Almost 1 hour into the film Mamangam and somewhere at the beginning of the second half, we hear people giving an account of what they have heard about the valour of one particular assassin. They are describing his act as magical or superhuman on many levels and the problem is that we as an audience get to see this event at the very beginning of the movie and it is filled with those rope-lifting fight techniques. The story that doesn’t go after a typical hero worshiping strategy is perhaps the only and major positive of this ambitious project from M Padmakumar. If you were okay with that last scene from the trailer that has Mammootty jumping with the aid of cables, this one will be an okay movie for you. If not, the experience will be dull.
So the story here is set in the backdrop of the rivalry between Valluvandu and the Malabar area then owned by the Zamorins. The warrior bloods of Valluvandu has this tradition of sending assassins to the festival of Mamangam which was once held by them and now held by the Zamorins, to challenge them. The movie Mamangam deals with two such Mamangam celebrations where the fight put up by the outnumbered assassins from the Valluvandu shook the Zamorins.
Like I said in the beginning, the movie is focusing on telling a story spread over a time of nearly 24 years. And if you take away the so-called big movie hype and baggage of expectations considering it as a Mammootty movie, there is a story here that’s about this festival. There were reports that initial script by Sajeev Pillai was almost 4 or 5 hours long and Sajeev has said that Mamangam is a movie that needed extensive pre-production. The 157 minutes version of the movie that we see now just can’t create an emotional impact on us. The deaths are supposed to affect you emotionally but that wasn’t happening here. Mamangam has done extensive pre-production in terms of set building. But the fights are an extremely integral element of this movie. When you see Mammootty, Unni Mukundan and the young boy Achuthan jumping with the help of ropes attached to them defying the physics of trajectory of a jump, and you later hear characters praising it as magical, there is a serious mismatch in the emotion the movie wants you to have and the emotion that gets created inside your head. Some of you are definitely going to say that people like me will praise this kind of stunts when they are done in Hollywood movies. Well, what I am saying is that Mamangam is one movie that clearly needs that kind of perfection to create an impact on the viewer and the failure to do so has made it a dull film.
M Padmakumar who took over the project from Sajeev Pillai is not trying to break any notions of the way people generally conceive a period epic drama. The visual and verbal texture of the movie is very much in that zone of a film like Pazhassi Raja. The writing of the movie is sort of asking for more breathing space. Mamangam is not exactly an epic action movie. It is at the core an extremely emotional drama that deals with the relevance of a pointless egoistic practice. To feel that pain you should invest in characters that went through the pain and anyone who has seen the movie would know how less time was given to the female characters in the film. Sham Kaushal may well be a huge name in the world of action choreography, but Mamangam’s action needed more grace and smoothness. The pre-climax fight at the Mamangam venue and the fight that has Mammootty towards the end seriously lacks grace and it almost felt like they were in a hurry to wrap it all. The background score wasn’t giving that much needed high and the music in totality was on the okay side. Manoj Pillai has tried to show the scale of the event and the fight through wide frames. But the editing is way too clumsy and it doesn’t respect the flow of an action sequence. The visual effects were on the imperfect side, especially in scenes that showed people getting stabbed.
Mammootty as an actor is not playing your quintessential hero here. In fact, in the first half of the movie his screen time is very less. In the feminine avatar, Mammootty looked graceful and elegant but the decision to make him dance made it a bit clumsy and to be honest, for a second I wondered what if Mohanlal was offered the role. Unni Mukundan as always struggles with dialogue delivery and I won’t really blame him this time as even a veteran like Mr. Siddique was finding it difficult at times to make it sound less artificial. The young one Achuthan was really good in his character. If the action sequence featuring him was conceived in a better way, the chances of Mamangam becoming an appealing movie would have been high. Actors like Sudev Nair, Prachi Tehlan, Iniya, Anu Sithara, Maala Parvathy, Manikandan Achari, Tarun Arora and many others are there who don’t have much of a character arch. Seeing a scene of Sudev Nair made me feel that they edited out a lot of portion that may help us understand that character.
Mamangam was a largely disappointing experience for me. It doesn’t have any unintentional comedy trait similar to last year’s debacle, Odiyan. The problem of the movie, in my opinion, was that it failed to show the pain of these assassins and their dependents. With all due respect to the blood and sweat of the people involved in the making, the action sequences failed to achieve the grandeur that would make the people think about the emotional angle of this story.
The problem of the movie, in my opinion, was that it failed to show the pain of these assassins and their dependents.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended