|Produced by||Swargachitra Appachan|
|Written by||Madhu Muttam|
|Edited by||T. R. Shekar|
|Box office||₹5 crore
Manichitrathazhu (English: The Ornate Lock) is a 1993 Indian Malayalam psychological horror thriller film directed by Fazil, written by Madhu Muttam, and produced by Swargachitra Appachan. The story is based on a tragedy that happened in Alummoottil Tharavadu, a famous central Travancore family, in the 19th century. The film dealt with an unusual theme which was not common in Indian cinema at the time but it proceeded to become the highest grosser at the box-office and it was critically acclaimed as well.
Directors such as Siddique-Lal, Priyadarshan, and Sibi Malayil served as second-unit directors. The cinematography was by Venu and it was edited by T. R. Shekar. The film has an ensemble cast featuring Mohanlal, Shobhana, Suresh Gopi, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Vinaya Prasad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Ganesh Kumar, Sudheesh, and Thilakan in the main roles. The original songs featured in the movie were composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan, and 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 the central character Ganga.
Apart from being the highest grossing Malayalam film of the year 1993, Manichitrathazhu is considered as one of the best thrillers ever made in India as well as one of the best Malayalam films ever made. Manichitrathazhu was remade after nearly 10 years in various languages, including Kannada (Apthamitra), Tamil and Telugu (dubbed) (Chandramukhi), Bengali (Rajmohol), and Hindi (Bhool Bhulaiyaa), all being commercially successful. Geethaanjali, a spin-off directed by Priyadarshan and Mohanlal reprising the role of Dr. Sunny Joseph, was released on 14 November 2013.
A young couple, Ganga (Shobana) and Nakulan (Suresh Gopi), arrives at the Nakulan's ancestral home tharavadu called Madampalli. Hailing from a family that follows tradition and superstitions, Nakulan's uncle Thampi (Nedumudi Venu) objects to the couple's idea of moving into the allegedly haunted mansion , which Nakulan ignores. The couple moves in, following which seemingly supernatural events begin to happen.
The mansion was occupied in ancient times by Sankaran Thampi, a cruel ancestor and karanavar (head) of the tharavadu. In his heyday, he had brought in a famous Bharatnatyam dancer Nagavalli from Tamil Nadu as his concubine. But she was already in love with a man named Ramanathan, a dancer. Learning of their affair and their plan to elope, Sanakaran Thampi murders Nagavalli in her room at the mansion. Legend has it that on the eighth day of the Durgashtami (an annual Hindu celebration), Nagavalli returned as a blood-thirsty spirit, intent on killing the chieftain and to drink his blood, but he was saved by chanting some mantras. With the aid of some sorcerers, Thampi somehow escaped from the wrath of Nagavalli. Her spirit was locked up in a section at the mansion (Thekkini) by putting the talisman over the lock. Later Sankaran Thampi committed suicide and his spirit is locked up in the same Thekkini, by means of an ornate enchanted lock called Manichitrathazhu.
Ganga manages to unlock the Thekkini, only to find ancient valuables such as jewellery, musical instruments etc. Upon learning about the unlocking of the Thekkini, fearing the spirits are on the loose, Nakulan's uncle Thampi and family move in to the mansion to try and re-seal the Thekkini lock, while also looking out for Nakulan and Ganga. However, various unclear sightings of a woman are witnessed around the mansion, along with attempted attacks on various people at the mansion, including Nakulan's cousin Alli and Ganga. While most of the family including Thampi believe that Nagavalli's ghost roams the mansion, Nakulan, disapproving of supernatural theories, suspects Sreedevi of being mentally ill, hence orchestrating the incidents at the mansion. Hearing of this, Thampi and the family fear that Sreedevi might be possessed by Nagavalli's spirit.
Sreedevi (Vinaya Prasad), Nakulan's cousin and Thampi's daughter, according to tradition, was to be married to Nakulan; however, after finding that Sreedevi had an ominous horoscope, Nakulan's mother withdrew from this proposal, and got Nakulan married to Ganga; later, Sreedevi entered a marriage which was short-lived. Sreedevi's tragic history, along with her perceived gloominess, and her being the only person present during an attack on Ganga, lays cause for suspicion of her.
Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal), a brilliant yet frolicsome Psychiatrist and Nakulan's close friend is called from USA to investigate. Soon enough Dr. Sunny finds out that Nakulan's conclusions are not as obvious and he uncovers a plan to commit a murder during the upcoming Durgashtami Festival. Sunny's trained psychiatric mind begins to suspect that Ganga could well be the mental patient of Madampilly. He investigates Ganga's childhood and past. Ganga grew up in a highly superstitious family and had partaken in various religious rituals as a child. Her parents had left her to her grandmother as a 3 year old and never bothered about her due to their busy lifestyle. This made her sensitive as an individual; so when she came to know that her parents were moving her to Calcutta she was unable to come to grips with it. She had become very close to her grandmother and didn't want to leave her village and her ancestral home. It was a period of great emotional and psychological turmoil for her, and she became afflicted with multiple personality disorder. Madampilly with its share of superstitions and dark tales evokes memories of the childhood days in her, and she slowly develops the personality of Nagavalli after having sympathised with her.
