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Malikappuram on Disney Plus Hotstar: Not Unni Mukundan, Deva Nandha is the real star of this devotional drama

Malikappuram is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

Malikappuram on Disney Plus Hotstar: Not Unni Mukundan, Deva Nandha is the real star of this devotional drama
Malikappuram poster.
  • Manoj Kumar R

Last Updated: 11.19 AM, Feb 16, 2023

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Malikappuram achieved something very similar to Kantara in terms of box office success. It became a big hit in Kerala but fell short of snowballing into a countrywide rage like Kantara. The common thing between these movies is many didn't expect much from them before their releases. Both had soft releases but they ended up outperforming many of their superior competitors at the box office. Going by the official claims, Malikappuram earned a whopping Rs 100 crore from its worldwide ticket sales. A massive achievement for a movie that cost less than Rs 4 crore for its producers. It's the biggest hit in the career of Unni Mukundan. 

While Unni Mukundan is the face of this success, it's the child artist Deva Nandha who deserves a lion's share in making this film what it is. It's her young shoulders that carry this almost 2-hour drama about a child wanting to visit Sabarimala before she reaches the age limit. As per the age-old practice, girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to take a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. And the girls aged below 10 who take this pilgrimage are called Malikappuram and hence the title. 

Kalyani Ajayan, lovingly called Kallu, (Deva Nandha) grown-up on the legend of Lord Appayappa, courtesy of her grandmother. She has now become obsessed with the diety to the extent she begins to consider Lord Appayappa as her playmate. And she lives in such proximity to Sabarimala that it becomes almost impossible not to talk and remember her favourite diety every day. All she had to do is to get to the highest peak in her town, and she can practically see Sabarimala. 

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Honestly, the main conflict of Malikappuram is too weak to sustain our interest for a long period. A young girl wanting to take a pilgrimage is not a matter of life and death. And it doesn't contain enough dramatic tension to keep us on the edge. The conflict is cute and we can smile at her innocence and naivety. Should Kallu fail to make the pilgrimage, it's not the end of the world. Not all childhood dreams come to fruition. Chances are she would still grow up to be a happy and well-adjusted girl. So where's the problem that makes us feel anxious? The dramatic tension starts building into the narrative just before the end of the first half. Until then, it is the charms of Deva Nandha and her bright smile that makes us stick with the film. 

Deva Nandha has done such an excellent job with acting. Even though at times it feels stretched and repetitive, you could never turn away from the innate innocence with which she lights up the screen. She punches above her weight class when it comes to dramatic acting. Sreepath Yan as Piyush Unni also does a notable job. His acting especially when he realises that he has bitten off more than they can chew halfway to Sabarimala adds to the entertainment. 

The tongue-in-cheek spin the director Vishnu Sasi Shankar and his writer Abhilash Pillai puts on Unni Mukundan's character Ayyappan is also charming. It shows that the filmmakers had clarity and a vision for the movie. And that must be one of the reasons why the film clicked with the masses. 

Malikappuram is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar. 

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