharavad, a central Travancore family, in the 19th century.[3] The film stars Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Shobana with Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Vinaya Prasad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Sridhar, K. B. Ganesh Kumar, Sudheesh, and Thilakan in supporting roles.

Directors Priyadarshan, Siddique-Lal, and Sibi Malayil served as the second-unit directors.[4] The cinematography was by Venu, and Anandakuttan and Sunny Joseph served as the second-unit cinematographers, the film was edited by T. R. Shekar. The original songs featured in the movie were composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan, while the original score was composed by Johnson. The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and Shobhana was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ganga / Nagavalli.

The film dealt with an unusual theme which was not common in Indian cinema at the time.[5] The film completed 319 days of run in 1 releasing theatre. Manichitrathazhu was remade in four languages – in Kannada as Apthamitra, in Tamil as Chandramukhi, in Bengali as Rajmohol and in Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiyaa – all being commercially successful. Geethaanjali, a spin-off directed by Priyadarshan and Mohanlal reprising the role of Dr. Sunny Joseph was made in 2013.


A young couple, Ganga and Nakulan, arrives at Nakulan's tharavadu, Madampalli. Hailing from a traditional family that believes in superstitions, Nakulan's uncles Thampi and Unnithan object to the couple's idea of moving into a mansion that is believed to be haunted, which Nakulan ignores. The couple moves in, following which seemingly supernatural events occur.

The mansion was occupied decades ago by Sankaran Thampi Karanavar, a feudal lord of the province and the then-head of the family. In his heyday, he had brought in a dancer girl, Nagavalli, from Tamil Nadu as his concubine. But she was already in love with a man named Ramanathan, a dancer who came along with her secretly and settled in the cottage next to the mansion. Learning of their affair and their plan to elope, Thampi murders Nagavalli in her room. Legend has it that on the eighth day of Navaratri, on Durgashtami night, Nagavalli returned as a spirit for the murderous Karanavar, but he escaped upon chanting some mantras. With the assistance of sorcerers from Aalappara, her spirit was locked in the thekkini, the southernmost portion of the mansion by placing a talisman over the lock. Later, the Karanavar committed suicide and his spirit was locked up beside the same room, by means of an ornate enchanted lock called a manichitrathazhu.

In the present-day, a curious Ganga manages to unlock the thekkini, only to find paintings of the Karanavar and Nagavalli, and ancient valuables such as jewellery and musical instruments. Upon learning about the unlocking of the thekkini and fearing that the spirits are on the loose, Thampi and family move into the mansion to try and re-seal the thekkini lock, while also looking out for Nakulan and Ganga. Apparitions of a woman are witnessed around the mansion, along with paranormal attacks on people at the mansion, including Ganga and Unnithan's daughter Alli. Nakulan, refusing to believe the supernatural explanations to the odd events, suspects Thampi's daughter Sreedevi of orchestrating the incidents. Hearing about his suspicion, Thampi and family fear that Sreedevi might be possessed by Nagavalli's spirit.

Sreedevi, as Nakulan's cousin, according to tradition, was to be married to him; however, after finding that Sreedevi had an ominous horoscope, Nakulan's mother withdrew from the proposal, and got Nakulan married to Ganga. Later, Sreedevi entered a marriage which was short-lived. Sreedevi's tragic past, along with her perceived gloominess, and her being the only person present during an attack on Ganga, lays cause for suspicion on her.

Nakulan calls his close friend Dr. Sunny Joseph, a brilliant yet frolicsome psychiatrist who lives in the United States to investigate. Sunny is awakened one night by ethereal singing emanating from the locked thekkini room. The singing stops as soon as he tries to investigate. The next night, when the singing resumes, Sunny locks the door from outside and walks around in the erstwhile Karanavar's cane and paduka. The singing pauses and is replaced by a maniacal voice in Tamil, as its owner struggles to open the door. The voice, purportedly belonging to Nagavalli, threatens to kill the Karanavar to avenge her murder and disappears. Sunny realises that things are more complex than they seem and ominously predicts a murder to happen by the upcoming Durgashtami festival. A few days later, while the entire family is watching a kathakali performance, Ganga goes missing and Sunny and Nakulan go in search of her. They spot Alli's fiance Mahadevan, a renowned novelist and the family's next-door neighbor, having a tussle with Ganga. Assuming that Ganga was being abused by him, Nakulan starts to beat Mahadevan but Sunny stops him. During the struggle, Ganga faints and the men take her to the mansion. While she rests, Sunny reveals the shocking conclusions of his investigations to the other two.

