‘Manjummel Boys’ movie review: Chidambaram pulls off an immaculately-crafted survival thriller

In the realm of Malayalam cinema, director Chidambaram’s newest offering, “Manjummel Boys,” stands out as an intricately woven survival thriller, where every nuance and every character trait is deliberate, serving a specific purpose in the unfolding story. This film intricately ties together the present and past using the character’s shared experiences, mirroring Chidambaram’s meticulous attention to detail, an attribute he showcased masterfully in his debut, “Jan-E-Man.”

“Manjummel Boys” is inspired by a harrowing real-life event. Though aware of the inevitable outcome, the audience is taken on an unexpected journey, captivated from start to finish. Chidambaram’s challenge was to maintain this engagement with the audience, knowing the conclusion is predetermined. His successful endeavor illuminates his prowess as a filmmaker, ensuring that his place in Indian cinema will be long-standing.

The film’s premise appears unassuming enough. It begins with eleven close friends innocently crashing a wedding party and engaging in lighthearted conflicts with antagonistic peers. This relaxed atmosphere prevails until a terrifying fall into a ravine disrupts the joviality. Up until this critical point, the unique traits of the friends are etched into the viewers’ minds, an important distinction as their strong bonds become the emotional crux of the story that unfolds.

Once the scenario transitions from light-hearted to critical, “Manjummel Boys” treads on the familiar ground of previous survival films, most notably being compared to Bharathan’s “Malootty.” However, Chidambaram’s narrative distinguishes itself as it deeply interlaces the characters’ current calamity with the power and depth of their friendship. Flashbacks of the friends as children playing hide-and-seek or swimming together are more than mere nostalgia; they foreshadow and inform the perils and actions of the boys in their grown-up lives.

Production design by Ajayan Chalissery deserves commendation, particularly the haunting portrayal of the bat-infested ravine that serves as the backdrop for much of the climactic action. Complementing these visuals is the immersive, yet understated background score by Sushin Shyam, further transporting the audience into the core of the unfolding drama. There arises a pivotal moment when Sushin astutely steps back and allows Ilayaraja’s timeless melody ‘Kanmani Anbodu Kathalan’ from “Gunaa” to take center stage, executing not only a nostalgic tribute but also redefining the memory of that iconic Kamal Haasan scene.

The film’s conclusion, which features snapshots of the actual individuals involved in the real-life event, deepens the emotional resonance and authenticity. Such nuance shows that impeccable casting is indeed pivotal to the film’s impact, with each actor delivering performances that resonate with precision and truth.

Unquestionably, “Manjummel Boys” is more than just a survival thriller. It is a testament to the enduring spirit of friendship and the lengths to which camaraderie can guide and save us in our darkest hours. The film is a celebration of narrative grace and technical finesse—a meticulously crafted piece of cinema that entrenches Chidambaram as a directorial force in the industry and invites audiences to experience it in theaters. Malayalam cinema, with films like “Manjummel Boys,” continues to demonstrate its rich storytelling capabilities and contribution to Indian cinema. It offers a theatrical experience that is both moving and profound, indicative of the genre’s ever-growing range and depth.

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