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Featuring Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi, with Fazil holding to a camera at the bottom
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFazil
Written byMadhu Muttam
Produced bySwargachitra Appachan
Edited byT. R. Shekar
Music by
Distributed bySwargachitra
Release date
  • 25 December 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time
170 minutes

Manichitrathazhu (transl. The Ornate Lock) is a 1993 Indian Malayalam-language epic psychological horror film directed by Fazil, written by Madhu Muttam, and produced by Swargachitra Appachan.[1][2] The story is inspired by a tragedy that happened in the Alummoottil tharavad, a central Travancore family, in the 19th century.[3] The film stars Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Shobana with Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Vinaya Prasad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Sridhar, K. B. Ganesh Kumar, Sudheesh, and Thilakan in supporting roles.

Directors Priyadarshan, Siddique–Lal, and Sibi Malayil served as the second-unit directors.[4] The cinematography was by Venu, and Anandakuttan and Sunny Joseph served as the second-unit cinematographers, the film was edited by T. R. Shekar. The original songs featured in the movie were composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan, while the original score was composed by Johnson. The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and Shobhana was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ganga / Nagavalli.

The film dealt with an unusual theme which was not common in Indian cinema at the time.[5] The film completed 319 days of run in 1 releasing theatre. Manichitrathazhu was remade in four languages – in Kannada as Apthamitra which in turn was remade in Tamil as Chandramukhi , in Bengali as Rajmohol and in Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiyaa – all being commercially successful. Geethaanjali, a spin-off directed by Priyadarshan and Mohanlal reprising the role of Dr. Sunny Joseph was made in 2013. Manichitrathazhu is considered by many critics as one of the best films ever made in Malayalam cinema and developed a cult following in the years after its release.[6][7]


Years ago, Nakulan's uncle Thampi wanted the former to marry the latter's daughter Sreedevi, which was later rejected by Nakulan's mother Sharadha given that Sreedevi's horoscope was an ominous one. Later Nakulan falls in love with Ganga and they get married, while Sreedevi is also married only to end up in a divorce.

Years later, Ganga and Nakulan arrive at their hometown and Thampi learns that Nakulan had decided to stay at the family mansion named Madampalli, despite attempts by the local villagers to dissuade them. The couple moves in with the help of the family including Thampi's wife and children, Thampi's sister Bhasura, her husband Unnithan and their daughter Alli.

Later Bhasura reveals the reason everyone fears the mansion. About 150 years ago, a landlord named Sankaran Thambi Karanavar who was then the head of the family travelled to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, where he met and fell for a dancer named Nagavalli. However, she did not reciprocate his feelings as she was already in love with another dancer named Ramanathan. As a result, Karanavar took her back to his palace by force. Unknown to him, Nagavalli made Ramanathan stay in a cottage next to the palace and met him secretly. When Karanavar discovered this, he slayed Nagavalli on a Durgashtami night at her room named Thekkini situated at the south west corner of the house. As a result, Nagavalli's ghost tried to take her revenge, and Karanavar with the help of various priests and sorcerers from all over the state, tamed the ghost by locking it up in the same room. The Karanavar too commits suicide shortly afterwards.

In the present day, Alli is in love with Mahadevan, a college professor who reciprocates her feelings. Their marriage is fixed to take place soon. Listening to Nagavalli's story, Ganga, who thinks that the story was fabricated to scare thieves from stealing treasures in the room, wishes to go there. She gets the room key's duplicate from Alli and opens the room, for which she is scolded by Sreedevi.

Subsequently, strange things begin to happen in the household; apparitions of a woman frighten the people in the house, things inexplicably break, and Ganga's sari catches fire during the day. The needle of suspicion falls on Sreedevi, who is generally found to be gloomy. Nakulan immediately calls up his psychiatrist friend Dr. Sunny from America to solve the case. As soon as Sunny arrives, an unknown person tries to kill Alli by locking her up in a store room.

Sunny also uncovers other incidents such as an attempt to kill Nakulan by poisoning his coffee as well as a mysterious voice singing from upstairs during the night.

Ganga mysteriously disappears during a Kathakali Night. Sunny notices her absence and searches for her, and with Nakulan's help finds Ganga, who is apparently being harassed by Mahadevan.

After the confusions settle, Sunny reveals to Mahadevan and Nakulan that all problems in the house are orchestrated by Ganga, who suffers from split personality disorder. Sunny tells them that Ganga who frequently transforms into Nagavalli's personality tried to kill Alli and Nakulan, and framed Mahadevan for sexual harassment because from Nagavalli's alter ego, Mahadevan is her lover Ramanathan since the former stays at the same house Ramanathan did. By framing Mahadevan and also framing Sreedevi via possession, Ganga's alter ego planned to stop the marriage. Now the only way to stop Nagavalli's influence on Ganga is to make her believe she killed her enemy Karanavar on Durgashtami, since Nakulan impersonated the Karanavar, a fact Sunny gauged from his conversation with Nagavalli to know her wish.

