Manjummel Boys review: Soubin and Bhasi keep you hooked to this gripping rescue thriller

Manjummel Boys review: Soubin and Bhasi keep you hooked to this gripping rescue thriller

‘Abhirami’, the popular song from Kamal Haasan’s 1991 movie ‘Guna’, keeps playing throughout the early part of ‘Manjummel Boys’, like a warning. But just as you soak in the breathtaking visuals of Kodai and feel the chills, the happy song fades away.
Manjummel Boys (Malayalam)(3.5 / 5)

If you want to feel the full weight of what Manjummel Boys has to offer, you should avoid reading the disclosure at the beginning about the true story behind it. Director Chidambaram, who sprung a lovely surprise with his debut Jan-E-Man in late 2021, in the way he chose to tell the story of a bunch of young people through the events of a single night, has once again scripted a tale revolving around male camaraderie.

The film takes you in its fold as it shoots off in all its rawness with no cinematic lenses so to speak, to introduce the men, your Manjummel Boys. Just when you are in its grip, Chidambaram lets loose the drama, with music in full swing, and allows an outpouring of emotions. How much you are caught in the drama may decide your liking for the film, but either way, there is no denying the effort that went into the making.

Actors Soubin Shahir, Sreenath Bhasi, Ganapathy, Balu Varghese, Lal Junior, Abhiram Radhakrishnan, Arun Kurian, Deepak Parambol, and others pass by as figures at a wedding in the beginning of the film, warming up to their roles as members of a troublesome gang. The first few shots are enjoyable, familiarising the men and their friendship, and their not-so-well-to-do homes. The loudness, the bickering, and the comfort they find in the cramped space of a Qualis testify to their years of togetherness. The absence of mobile phones and gadgets and the fuss over an album of printed photos cozy you up to the simple pleasures of a very long time ago, viz. 2006. 

It is just as well that you enjoy the buildup, packed with a couple of Sushin Shyam songs, because the tone of the film changes as the gang takes a trip to Kodaikanal and decides to visit the ‘Guna caves’, made famous by Kamal Haasan in the 1991 movie. The popular song from Guna, ‘Abhirami’, keeps playing throughout the early part of Manjummel Boys, like a warning. But just as you soak in the breathtaking visuals of Kodai and feel the chills, the happy song fades away. 

Sushin’s notes go high and Shyju Khalid’s camera pans into the caves, preparing you for the dangers ahead, that this bunch of clueless men refuse to take seriously. They jump fences to the restricted area and paint their name on the rocks. By then you know what is to follow, and Chidambaram lets it happen in complete silence – the fall. The silence allows you, and the people left behind on the screen, a few moments to take it in. 

From then on, the film unapologetically employs elements of drama; fear, worry, and excitement fill the air as the men begin to react, run helter-skelter to find help, and scream their lungs out every few seconds. Drama peaks when the unsympathetic police and superstitious townsfolk keep trying to haul out the rest of the men, while they throw their bodies in front of the hole and cry louder. What you’d imagine might be gruelling could actually keep you on your toes. The moments slow down to a crawl, as a daring rescue act begins. But even these moments, of literally following one footstep after another, become engaging, solely by the performances of new and old actors.

Soubin’s groundedness is almost a given, and yet he strikes a chord somewhere, bringing flashes of his broken man act in Kumbalangi Nights. Sreenath Bhasi’s face seems like it could change forms of its will, marred by pain of the body and the mind. Balu and Lal Junior could be confused for real-life brothers, still bickering somewhere (and they indeed are cousins). What is hugely missing is the active presence of women, but even the small acts of the few present, especially the mother of Sreenath Bhasi, are so powerful that they leave lasting images.

Only perhaps, the element of drama in the caves could have been toned down a notch, keeping the spirit of the early rawness of the script. Not to play down the work that went into the writing, documenting every pause and action with so much care. It brings back memories of another wonderful film called Malooty, made by Bharathan, that admirably and sensitively showed the plight of a little girl and her miserable parents after she falls into a deep hole and remains trapped for hours. That both the films could connect so much to an audience only shows the extent of human patience and empathy when every slow second of these long testing hours can keep you hooked and rooting for the people on screen. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute