Manichitrathazhu (transl. The Ornate Lock) is a 1993 Indian Malayalam-language 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 dealt with an unusual theme which was not common in Indian cinema at the time. The film became the highest-grossing Malayalam film ever at the box-office and received widespread critical acclaim.

Manichitrathazhu poster.jpg
Directed by
Produced bySwargachitra Appachan
Written byMadhu Muttam
Music by
Edited byT. R. Shekar
Distributed bySwargachitra
Release date
  • 23 December 1993 (1993-12-23)
Running time
169 minutes

Directors Siddique-Lal, Priyadarshan, and Sibi Malayil served as second-unit directors.[4] The cinematography was by Venu and it was edited by T. R. Shekar. The film has an ensemble cast featuring Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Shobana, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Vinaya Prasad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, K. B. Ganesh Kumar, Sudheesh, and Thilakan in the main roles. 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.

Apart from being the highest-grossing Malayalam film ever, Manichitrathazhu is considered as one of the best Malayalam films ever made.[5] It ran for 365 days in theatres. Manichitrathazhu was remade after 10 years in four languages – in Kannada as Apthamitra, 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.


A young couple, Ganga and Nakulan, arrives at Nakulan's ancestral home tharavadu called Madampalli. Hailing from a family that follows tradition and superstitions, Nakulan's uncles Thampi and Unnithan object to the couple's idea of moving into the allegedly haunted mansion, which Nakulan ignores. The couple moves in, following which seemingly supernatural events are triggered.

The mansion was occupied decades ago by Sankaran Thampi Karanavar, a feudal lord of the province who was also the then-head of the family. In his heyday, he had brought in a dancer girl, Nagavalli, from Tamil Nadu as his concubine. But she was already in love with a man named Ramanathan, a dancer who came along with her secretly and settled in the cottage next to the mansion. Learning of their affair and their plan to elope, Sankaran Thampi turns angry and murders Nagavalli in her room at the mansion. Legend has it that on the eighth day of Navaratri, on Durgashtami (an annual Hindu celebration) night, Nagavalli returned as a bloodthirsty spirit for the purpose of murdering the Karanavar, but he escaped upon chanting some mantras. With the assistance of sorcerers from Aalappara, Karanavar escaped from the wrath of Nagavalli. Her spirit was locked in the Southmost portion of the mansion (Thekkini) by placing a talisman over the lock. Later the Karanavar committed suicide and his spirit was locked up beside the same room, by means of an ornate enchanted lock called manichitrathazhu.

In the present-day, a curious Ganga manages to unlock the Thekkini, only to find paintings of the Karanavar and Nagavalli, and ancient valuables such as jewellery and musical instruments. Upon learning about the unlocking of the Thekkini, fearing the spirits are on the loose, Nakulan's uncle Thampi and family move into the mansion to try and re-seal the Thekkini lock, while also looking out for Nakulan and Ganga. However, various unclear sightings of a woman are witnessed around the mansion, along with attempted attacks on various people at the mansion, including Ganga and later Unnithan's daughter Alli. While most of the family including Thampi believe that Nagavalli's ghost roams the mansion, Nakulan, disapproving of any supernatural theory, suspects Sreedevi (Thampi's daughter) who was present during all events of attack, to be mentally ill, hence orchestrating the incidents at the mansion. Hearing of this, Thampi and the family fear that Sreedevi might be possessed by Nagavalli's spirit.

Sreedevi who is Nakulan's cousin, according to tradition, was to be married to Nakulan; however, after finding that Sreedevi had an ominous horoscope, Nakulan's mother withdrew from this proposal, and got Nakulan married to Ganga; later, Sreedevi entered a marriage which was short-lived. Sreedevi's tragic past, along with her perceived gloominess, and her being the only person present during an attack on Ganga, lays cause for suspicion of her.

Dr. Sunny Joseph, a brilliant yet frolicsome Psychiatrist and Nakulan's close friend is called from the United States to investigate. Soon enough Dr. Sunny finds out that Nakulan's conclusions are not as obvious and he predicts a murder to happen during the upcoming Durga Ashtami Festival.

Few days later, during a Kathakali programme, the entire family is present as audience while Sunny and Nakulan enter later. As both of them goes in search of Ganga, they spot Mahadevan, a renowned novelist and the family's next-door neighbor who is also Alli's fiance, having a tussle with Ganga. Thinking that Ganga was being abused by him, Nakulan attempts to hit Mahadevan but gets stopped by Sunny. The three of them take care of an unconscious Ganga and after she goes to sleep, Sunny reveals certain shocking truths to the other two.