Right from the night of his arrival, Sunny began to suspect that Ganga could be the cause of the unnatural events. He digs into Ganga's past with the help of Sreedevi's younger brother Chandu. Ganga, left in the care of her grandmother as a child, had an upbringing steeped in traditional folklore and superstitions. Her abandonment at the tender age of three had made her a sensitive individual and when her parents eventually returned to take her back to Calcutta and college, she struggled to come to grips with leaving her grandmother and her ancestral home. She eventually returned to Calcutta but the seeds of her psychological turmoil remained. Years later, Madampalli with its share of superstitions and dark tales evoked memories of her childhood and Ganga slowly develops the split personality of Nagavalli after empathising with her and her tragic backstory. When Ganga transforms into Nagavalli, her alter ego sees her neighbour Mahadevan, who stays in the dancer Ramanathan's old house, as her love interest. Similarly, she assumes Nakulan to be the Karanavar and tries to kill him.

Meanwhile, Thampi having lost faith in Sunny, calls in a renowned tantric expert Pullattuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad to get rid of his family's supernatural menace. As fate would have it, the Namboothiripad and Sunny are old acquaintances and mutually admire each other's expertise in their respective fields. Sunny reveals his findings and the Namboothiripad vows to help him. Sunny comes up with a plan to cure Ganga before she is completely consumed by her murderous alter ego.

Sunny, with the help of the Namboothiripad, constructs an elaborate tantric ceremony to create a suitable atmosphere to summon forth Ganga's Nagavalli persona. Mahadevan, in the guise of the dancer Ramanathan, guides the possessed Ganga to a platform where Nakulan, in his role as the Karanavar, is bound as an offering to Nagavalli. The Namboothiripad throws a sword at Ganga's feet and orders Nagavalli to exact her revenge and leave Ganga's body. As she lifts the sword to kill Nakulan, Sunny flips the platform over, revealing a blood-filled dummy resembling the Karanavar. The dummy is chopped into pieces and her revenge exacted, the sated Nagavalli leaves Ganga.

Ganga wakes up from her hypnotic sleep and learns that she is completely cured of her illness. She and Nakulan decide to return to Calcutta. Sunny expresses his intent to marry Sreedevi, and they all drive off happily.


  • Mohanlal as Dr. Sunny Joseph, a Psychiatrist
  • Suresh Gopi as Nakulan, Ganga's husband
  • Shobana as Ganga/Nagavalli
  • Nedumudi Venu as Thampi, Nakulan's maternal uncle
  • Vinaya Prasad as Sreedevi, Thampi's daughter, Nakulan's cousin and former fiancé
  • Sridhar as Mahadevan, a college lecturer and author and fiancé of Alli (Dancer Ramanathan in Ganga's hallucination)
  • Sudheesh as Chandhu, Thampi's son and Sreedevi's brother
  • K. P. A. C. Lalitha as Bhasura, Thampi's sister and Nakulan's aunt
  • Innocent as Unnithan, Bhasura's husband
  • Thilakan as Pullattuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad, a tantric expert and long-time friend of Sunny
  • Kuthiravattam Pappu as Kattuparamban, priest at a local temple
  • K. B. Ganesh Kumar as Dasappan Kutty, a distant relative of the family
  • Rudra as Alli, daughter of Unnithan and Bhasura
  • Vyjayanthi as Jayasri, youngest daughter of Thampi
  • Kuttyedathi Vilasini as Thampi's wife



The climax scene and major parts of the film were filmed in Padmanabhapuram Palace and Hill Palace, Tripunithura.[6] The painting of Nagavalli was made by artist Shri R. Madhavan, drawn without a live model.[7]

Dubbing credits[edit]

Shobana's voice was dubbed by two dubbing artistes—Bhagyalakshmi and Durga. Bhagyalakshmi dubbed her voice for Ganga, while Durga gave voice to the character's alter-ego, Nagavalli. Nagavalli's voice is heard only in the minor part of the film compared to Ganga's. Durga was not credited in the film or its publicity material and until 2016, the popular belief was that Bhagyalakshmi solely dubbed both voices.[8]