Thampi calls in a renowned tantric expert, Pullatuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad to solve the family's menace. To everyone's surprise, Sunny and Brahmadathan are long time friends and they discuss the matter deeply as Sunny makes a rather unconventional plan to cure Ganga.

Before carrying out his plan, Sunny asks Nakulan to trigger Ganga to see for himself whether she turns into Nagavalli or not. When Nakulan does so, she transforms into Nagavalli, which shocks him. A worried Nakulan shouts at Ganga, turning her back to normal.

On Durgashtami night, in the dance hall, the family and Namboothiripad allow Nagavalli to behead Nakulan posing as the Karanavar. Namboothiripad suddenly blows smoke and ash on Ganga's face when she is given a sword. Simultaneously Sunny turns a part of the platform over to let Nakulan escape, and a lifeless dummy of the Karanavar gets sliced instead. Convinced that her enemy is dead, Nagavalli leaves Ganga, curing her.

The family bids farewell to Ganga and Nakulan, Sunny expresses his desire to marry Sreedevi and they leave happily.


Shobhana was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ganga / Nagavalli.
  • Shobana as Ganga/Nagavalli
  • Mohanlal as Dr. Sunny Joseph, a Psychiatrist
  • Suresh Gopi as Nakulan, Ganga's husband
  • Nedumudi Venu as Thampi, Nakulan's maternal uncle
  • Vinaya Prasad as Sreedevi, Thampi's daughter, Nakulan's cousin and former fiancé
  • Sridhar as Mahadevan, a college lecturer and author and fiancé of Alli (Dancer Ramanathan in Ganga's hallucination)
  • Sudheesh as Chandhu, Thampi's son and Sreedevi's brother
  • Innocent as Unnithan, Bhasura's husband
  • K. P. A. C. Lalitha as Bhasura, Unnithan's wife and Nakulan's aunt
  • Thilakan as Pullattuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad, a tantric expert and long-time friend of Sunny
  • Kuthiravattam Pappu as Kattuparamban, priest at a local temple
  • K. B. Ganesh Kumar as Dasappan Kutty, a distant relative of the family
  • Rudra as Alli, daughter of Unnithan and Bhasura
  • Vyjayanthi as Jayasri, youngest daughter of Thampi
  • Kuttyedathi Vilasini as Thampi's wife



The climax scene and major parts of the film were filmed in Padmanabhapuram Palace and Hill Palace, Tripunithura.[8] The painting of Nagavalli was made by artist Shri R. Madhavan, drawn without a live model.[9]

Dubbing credits

Shobana's voice was dubbed by two dubbing artistes—Bhagyalakshmi and Durga. Bhagyalakshmi dubbed her voice for Ganga, while Durga gave voice to the character's alter-ego, Nagavalli. Nagavalli's voice is heard only in the minor part of the film compared to Ganga's. Durga was not credited in the film or its publicity material and until 2016, the popular belief was that Bhagyalakshmi solely dubbed both voices.[10][11]

In January 2016, in an article Ormapookkal published by Manorama Weekly, Fazil revealed that initially Bhagyalakshmi dubbed for both Ganga and Nagavalli, but during post-production, some of the crew, including editor Shekar, had a feeling that both voices sounded somewhat similar even though Bhagyalakshmi tried altering her voice for Nagavalli. Since Nagavalli's dialogue are in Tamil language, Fazil hired Tamil dubbing artiste Durga for the part. But he forgot to inform it to Bhagyalakshmi, hence she was also unaware of it for a long time. Fazil did not credit Durga in the film; according to him, it was a difficult to make changes in the titles at that time, which was already prepared and her portion in the film was minor. The credits included only Bhagyalakshmi as the dubbing artiste for Shobana.[12] Other dubbing artistes were Anandavally and Ambili, who dubbed for Vinaya Prasad and Rudra.[13]


The soundtrack for the film was composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan which went on to become one of the most popular film albums in Malayalam. The album consists of nine tracks. The lyrics sung are in Malayalam and Tamil written by Bichu Thirumala and Madhu Muttam for Malayalam and Vaali for Tamil.[14]

