Mamangam Review & Rating
Mamangam Review: A Grand-stand Epic that Should Not Be Missed
Mamangam which hits the screens has as interesting a making history as the story itself. The chequered history of the film’s making and the controversies in the lead up to the release of the film are well documented. So, we better confine ourselves to the historical drama. The makers wisely underplayed the film’s ambitions which added more intrigue and buzz ironically.
It is not every time that we come across historical films. Though they are sure to deviate from the historical accounts as we read in textbooks, these films give us a visual account of our historical past, culture, and the know-how of the people of the times eons before. But historical films in Mollywood have a special flavor. Deeply rooted in the Kerala culture and with a powerful star cast, these films are often made on epic proportions.
With a Mammootty who is in superb form this year and an epic backdrop of the Mamangam festival, the film has created a huge buzz among film buffs. But the makers warned beforehand that the audience should not expect a Baahubali with Mamangam. Mamangam is Mamangam. Its own entity. Mamangam is more about intrigue and drama than just action set pieces. Let's see how the M. Padmakumar directorial delivered on its promise with Mamangam review.
Mamangam and its historical past
Mamangam tells the story of the Valluvanadu warriors and their suicide-squad style mission to kill the Samoothiri (Zamorin) king of Kozhikode during the eponymous Mamangam festival. But why those warriors want to kill the Samoothiri king? Let's go back a few hundred years to learn about the origin of the rivalry between Samoothiris and Valluvakonathiris.
Mamangam is a trade fair celebration conducted by the Valluvanadu rulers, typically styled Valluvakonathiris. It is conducted every 12 years on the banks of the Bharathappuzha, often on the dry river beds. The festival is associated with the temple of Nava Mukunda at Thirunavaya. As per some accounts, the festival earlier started as part of celebrations at the temple (utsavams) and then reached the form of grand-scale galas.
The rivalry between Kozhikode and Valluvanadu
It was prestigious. And hence everyone's eyes would be on the celebrations. The King himself attends it and remains the centre of attraction. Obviously, this gives the Chaaverukal a chance to kill the Samoothiri king and fulfill their mission. But this also has a fatal risk. That of being surrounded by thousands of Samoothiri soldiers.
During the Mamankam fairs, all other chiefs of Kerala - including the ruler of Travancore - were obliged to send flags as a symbol of submission to Kozhikode Samoothiris. These flags were used to be hoisted at the festival. But the chief of Valluvanadu did not recognize the Samuthiri as the legitimate Great Protector but considered him only a usurper. He used to send Chavers instead. This led to a bloody period of rivalry between these two clans.
One such Chaaver is Chandroth Valiya Panicker played by the ever-brilliant Mammootty. Coming to Chaaverukal, if these men could kill the Samoothiri king, the right of Great Protector would have returned to the chief of Valluvanadu.
These Chaavers were sworn warriors who preferred death to defeat right from their childhood. They sacrificed their lives to get justice in the form of vengeance to the death of Valluvanadu clan members. In the film, Panicker escapes from a certain death after a Mamankam festival attack instead of dying. Later another set of warriors arrive at the festival. If the Valluvakonathiri mission could be fulfilled and how Valiya Panicker plays an important role in it form the rest of the story.
Despite having a historical setting that is deeply rooted in medieval Kerala, the basic plot is based on the folklore of a great warrior named Chanthunni whose mortal remains were brought back to Valluvanadu. This is a rare exception as once the Chaavers are killed, their remains could never reach their Kith and kin.
The making of the epic
It is Sanjeev Pillai who allegedly worked for more than 12 years on this project. He was the former associate of the legendary Adoor Gopalakrishnan. An unfortunate and infamous ousting him Pillai made this project getting helmed by Padmakumar. Mamangam is told in the way epics are narrated. An anonymous voice narrates the background of the story. Then a hero is introduced and is shrouded in mystery. What sets Mamangam apart from films like Baahubali is the star of the film is part of the story than the story is woven around the star.
The film is mostly a palace intrigue and an emotional drama surrounding the lives of Chaaverukal. It is punctuated by extraordinarily choreographed action sequences at the beginning and the climactic portions of the narration. Except for these, there isn't much action which might disappoint a section of the audience. But brilliant performances, an amazing recreation of the historical past and the grand visuals coupled with gripping drama make up for it. But Mamangam is a Malayalam film for the Keralites through and through.
It is deeply rooted in Kerala culture or rather the Mamangam festival and the story surrounding it. It is actually not meant for the audience of other states except in case of academic interest among those who want to watch brilliantly made films from other languages.
Mammootty's screen time is limited compared to his mass films but his heroism is no less. But it is his performance as Kuruppu an effeminate person that is the biggest highlight of the film. His graceful movements, elegance in his dialogue delivery brought the best out of the master actor. He is the pivot on which other portions of the film is built. Though he is not seen in a major portion of the film, his presence could be felt by the audience.
Unni Mukundan as Chandroth Panicker is good. He has some of the best action moments and he nailed it. The romantic thread is short-lived and feels unnecessary. He looked awkward. The much talked about Prachi Tehlan (a basketball and netball player turned actress) as Unnimaya the courtesan is another major high point of the film. She looked the part. A Malayali woman. Of historical past. The voice work for her part has an understated elegance.
Master Achuthan as Chandroth Chanthunni the above said great warrior whose remains were brought back to Valluvanadu scores brownie points with his pinpoint precision in execution of his character. Siddique did well as usual. Mohan Sharma, Tarun Arora, etc have done their parts well. Kaniha and Anu Sithara are good in limited portions. The rest of the cast has done well. There are thousands of unnamed and unrecognisable characters all over the screen and they serve the purpose.
The music has an epic quality pertaining to the subject. The songs are good and the background score has a profound quality. Saying the cinematography by Manoj Pillai is brilliant is an understatement. The editing is sharp despite slowish narration in the first half where Mammootty doesn't appear much. The production design is first class. The production values are grand. One can proudly proclaim a film of this scale is made in Mollywood.
Mamangam may not satisfy as expected initially, but it's not a disappointment in any way. Great performances (Mammootty still surprises with unknown angles from his acting repertoire) and grand filmmaking coupled with epic storytelling make it a worth watch. Don't miss out. And regret later.
- A well-made historical drama
- Mammootty's packs a punch with his performance and shows a never-before-seen angle
- Stunningly choreographed action sequences
- It's not Baahubali (The makers made it clear from the beginning though)
- The film is deeply rooted in Kerala culture and hence has nativity issues for other language audience
Pycker Rating: 3.25 out of 5
Reviewed by: GitacharYa
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