Mamangam Movie Review
Reviewwer: Chandra Mohan Gopinath
After the show got over, I overheard a young group among the audience comparing Mamangam with none other than the classic Oru Vadakkan Veera Gadha. They were praising the latter and I could make out from their talks that they were disappointed with the former. So my first job here is to make it clear that Mamangam is no Vadakkan Veera Gadha or for that matter a Pazhashiraja. OVVG had a brilliant screenplay written by none other than The MT himself with hard-hitting dialogues combining with the craftsmanship of director Hariharan who did full justice to the screenplay. And Mammootty was at his prime and at his sublime best when he did OVVG.
Comparisons are obvious but let’s cut all those and analyze Mamangam as a standalone historical period drama. We know the film went through a lot of hardships midway through the shoot with the screenplay changing hands and getting adapted. All the chopping and changes would have severely affected the progress. So it wouldn’t have been an easy task for director M. Padmakumar to take control from such a stage and that too a film of this magnitude. From that perspective, he deserves a pat on his back for making Mamangam a reality even in the current format.
In my opinion, Mamangam is not a bad attempt but there is nothing extraordinary to write about. The film gets it right at many places and at the same time gets the opposite results too at many areas. The thing is you expect nothing short of extraordinary when Mammootty dons a historical character and hence there is every chance that an audience going with some sort of expectation will feel a little dejected seeing a period drama that doesn’t go at full throttle and thereby failing to reach the next level. The impact the film generate in the end and the punch it creates in some of the most critical moments are very minimal or nothing. That severely affects the narrative and in the end, the film turns out to be a mixed bag of action, emotion and drama.
The film set in the seventeen century is all about Chaverukal or rather suicide squads and their attempt to kill The Zamorin King in a bid to reclaim their rights. Zamorins are the biggest enemies of Valluvanadu and the occasion for taking revenge is the huge Mamangam trade festival that happens every twelve years. The ones who make this valiant attempt are from the Chandroth family of Valluvanadu. The film showcase two such attempts in a span of twenty-four years.
Touted to be a magnum opus and made on a huge budget, Mamangam is supposed to be a film of epic proportion. But the film struggle at many places to make a strong impression. From the look of things, it looks like the makers have taken cinematic liberties to add fictional elements in the story. But they should have added some captivating moments to bring that X-factor. It looked like the focus was more on the story aspects and the emotional angle in it rather than its hero and his heroism. That was a positive sign but whether that attempt has yielded the results is something questionable.
Action and battle sequences are one of the major highlights of this film but this area is heavily affected by poor visual effects work. Agreed, a lot of efforts might have gone into the making but the excitement and thrill are missing as the stunts didn’t look that perfect lacking that spark. For a film like Mamangam, that’s a telling blow. At many places, the film didn’t rise up since the execution or handling of those moments was found wanting.
There is very less of action happening in the first half. After the first battle where Chandroth Valiya Panicker played by Mammootty is introduced we don’t see much happening on screen till it was time to wind up the pre-intermission portions. It is here that we see the film focussing a little too much on an antagonist character played by Siddique (as the general of Zamorin, a foreign merchant and few lady characters surrounding a brothel. A sort of investigation or unveiling of mystery surrounding prime characters happens here. It was interesting but again I felt the central plot was not getting its due share in this phase. Around twenty minutes or so before the break, the film gets some interesting developments.
The second half is a little different as the film regain momentum which aid in elevating the engagement level. Emotionally, the film’s screenplay found it tough to get the central as well as supporting characters rooted with the story. Chandroth Valiya Panicker and the little boy Chanthunni to an extent though leaves a mark and is able to find a place in our heart. Dialogues were sounding to be too artificial and overly dramatic and that made the proceedings look a bit uninteresting.
On the performance side, Mammootty’s character was a little different from what we have seen him doing over the years in period dramas. He is given very less of heroism and made to be part of emotional sequences. He did his part as usual but there will be a feeling among the audience about the actor not getting enough screen space. And there is a surprise role which he does midway through with class and grace. It could have looked awkward on screen but the actor in Mammootty was able to pull it off making it look as good as the character demanded. But that dance sequence focussing on that character was something that was hard to digest for me.
Among the rest of the actors, the little boy Achuthan outshone many of the senior actors with a breathtaking effort. Unni Mukundan made his presence felt through the action sequences but his dialogue delivery is still work in progress. Perhaps among the rest of the actors, only Siddhique could make an impact while the others looked poorly cast or having nothing much to do. M.Jayachandran’s music if we take the ‘Mookkothi’ number out of the picture can be called decent enough while the background score was good in parts. The art department has done a fine job with the elaborate sets they have constructed for a period war film.
FINAL VERDICT: It has its flaws, there are dull phases and the shortcomings in execution is visible at many places but it was not an entirely bad experience for me. A historical drama that handles action and emotions in equal proportion, Mamangam falls short of a captivating historical movie and more was expected out of it. That doesn’t mean the film can be completely written off either purely because it has its moments as well.