In January 2016, in an article Ormapookkal published by Manorama Weekly, Fazil revealed that initially Bhagyalakshmi dubbed for both Ganga and Nagavalli, but during post-production, some of the crew, including editor Shekar, had a feeling that both voices sounded somewhat similar even though Bhagyalakshmi tried altering her voice for Nagavalli. Since Nagavalli's dialogue are in Tamil language, Fazil hired Tamil dubbing artiste Durga for the part. But he forgot to inform it to Bhagyalakshmi, hence she was also unaware of it for a long time. Fazil did not credit Durga in the film; according to him, it was a difficult to make changes in the titles at that time, which was already prepared and her portion in the film was minor. The credits included only Bhagyalakshmi as the dubbing artiste for Shobana.[9] Other dubbing artistes were Anandavally and Ambili, who dubbed for Vinaya Prasad and Rudra.[10]


The soundtrack for the film was composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan which went on to become one of the most popular film albums in Malayalam. The album consists of nine tracks. The lyrics sung are in Malayalam and Tamil written by Bichu Thirumala and Madhu Muttam for Malayalam and Vaali for Tamil.[11]

Soundtrack album by
Released23 December 1993
StudioKodandapani Audio Laboratories
GenreFilm Soundtrack
LabelWilson Audios
ProducerM. G. Radhakrishnan
M. G. Radhakrishnan chronology
1."Pazham Tamil"Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas 
2."Varuvaanillaruminn"Madhu MuttamK. S. Chithra 
3."Oru Murai Vanthu"Vaali (Tamil), Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas, K. S. Chithra 
4."Kumbham Kulathil Ariyathe"Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas 
5."Akkuthikkuthanakkombil"Bichu ThirumalaG. Venugopal, K. S. Chithra, Sujatha Mohan, M. G. Radhakrishnan 
6."Palavattam Pookkaalam"Madhu MuttamK. J. Yesudas 
7."Uthunga Sailangalkkum"Bichu ThirumalaSujatha Mohan 
8."Oru Murai (Reprise)"VaaliSujatha Mohan 
9."Varuvaanillarumee Vayizhe"Madhu MuttamK. S. Chithra 
10.""Oru Murai" (Tamil Version)"VaaliK. S. Chithra 


Box office[edit]

Manichitrathazhu performed well at the box office and became the highest-grossing Malayalam film ever, to that date.[12][13][14] It ran for more than 365 days in some centres.[15] The film gained a profit of 3 crore for the producer.[16]


Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
National Film Awards 41st National Film Awards Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [17]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Kerala State Film Awards 34th Kerala State Film Awards Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [18]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Best Makeup Artist P. N. Mani Won


Manichitrathazhu is hailed as one of the best films ever made in Malayalam cinema.[5] The film has consistently fetched maximum ratings for its television screenings.[5] Even twenty years after its release it has been screened more than 12 times a year on an average on Kerala's leading TV channel, Asianet.[5] The film has received the maximum TRP rating on every screening; TRP ratings have increased every year, a rare record for a film produced in Kerala.[5][19]

In a 2013 online poll by IBN Live, Manichitrathazhu was listed second in India's Greatest Film of All Time. The poll was conducted as part of the celebration of Indian cinema completing 100 years. The poll constituted a list of 100 films from different Indian languages.[14] As per the statistics of 2015, Manichitrathazhu is the most reviewed horror film ever in IMDb, surpassing Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) with 2517 reviews.[20]


