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Malootty, the Malayalam movie that introduced the survival drama genre to the 90s kids way before Manjummel Boys

As Manjummel Boys lands on Disney+ Hotstar, let’s take a look at Malootty, the Malayalam film that introduced the genre of survival dramas to the millennials and 90s kids of Kerala.

Malootty, the Malayalam movie that introduced the survival drama genre to the 90s kids way before Manjummel Boys
Stills from Malootty

Last Updated: 08.05 PM, May 05, 2024


During a time when family entertainers and social dramas ruled the roost in the Malayalam cinema, Malootty made her appearance on the silver screen in 1990, giving a taste of survival dramas to the cinephiles way before Manjummel Boys.

Starring Jayaram and Urvashi along with Shamili as Malootty, the film follows the little girl who is everything to her doting parents. But the happy moments do not last long as the five-year-old falls into a borewell, and the movie chronicles the desperate yet heroic attempts to get her back to safety.

As Manjummel Boys makes its grand digital premiere on Disney+ Hotstar on May 5, let’s take a look at the Malayalam film that introduced the genre of survival dramas to the millennials and 90s kids of Kerala.

Malootty, the Malayalam survival drama

The very first shot of the movie starts with the 5-year-old Malootty running ahead even as her mother, played by Urvashi, struggles to keep up with her bubbly daughter. The movie follows the little munchkin as she runs around the house with her puppy, wooing everyone (even her strict grandmother) with her aww-so-sweet mannerisms and conversations.

As far as survival dramas/thrillers are concerned, they mostly follows the template of a very casual beginning, the dramatic turn of events, the gripping fear, the point of almost giving up and the ultimate moment of rescue.

But in Malootty, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Bharathan, we get a rather extended version of the innocent beginning as the movie focuses on the travails of a young mother, who is living with her mother-in-law, while awaiting the return of her husband from abroad. Raji, played by Urvashi, has to put up with the taunts of her mother-in-law (KPAC Lalitha) from the very first scene we see them together. And the only person who is a balm to her soul is her daughter Malootty. This is another ‘story of survival’ as Raji swallows her pride and happiness as she puts up with her overbearing mother-in-law.


We get to see a very ‘Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ saga playing out as the mother-in-law never misses out on a single opportunity to humiliate and harass Raji. And this in turn becomes the turning point as Raji pleads with her husband (Jayaram) to take her away, setting the stage for the survival drama that the movie is all about. And we have already spent more than an hour to get to this point.

The family of three then takes off to a scenic destination, and happy scenes play out on screen. But the laughter gets cut short as Malootty falls into an uncovered borewell.

Malootty - The rescue

The audience who were enjoying a routine family story on screen up until now are suddenly introduced to the survival drama genre as Malootty’s desperate parents seek help to save their daughter. The police and fire force take their time to arrive and then they huddle up to decide the best course of action to get the child out alive. Tempers are running high and heated discussions are taking place as the initial rudimentary attempts fail to make any breakthrough. Even during these chaotic scenes above the ground, we also see little Malootty, stuck inside the borewell, shaken to the core.

Amid this, it rains, further adding to the chaos and concerns about the child’s safety with the water sweeping into the well, and cops scramble to put a sheet above the affected area. Tension grips the cinephiles at this point, we are really concerned about the child’s safety. Finally, the team comes up with a plan to rescue the child and Jayaram’s character ventures to save his daughter.

Malootty - Standout performance

Hats off to director Bharathan and writer John Paul for first conceiving such a topic and successfully pulling it off. But the movie is owned by Shamili (or Baby Shamili as child artists are known in Malayalam cinema) who literally lived the life of Malootty on screen. It is a mystery to me how filmmakers can make such young artists portray such a wide range of intense emotions so realistically. The bubbly Malooty will woo you with her smile, but our heart goes out to the little girl who is stuck inside the borewell, scared and completely clueless about what is happening to her. The talented child actor won a Kerala State Film Award for her performance. Veteran actress Urvashi too gives yet another remarkable performance as Raji, and is ably supported by Jayaram and KPAC Lalitha. The technical crew of the movie should also be lauded for convincingly pulling off this survival drama as Malayalam films work within limited budget.

Overall, this is a movie that is constantly revisited by Malayalam cinephiles, especially by the millennials and 90s kids who grew up on these films. With Manjummel Boys putting the focus on Malayalam cinema, this survival drama too is back in the limelight and is definitely worth a watch.

Both Manjummel Boys and Malootty are available for streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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