Soundtrack album by
Released24 December 1993
StudioKodandapani Audio Laboratories
GenreFilm Soundtrack
LabelWilson Audios
ProducerM. G. Radhakrishnan
M. G. Radhakrishnan chronology
1."Pazham Tamil"Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas 
2."Varuvaanillaruminn"Madhu MuttamK. S. Chithra 
3."Oru Murai Vanthu"Vaali (Tamil), Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas, K. S. Chithra 
4."Kumbham Kulathil Ariyathe"Bichu ThirumalaK. J. Yesudas 
5."Akkuthikkuthanakkombil"Bichu ThirumalaG. Venugopal, K. S. Chithra, Sujatha Mohan, M. G. Radhakrishnan 
6."Palavattam Pookkaalam"Madhu MuttamK. J. Yesudas 
7."Uthunga Sailangalkkum"Bichu ThirumalaSujatha Mohan 
8."Oru Murai (Reprise)"VaaliSujatha Mohan 
9."Varuvaanillarumee Vayizhe"Madhu MuttamK. S. Chithra 
10.""Oru Murai" (Tamil Version)"VaaliK. S. Chithra 


Manichitrathazhu was released on 25 December 1993,[15] and performed well at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing Malayalam film ever, to that date.[16][17][18] It ran for more than 365 days in some centres.[19] The film had a collection of 3 crore .[20]


Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
National Film Awards 41st National Film Awards Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [21]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Kerala State Film Awards 34th Kerala State Film Awards Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [22]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Best Makeup Artist P. N. Mani Won


Manichitrathazhu is hailed as one of the best films ever made in Malayalam cinema.[5] The film has consistently fetched maximum ratings for its television screenings.[5] Even twenty years after its release it has been screened more than 12 times a year on an average on Kerala's leading TV channel, Asianet.[5] The film has received the maximum TRP rating on every screening; TRP ratings have increased every year, a rare record for a film produced in Kerala.[5][23]

In a 2013 online poll in India by IBN Live, Manichitrathazhu was voted second by people in India's Greatest Films. The poll was conducted as part of the celebration of Indian cinema completing 100 years. The poll constituted a list of 100 films from different Indian languages.[18]


Manichithrathazhu was remade in many languages: in Kannada as Apthamitra (2004), in Tamil as Chandramukhi (2005), in Bengali as Rajmohol (2005) and in Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007).[24]


A spin-off titled Geethaanjali was released on 14 November 2013, with Mohanlal reprising his role as Sunny.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Made in Malayalam". The Times of India. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  2. ^ "High five". The Hindu. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  3. ^ Social Mobility in Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict. Filippo Osella, Caroline. Pluto Press. 2000. p. 264. ISBN 0-7453-1693-X.
  4. ^ Nair, Sree Prasad (22 April 2016). "4 Mohanlal film remakes that Akshay Kumar owned". Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Of Bhool Bhulaiya, and a classic dumbed down". 16 October 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Best Malayalam Movies: 10 Malayalam films to watch before you die". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Shobana reminisces on impact of Manichitrathazhu on film's "27 birthday" - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  8. ^ Menon, Neelima (24 December 2018). ""It Will Be A Huge Flop". 20 Fascinating Facts About The Making Of Manichitrathazhu, In Fazil's Words". Film Companion. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  9. ^ "നാഗവല്ലിയെ വരച്ചത് ആര്, ഇതാ ഉത്തരവുമായി ഒരു കുറിപ്പ്". Asianet News (in Malayalam). 6 June 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  10. ^ James, Anu (9 January 2016). "It wasn't Bhagyalakshmi who dubbed for classic character Nagavalli in Manichitrathazhu, director Fazil reveals". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Fazil gives dubbing artist Durga her due after 23 years, maybe she should have said 'Vidamaate'".
  12. ^ James, Anu (11 January 2016). "Nagavalli-Manichitrathazhu controversy: Dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi, director Fazil break their silence". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  13. ^ Biscoot Regional (20 September 2013). "Manichitrathazhu 1993: Malayalam Full Movie | #Malayalam Movie Online | Mohanlal Movies | Shobana". YouTube. Biscoot Regional. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Manichitrathazhu at MSI". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  15. ^ Nathan, Archana (20 December 2018). "Fazil on his classic 'Manichithrathazhu': 'Everything came together to make the film happen'". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  16. ^ James, Anu (5 December 2016). "Mohanlal's Manichitrathazhu gets a trailer after 23 years". International Business Times. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  17. ^ "25 Years Of Manichithrathazhu: Shobhana, Director Fazil Pay Tribute To Iconic Malayalam Film". HuffPost. 24 December 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  18. ^ a b IBN Live (12 May 2013). "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever: IBNLive poll". CNN-News18. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  19. ^ "10 Mollywood films that ran for the longest time". The Times of India. Times News Network. 31 May 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  20. ^ "Malayalam cinema faces a threat" (PDF). The Statesman. 24 September 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  21. ^ "41st National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  22. ^ "State Film Awards". Department of Information and Public Relations. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Manichithrathazhu has received the maximum TRP rating!". The Times of India. Times News Network. 17 November 2014. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  24. ^ Jha, Lata (15 October 2018). "Ten Indian films with multiple remakes". mint. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  25. ^ Nagarajan, Saraswathy (1 August 2013). "Return of Dr. Sunny". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2020.

External links

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