  • Manichithrathazhu later inspired remakes and sequels in other languages, such as Apthamitra and its sequel Aptharakshaka in Kannada starring Vishnuvardhan, Chandramukhi in Tamil and Telugu (dubbed) starring Rajinikanth and its sequel in Telugu titled Nagavalli starring Venkatesh, Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Hindi and Rajmohol in Bengali.
  • The central character played by Shobhana is named Ganga in all the remakes except Bhool Bhulaiya and Rajmohol. In Hindi, the character is named Avni, played by Vidya Balan whereas in Bengali, the character is named Deboshree, played by Anu Choudhury.
  • All three South Indian versions (Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil) earned the actresses playing the central character (Shobhana, Soundarya, Jyothika, respectively) the state awards for best actress of the respective states (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).
  • In Apthamitra (the Kannada version) the character of psychiatrist, played by Vishnuvardhan, is given more screen time. The Tamil version, Chandramukhi, followed the same pattern. Both films were directed by P. Vasu.[21] However, the Hindi version (Bhool Bhulaiyaa, directed by Priyadarshan) and the Bengali version (Rajmohol directed by Swapan Saha)stuck to the original script.[22]
  • The story was not credited to Madhu Muttam in Apthamitra and Chandramukhi, in which the story was credited to the director P. Vasu himself. However, in Bhool Bhulaiyaa the story was credited to Madhu Muttam, following a Kerala High Court verdict in a case filed by him.
  • Long before Telugu version Chandramukhi was dubbed, Manichithrathazhu was dubbed into Telugu as Aathmaragam.
  • Apthamitra's sequel, Aptharakshaka starring Vishnuvardhan was written and directed by P. Vasu and went on to become a huge success in Kannada.
  • P. Vasu also planned to remake it in Tamil as Chandramukhi 2. But as Rajnikanth wasn't available, he approached Ajith Kumar for the film. But the Tamil version could never make it to the sets and finally Telugu producer Bellamkonda Suresh bought the movie rights and the movie was released as Nagavalli in Telugu starring Daggubati Venkatesh.
  • Even before the movie was officially remade in Kannada in 2004 as Apthamitra , the key sequences including the climax were copied in the 2004 Kannada movie Sagari which released five months before Apthamitra.[23]


A spin-off titled Geethanjali was released on 14 November 2013, with Mohanlal reprising his role as Sunny.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Made in Malayalam". The Times of India. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  2. ^ "High five". The Hindu. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  3. ^ Social Mobility in Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict. Filippo Osella, Caroline. Pluto Press. 2000. p. 264. ISBN 0-7453-1693-X.
  4. ^ Nair, Sree Prasad (22 April 2016). "4 Mohanlal film remakes that Akshay Kumar owned". Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Of Bhool Bhulaiya, and a classic dumbed down". 16 October 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  6. ^ Menon, Neelima (24 December 2018). ""It Will Be A Huge Flop". 20 Fascinating Facts About The Making Of Manichitrathazhu, In Fazil's Words". Film Companion. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ James, Anu (9 January 2016). "It wasn't Bhagyalakshmi who dubbed for classic character Nagavalli in Manichitrathazhu, director Fazil reveals". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  9. ^ James, Anu (11 January 2016). "Nagavalli-Manichitrathazhu controversy: Dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi, director Fazil break their silence". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  10. ^ Biscoot Regional (20 September 2013). "Manichitrathazhu 1993: Malayalam Full Movie | #Malayalam Movie Online | Mohanlal Movies | Shobana". YouTube. Biscoot Regional. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Manichitrathazhu at MSI". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  12. ^ James, Anu (5 December 2016). "Mohanlal's Manichitrathazhu gets a trailer after 23 years". International Business Times. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  13. ^ "25 Years Of Manichithrathazhu: Shobhana, Director Fazil Pay Tribute To Iconic Malayalam Film". HuffPost. 24 December 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  14. ^ a b IBN Live (12 May 2013). "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever: IBNLive poll". CNN-News18. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  15. ^ "10 Mollywood films that ran for the longest time". The Times of India. Times News Network. 31 May 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  16. ^ "Malayalam cinema faces a threat" (PDF). The Statesman. 24 September 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  17. ^ "41st National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  18. ^ "State Film Awards". Department of Information and Public Relations. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  19. ^ "Manichithrathazhu has received the maximum TRP rating!". The Times of India. Times News Network. 17 November 2014. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  20. ^ Broadbent, Giles; Scott, Patrik (30 October 2015). "How many of these 100 best horror films have you seen?". The Wharf. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  21. ^ Ramanujam, Srinivasa (21 July 2015). "Malayalam remakes click in Kollywood". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  22. ^ "Case of the missing marbles". The Hindu. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Nagarajan, Saraswathy (1 August 2013). "Return of Dr. Sunny". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2020.

External links[edit]