Meanwhile, Nakulan's uncle, Thampi, having lost faith in Dr.Sunny, calls in a renowned tantric expert Pullattuparambil Brahmadattan Namboothiripad (Thilakan) to rid his family of the supernatural menace. As fate has it, both the Namboothirippad and Dr.Sunny are old acquaintances and mutually admire each other's expertise in their respective fields. At his own risk, Sunny reveals the secret to Nakulan and Mahadevan. In one of the more memorable scenes of the movie, Ganga also gets to know about her illness during a manifestation of her hidden personality, that of Nagavalli. Sunny, with help of the Namboothirippad, plans an elaborate Tantric ceremony to invoke Ganga's Nagavalli persona and make it believe that it will finally be able to kill Sankaran Thampi. The plan is put into action and in a fiery climax, the blood thirsty Nagavalli exacts revenge on the cruel Karanavar, Sankaran Thampi.
Ganga wakes up from her hypnotic sleep and learns that she is completely cured of the illness. Sunny expresses his intent to marry Sridevi, and they all drive off happily.
- Mohanlal as Dr. Sunny Joseph
- Shobhana as Ganga / Nagavalli
- Suresh Gopi as Nakulan / Shankaran Thampi
- Nedumudi Venu as Thampy, Nakulan's maternal uncle
- Vinaya Prasad as Sreedevi, Thampy's daughter
- Shridhar as Mahadevan, a college lecturer and poet, fiance of Alli
- Sudheesh as Chanthu, Thampy's son
- Innocent as Unnithan, Bhasura's husband
- K. P. A. C. Lalitha as Bhasura, Thampy's sister
- Thilakan as Brahmadattan Nampoothirippaad
- Kuthiravattam Pappu as Kattuparamban
- K. B. Ganesh Kumar as Dasappan Kutty
- Rudra as Alli, daughter of Unnithan and Bhasura
- Vyjayanthi — Jayasri, younger daughter of Thampy
- Kuttyedathi Vilasini, Thampy's wife
- Bhagyalakshmi for Shobana's Ganga portion, Nagavally's portion by Durga, a famous Tamil dubbing artist. 
- Anandavally for Vinaya Prasad.
- Ambili for Rudra (Alli).
The soundtrack for the film was composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan which went on to become one of the most popular film album in Malayalam. The lyrics sung are in Malayalam and Tamil written by Bichu Thirumala and Madhu Muttam for Malayalam and Vaali for Tamil.
Rating the film 5 out of 5, film website Shvoong.com wrote that "Manichitrathazhu is probably one of the best psycho-thrillers [sic] produced in India. Fazil has done a great job in creating a fantastic movie which keeps the viewers glued to their seats."
Film blog Varnachitram.com, in its review, wrote, "In this movie, the script by Madhu Mattom is the hero and Shobhana is the heroine. For a movie which is a psycho-thriller, it has excellent comedy provided by Innocent, Lalitha and Mohanlal. There are no unnecessary scenes in this movie and each scene in the screenplay sustains the interest in the story. M.G.Radhakrishnan has provided some memorable music for this movie."
Manichitrathazhubroke all the records in Malayalam cinema history till then and was also the highest grossing Malayalam film of the year. It ran for more than 365 days in 3 center Ernakulam Savitha, Thiruvananthapuram Sreekumar and Kattappana Sagara, Idukki. The film grossed a distributor's share of more than ₹5 crore (US$740,000), a large sum then.
- Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value
- Best Actress - Shobana
- Best Makeup Artist - P. N. Mani
Manichitrathazhu is hailed as one of the best movies ever made in Malayalam. The film has consistently fetched maximum ratings for its television screenings. Twenty years after its release it has been screened more than 12 times a year on average on Kerala's leading TV channel, Asianet. This film has received the maximum TRP rating on every screening; TRP ratings have increased every year. This is a rare record for a movie produced in Kerala.
In a 2013 online poll by IBN Live, Manichitrathazhu was listed as the No:2 greatest Indian film of all time. The poll was conducted as part of the celebrations of Indian cinema completing 100 years. The poll constituted a list of 100 films from different Indian languages.
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- 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 starring Rajinikanth and its sequel in Telugu titled Nagavalli starring Venkatesh, and Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Hindi.
- The central character played by Shobhana is named Ganga in the all the remakes except Bhool Bhulaiya. In that film, the character is named Avni, played by Vidya Balan.
- 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. However, the Hindi version (Bhool Bhulaiyaa, directed by Priyadarshan) stuck to the original script.
- 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 made, 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 Bellankonda Suresh bought the movie rights and the movie was released as Nagavalli in Telugu starring Daggubati Venkatesh.
Character map of Manichitrathazhu and its remakes
|Manichitrathazhu (1993)||Apthamitra (2004)||Chandramukhi (2005)||Rajmohol (2005)||Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)|
|Dr. Sunny Joseph
|Dr. Aditya Shrivastav
- List of Malayalam horror films
- Mental illness in film
- Dissociative identity disorder
- Identity formation
- "Malayalam cinema faces a threat" (PDF). The Statesman. 1994-09-24. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- "Made in Malayalam". The Times of India. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
- "High five". The Hindu. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
- Social Mobility in Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict. Filippo Osella, Caroline (Pluto Press). 2000. p. 264. ISBN 0-7453-1693-X. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever: IBNLive poll". IBN Live. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "Of Bhool Bhulaiya, and a classic dumbed down". Rediff.com. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "Kerala State Film Awards: 1993". Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. Retrieved 2011-01-31.