A little background:
Mamangam is a period movie set in the 17th century. The movie is based on Mamangam festival that was celebrated during the same period at Thirunavaya, a town situated in today’s Malappuram district in Kerala, on the banks of Bharathappuzha river, every twelve years.
The exact origins of the Mamangam festival is contested. The movie focuses on a period when the Thirunavaya was taken by Kozhikode Zamorin ruler from the Valluvanadan rulers by force and the effort of the Valluvanadan Chaverukal (Suicide Warrior Squad of Valluvanad) to retake it.
Mamangam – The movie:
Effort of the Suicide Warrior Squad of Valluvanad at the festival to kill Zamorin ruler who was personally present at every Mamangam festival with his formidable army counted in thousands, forms the crux of the story. Warriors were sent to reclaim the true right of Valluvanad rulers to conduct the festival and movie focuses on the Chandroth family of Warriors played by Mammootty, Unni Mukundan, and Achuthan.
Mammootty (Chandroth Valiya Panicker / Kuruppachan), Achuthan (Chandroth Chanthunni), Unni Mukundan (Chandroth Panicker / Aniyan Kuttan), Prachi Tehlan (Unnimaaya), Siddique (as Zamorin’s advisor).
In summary, it tells the story of warriors and the Mamangam well with spellbinding performance from most of the cast. Movie has its dull moments such as when Siddique lands at a brothel as part of an investigation as you suddenly feel led to a subplot that felt unrelated as it unfolded.
Learned in the history books, every Malayalee knows the story of Mamangam, the grand festival run by Kozhikode Zamorin on the riverbanks of Bharathappuzha in Thirunavaya. However, the story of the warriors and the fight that happened in the festival grounds since Zamorin took over the area, was probably not of a big focus in the history books.
The movie starts with the attack on the festival by Chandroth Valiya Panicker and you don’t come to know how it ended until Valiya Panicker narrates the story around interval time.
After the initial attack on the festival by the warriors led by Valiya Panicker, we do not know how it ends as Valiya Panicker vanishes from the scene. We are then taken to the Valluvanadan area where the family of the ruler’s debate on whether to send a new set of warriors into the festival to attack and kill Zamorin. As this culminates and the decision to send Chandroth Chanthunni and Chandroth Panicker on another attempt on Zamorin’s life at the festival site is taken, we are also lead to a subplot where Zamorins right hand man played by Siddique is investigating the murder of a foreign merchant at the courtesan Unnimayays bungalow. That is where Valiya Panicker reappears in an effeminate avatar at Curtesan Unnimaya’s (Prachi Tehlan) residence.
This is where it was felt the movie is taking a sudden detour into something not so well woven into the original story. The group of ladies here didn’t correctly fit well into the storyline with the goings on not so clear at certain stages. The original plot and the subplot eventually meet and then on the story regained pace and went into the last battle which was played out outstandingly by the master Achuthan.
A few battle-hardened suicide warriors attacking the Zamorin’s protected by thousands of soldiers is a daring act and it is well presented in Mamangam. However, you may find that almost flying warriors over the army of Zamorin’s (the story calls the act as Perumalakkam – a long and high jump combined action) sometimes feels a little overboard even for these great warriors. Critics of the movie were seen complaining that VFX affects that enabled this scene was not perfectly woven.
What finally wins you over is the performances of many of the cast, the scenes of the Mamangam festival, the background and the historical years of Kerala and the way this story is presented with the period’s sights and the scenes.
3.5 out of 5 stars for Mamangam.
Mammootty’s screen time in his effeminate avatar, performance of young Achuthan, and the picturization of the seventeenth century Kerala are highlights of this historic movie. By any measure this is one of the greatest movies ever from Malayalam movie industry. A remarkable work of fine movie art! An excellent effort has been made by the films team and they must be appreciated for being frank as stated in the beginning about the possible historical inaccuracies.
Minor flaws of the film cited are some characters seemingly having nothing much to do or mis fitting in at least some scenes. The sub plot that was introduced suddenly and occasional dullness in the pace of storytelling could have been managed more effectively.