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Manjummel Boys review: Chidambaram carves an earnest rescue thriller that relies on emotions to carry it

Manjummel Boys review: Chidambaram hasn’t tried to overdramatise Manjummel Boys for the sake of entertainment and has kept it mostly true to the events that had transpired in Kodaikanal in 2006

3.5/5rating
Manjummel Boys review: Chidambaram carves an earnest rescue thriller that relies on emotions to carry it
A still from Manjummel Boys

Last Updated: 03.13 PM, Feb 22, 2024

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Manjummel Boys story: A bunch of 11 youngsters from Manjummel, Kochi, decide to venture into the restricted territory at the Guna Caves in Kodaikanal during their trip. One of them falls into an abyss, leaving the other 10 scurrying for help. But the superstitions about the cave known as Devil's Kitchen and the cops’ initial apathetic attitude towards the youngsters for disregarding the warning signs, make the rescue even harder till one of them decides to risk his life.

Manjummel Boys review: In a pivotal scene in director Chidambaram’s Manjummel Boys, which is based on the real-life rescue of a Malayali youth from the Guna Caves in 2006, Soubin Shahir’s character Kuttettan offers to plunge into the crevice that even the most experienced of firefighters fear to enter. This is thwarted by a senior cop, who is convinced that the person they are trying to rescue won’t make it out alive and he doesn’t want another death on his watch. A person then tells the cop, ‘To rescue people is your job, but for him (pointing at Soubin’s character), that’s not the case.” Kuttettan, aka Jinu, is driven by his emotions to save his friend Subhash; he along with the nine others crowded around a fissure, which is over 120 feet deep, are purely there believing that Subhash (Sreenath Bhasi) can be saved.

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This is where Chidambaram’s survival and rescue thriller sets itself apart from a lot of other films in the genre; more than relying on the suspense to carry it, the filmmaker trusts these emotions that stem from fear, friendships and selfless acts to get the audience hooked. And it succeeds for most parts, thanks to a powerful second half that is full of heart and also tackles several other issues including accompanying trauma instead of just following the template for this genre.

The format of a survival thriller naturally lends itself a universal appeal, capable of keeping audiences on the edge of their seats. But given this is based on an amazing true story, Chidambaram seems to have identified its limitations. This is both Manjummel Boys’ strength and weakness. Depending on whether you have turned up to watch a film that is full of suspense and thrills, or an honest retelling of some amazing events, it could determine how the film would engage you. The director hasn’t tried to overdramatise the movie for the sake of entertainment and has kept it mostly true to the events that had transpired in Kodaikanal in 2006. It’s earnest considering the film had all the trappings for a tense survival thriller – a hitherto unattempted rescue effort, an ominous cave and a group of friends ready to plunge into the most selfless of acts.

The first half of the film serves to introduce its gang of friends – 11 of them. And it’s chaotic. Few character traits stick out amid this group of youngsters. But this gives way to a discipline among them in the second half, as they stay united in their minds to do whatever they can to save their friend. Chidambaram also splits them, albeit briefly, as they seek help in multiple directions – adding to the suspense before the dramatic events that followed.

Every now and then, the movie cuts to the past – when the youngsters were children – to show their inherent nature and connects it to the present. This serves as our entry into the minds of Kuttettan and Subhash. Even if you take away the rescue elements from the film, it’s still a deep excavation into the minds of these youngsters – of how they have grown up, their resilience and also the trauma that they have to endure. Even as Subhash clings to life on the edge of a slippery slope, we see visions of him accessing his memories to keep him alive. It even has characters who sometimes are too stunned to do anything in the face of danger; and that’s what adds depth to this movie.

The movie, especially the second half, is replete with memorable moments; and none as the one that is accompanied by the song Kanmani Anbodu from Kamal Haasan’s Guna, which gave the caves its latest name. Shyju Khalid’s cinematography – especially of scenes inside the abyss – keeps you hooked while also giving you a view of the beauty outside. Sushin Shyam’s music adds the extra layer of atmosphere to the movie, which benefits greatly from the soundscape than visuals in the second half.

Still from Manjummel Boys. Screengrab via YouTube
Still from Manjummel Boys. Screengrab via YouTube

Having so many characters and giving each of them their due was also going to be a challenge. While Soubin and Sreenath stand out as the story mostly involves them, Deepak Parambol, Khalid Rahman and George Martin also get meaty roles that spruce up the proceedings.

Manjummel Boys verdict: Jan.E.Man director Chidambaram once again shows that he firmly believes that if a film emotionally connects with the viewer, it’s a winner. This survival thriller, based on true events, does exactly that.

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