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Manjummel Boys director Chidambaram: This wasn’t the initial cast of the film, we tried out several combinations | Exclusive

Manjummel Boys director Chidamabaram talks about why he chose this title for the movie, how he chose the cast for the survival thriller and more

Manjummel Boys director Chidambaram: This wasn’t the initial cast of the film, we tried out several combinations | Exclusive
Chidambaram during the shoot of Manjummel Boys | Pic: Rohith K Suresh

Last Updated: 04.54 PM, Feb 19, 2024


The real-life story of a youth from Ernakulam who had plunged almost 60 feet below during a visit to Hell’s Kitchen aka Guna Caves, Kodaikanal, in 2006 and his subsequent rescue by his group of friends by putting their lives on the line is enough to evoke the interest of any person. But to capture the suspense and emotions, and present it on screen, while keeping the audience on the edge of their seats is no mean feat. That’s what Malayalam filmmaker Chidambaram hopes to achieve with his sophomore directorial Manjummel Boys, which will hit theatres on February 22.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Chidambaram, who had previously helmed Jan.E.Man , talks about his multi-starrer featuring Sreenath Bhasi, Soubin Shahir, Balu Varghese and Deepak Parambol, his reason for naming the film, the cast changes and challenges.


After the entertainer Jan.E.Man, you have chosen to do a survival thriller with Manjummel Boys. Was it the amazing true story that served as an inspiration to take it up or was it the challenge to pull it off convincingly?

Half the answer is in the question itself; when you get a great story like this, as a filmmaker it’s hard not to snap it up. The plot of Manjummel Boys also had a lot of possibilities to talk about several aspects. More than being a rescue or survival thriller, it also shines light on friendship and human interaction. So, while taking up the project, we took all of that into consideration.

Jan.E.Man also revolved around a lot of characters, just like Manjummel Boys, which is essentially about 11 friends. Did the success of your previous film give you the confidence that you can mount something similar but on a bigger canvas?

Definitely and it’s not just about handling a lot of people in a frame. Shooting a film, finishing it and releasing it was a huge learning experience. About the number of actors together, it’s there in both these films but in Manjummel Boys, it was more complicated because we are dealing with more intense emotions. This being a thriller, it was tougher compared to a comedy, where you had more static scenes. In this film, it required more shot divisions. Even when we were shooting in Guna Caves, those scenes had a large crowd. So, it was a huge task.

Poster of Manjummel Boys
Poster of Manjummel Boys

A survival thriller in itself has enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. But in this film, you have also tried to add other layers to it. Did you ever feel that it would take away from the suspense?

Every story, irrespective of being a survival thriller, is a conflict of mind and emotions. So, this movie has that inner emotional battle at its heart and I believe that’s the foundation for any good film.

How physically challenging was it to shoot this film?

It was a physically exhausting film – mentally as well. We were shooting in Kodaikanal at low temperatures. Our shooting windows were also limited, as in we had to start by 5am and wrap it up by 9am, because we were shooting in a forest and it was also a high-traffic tourist place. Those limitations were there. Additionally, the actors had to perform while being drenched in the cold rain. We were away from home for a long time and that also works on your mind. So, it was physically and psychologically draining.

The movie was announced last year in January and you had begun the shoot too around the same time. While doing a big film like this, was the waiting period to release it also painstaking?

The journey to bring it to theatres actually spanned two years. Jan.E.Man released in November 2021 and I had begun working on Manjummel Boys by January 2022. It took me a year to complete the pre-production – working on the script, storyboards and locations – and begin the shoot. And we took almost a year to complete the production.

Shyju Khalid and Chidambaram during Manjummel Boys shoot
Shyju Khalid and Chidambaram during Manjummel Boys shoot

How did you go about the casting of the film, considering that it is based on real-life people?

As the actors are playing real-life people, what I have tried to do is blend their personalities with those of their characters while casting. I didn’t want to totally cast somebody that didn’t match their real-life counterparts. That I knew most of them helped me pick the right actors. I had also spent a lot of time with the real-life people and so, I could add their likes and dislikes to the characters.

Incidentally, this wasn’t the initial cast for Manjummel Boys. We had tried several combinations before we arrived at this. There were a lot of changes.

Poster of Manjummel Boys
Poster of Manjummel Boys

A survival thriller often doesn’t warrant as many dialogues and yet that was the strength of your previous film Jan.E.Man. So, the focus would have been in creating an atmospheric thriller to make it an immersive experience.

Yes, you could say that Manjummel Boys has few dialogues. I have tried to recreate everything about Guna Caves in the film, except its smell, so that the audience can experience all of it in theatres. If I could have, I would have done that too because it was important for me that the film was atmospheric. In terms of the soundscape, the cave itself is an important character, as pivotal as Manjummel Boys. It has several moods and phases; this transition we have tried to show through natural elements – both visual and sonic. I had an amazing sound design team and their work will transport you to Guna Caves.

When you make a movie, do you also choose a theme that would connect universally? For instance, this story is sure to relate to viewers across the world.

Every story should be local but universal in its impact. In every place, there will be a bunch of boys or girls like this from a lower-middle class background, which is the highest demographic across the world. So, their stories will always be universal. That’s also why I named it Manjummel Boys, or else I could have chosen Rescue or Cave or something. This title has an universal appeal, and I was also adamant that people shouldn’t guess that genre of the movie based on its name. It’s a story of a bunch of boys.

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