‘Ishq’ to ‘Manichithrathazhu’: 12 spine-chilling scenes from Malayalam cinema

These unnerving scenes are sure to give you sleepless nights.
Shobana in Manichithrathazhu
Shobana in Manichithrathazhu
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In this short list are some of the most psycho-esque moments in Malayalam cinema, captured and served to perfection. Dare we say winter is coming. It’s time to let the chill run down your spine.

Some spoilers ahead!

Mayaanadhi: In the climactic sequence of this Aashiq Abu directorial, written by Syam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair, Mathan (Tovino Thomas) kneels near the riverside and the cops circle him. Despite foreseeing the event, as they take aim for an encounter shootout, we are still unprepared for when the bullet eventually knocks him down. Almost concurrently, it hits us like a bolt from the blue and the pain is as searing, physically and emotionally to the viewer. The next scene has Appu (Aishwarya Lekshmi) strolling into the night, peering over the shoulder for Mathan to run next to her. Devastating!

Ishq: When Sachi (Shane Nigam) and Vasudha (Ann Sheetal) huddle inside the back seat of their car for a kiss, at an isolated parking lot near a hospital, they have no idea that their life will never be the same again. Two strangers, in the guise of policemen, enter the scene and begin to harass the lovers. The younger of the two, Alvin (Shine Tom Chacko), stretches his perverted luck by attempting to make the most of the couple’s vulnerability. These portions which run over 30 minutes are downright chilling – Alvin’s unnerving grin, sudden anger that flits across his face, cockiness, and his vulgar questions to Sachi regarding their intimacy. He bites into the banana eaten by Vasudha, savouring it in frenzy, and you almost catch your breath. Those portions were the highpoint of the film, directed by Anuraj Manohar and written by Ratheesh Ravi.

Munnariyippu: An ambitious young scribe (Aparna Gopinath) during an official visit to a prison is intrigued by CK Raghavan (Mammootty) serving life term for a double homicide. His casually reflected philosophies about life propels her to persuade him to write a book. The narrative flows unsurprisingly till the climax but once there the mysterious and unassuming Raghavan lets his guard down, peeling that layer of ambiguity with a slow, frightening smile, hacking her, sending shivers down our spine. The tremor stays even after you’re done with the film.

Manichithrathazhu: It’s the moment of truth for Nakulan (Suresh Gopy). As he enters the room, he sees Ganga (Shobana) draping a sari. He has the task of telling her that she can’t go with Alli to buy ornaments for her wedding. After calmly informing her, with trepidation he realises the truth in Dr Sunny’s (Mohanlal) disclosure, as Ganga gradually slips into an expression of anger and loathing, which he has never before seen. Nakulan’s heart is in his mouth as he witnesses her astounding transformation for the first time – the gentle Ganga is now the fiery, angry Nagavalli, spouting chaste Tamil and confronting him, threatening him, picking up the bed with her bare hands. Chilling would be an understatement! Fazil directed this all-time favourite classic, written by Madhu Muttam.

Yavanika: After finishing her dinner, Rohini (Jalaja) retires to bed. But she is unable to sleep. She has this spooky feeling that something is not right and then suddenly table player Ayyappan (Bharath Gopy) is there on her bed. She pleads with him, but he overpowers her. They don’t show anything graphic, but the build-up to the crime is unsettling. A KG George masterpiece and one of the finest crime thrillers in Malayalam cinema.

Irakal: Baby is consumed with hatred at his sister’s immoral ways. Ever since he saw Anniyamma frequenting their man Friday’s room at night, he has been devising ways to kill her, playing out different scenarios in his head – from strangling her with a red cord, or maybe shooting her. In one scene, as she serves herself some breakfast, Baby has his eyes fixed on her: “You’re a liar, a trained liar. I know everything.” The way he intones it, his eyes unwavering at a clueless Anniyamma is rather frightening, a sign of impending doom. Directed and written by KG George, Irakal has to be one of the most underrated psycho-thrillers in Malayalam cinema.

Vadakkunokkiyenthram: After months of psychiatric help, Dineshan (Sreenivasan, who also wrote and directed the film) has finally got back with his wife. The viewers, like his sleeping wife, are finally at peace thinking that he has left his deranged and mistrustful days behind him, till they see Dineshan stealthily walk towards the window with a torch, looking out in the dead of the night for that invisible paramour of his wife. Such a disquieting anti-climax!

Sadayam: Sathyanathan (Mohanlal) is adding the finishing touches to a red and black portrait, of a man who has his tongue out, with a small saw blade. The BGM is rising to a maddening crescendo. Suddenly Jaya’s younger sister comes to his doorstep. “I don’t want to go with my sister,” she pleads. The pimp arrives and snidely remarks, “Thanks for giving my business such a boost. It helps that she speaks good English.” Sathyan rapidly sees images of Jaya and Devikayamma laughing aloud. From that moment on, he is like a man possessed – yet when he stabs them, he is chillingly composed, with a slow thin smile, he is trying to console them, even as they writhe in pain. He laughs aloud and talks gibberish. Mind-numbing.

Namukku Parkaan Munthirithoppukal: Sophie (Shari) is helping her stepfather arrange a portrait on the wall. The tension in the air is palpable, as she is nervously aware of his leering eye on her. Paul Paolokkaran (Thilakan) sizes her up and the revulsion we feel for the man is complete. Padmarajan directed and wrote this classic love story.

22FK: The back-to-back rape scenes. It’s the untold violence that spills on the screen despite the absence of anything graphic, making it one of the most disturbing scenes of sexual violence in Malayalam cinema. Written by Syam Pushkaran and Abhilash Kumar, Aashiq Abu directs this revenge thriller inspired by various films.

Vidheyan: The scene where Patelar pounces on a woman (it’s a long shot, we just hear her wail) and asks Thommi whether he wants a share and then proceeds to rape her is unnerving. Thommi looks the other way. Nothing explicit, but the effect is twice as unsettling.

Palerimanikyam Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha: After Manikyam is brutally raped and left for dead, Ahmed Haji instructs his two henchmen to dump her body. En route, they realise that she is still alive, and they rape her again.

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