Right from the night of his arrival, Sunny's trained psychiatric mind begins to suspect that Ganga could well be the mental patient of Madampalli. He investigates Ganga's childhood and past with the help of Chandu, who is Thampi's son and Sreedevi's younger brother. Ganga grew up in a highly superstitious family and had partaken in various religious rituals as a child. Her parents had left her to her grandmother at the age of 3 and never bothered about her due to their busy lifestyle. This made her sensitive as an individual; so when she came to know that her parents were moving her to Calcutta she was unable to come to grips with it. She had become very close to her grandmother and didn't want to leave her village and her ancestral home. It was a period of great emotional and psychological turmoil for her, and she slowly developed multiple personality disorder. Years later, Madampalli with its share of superstitions and dark tales evokes memories of childhood days in her, and Ganga slowly develops the personality of Nagavalli after having empathised with her and her devastating backstory.

Meanwhile, Thampi having lost faith in Dr. Sunny, calls in a renowned tantric expert Pullattuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad to get rid of his family's supernatural menace. As fate has it, both the Namboothiripad and Sunny are old acquaintances and mutually admire each other's expertise in their respective fields. At his own risk, Sunny reveals the secret to Namboothiripad and also adds some of the facts which he observed from Ganga's alter ego behaviour.

When Ganga transforms into Nagavalli, her alter ego assumes the man staying in dancer Ramanathan's ancient house (Mahadevan) as Ramanathan. Similarly she assumes Nakulan to be the cruel Karnavar Sankaran Thampi, thereby waiting to kill him on Durga Ashtami night to take her revenge. Sunny specifies on these kind of associating mystical codes picked up by Ganga's alter-ego from the tales of the house.

Ganga gets a loose idea of her illness during a manifestation of her hidden personality by Nakulan on the directions of Sunny. Sunny, with help of the Namboothiripad, plans an elaborate Tantric ceremony to create a suitable atmosphere and invoke Ganga's Nagavalli persona and make it believe that it will finally be able to kill it's enemy Sankaran Thampi. The plan is put into action and in a fiery climax, Namboothiripad orders the blood thirsty Nagavalli in Ganga to exact revenge on Karanavar by making Nakulan lie down on a platform, and giving a sword to Nagavalli. As Nagavalli is about to pick up the sword, Namboothiripad sprays ash in front of Nagavalli to block her vision and simultaneously Sunny turns the platform over, revealing a blood-filled dummy resemblinh the Karanavar. Thus, Nakulan is saved, and he escapes. Ganga, in her extreme rage, as Nagavalli, stabs the dummy multiple times and thinks that she actually kills the Karanavar, and drinks the dummy's blood, thereby making her feel like she has accomplished her task. Ganga falls down into a hypnotic sleep while Nagavalli leaves her.

Ganga wakes up from her hypnotic sleep and learns that she is completely cured of the illness. Sunny expresses his intent to marry Sreedevi, and they all drive off happily.


  • Mohanlal as Dr. Sunny Joseph, a Psychiatrist
  • Suresh Gopi as Nakulan, Ganga's husband
  • Shobana as Ganga and Nagavalli
  • Nedumudi Venu as Thampi, Nakulan's maternal uncle
  • Vinaya Prasad as Sreedevi, Thampi's daughter and Nakulan's cousin
  • 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
  • K. P. A. C. Lalitha as Bhasura, Thampi's sister and Nakulan's aunt
  • Innocent as Unnithan, Bhasura's husband
  • Thilakan as Pullattuparam Brahmadathan Namboothiripad, a tantric expert
  • Kuthiravattam Pappu as Kattuparamban, priest at a local temple
  • K. B. Ganesh Kumar as Dasappan Kutty
  • 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.[6]

Dubbing creditsEdit

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.[7]

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.[8] Other dubbing artistes were Anandavally and Ambili, who dubbed for Vinaya Prasad and Rudra.[9]


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.[10]

Soundtrack album by
Released23 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 


Box officeEdit

Manichitrathazhu performed well at the box office and became the highest-grossing Malayalam film ever, to that date.[11][12][13] It ran for more than 365 days in some centres.[14] The film gained a profit of 3 crore for the producer.[15]


Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
National Film Awards 41st National Film Awards Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [16]
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 [17]
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][18]

In a 2013 online poll by IBN Live, Manichitrathazhu was listed second in India's Greatest Film of All Time. 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.[13] As per the statistics of 2015, Manichitrathazhu is the most reviewed horror film ever in IMDb, surpassing Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) with 2517 reviews.[19]


  • Manichithrathazhu later inspired remakes and sequels in other languages, such as Apthamitra and its sequel Aptharakshaka in Kannada starring Vishnuvardhan, Chandramukhi in Tamil and Telugu (dubbed) starring Rajinikanth and its sequel in Telugu titled Nagavalli starring Venkatesh, Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Hindi and Rajmohol in Bengali.
  • The central character played by Shobhana is named Ganga in all the remakes except Bhool Bhulaiya and Rajmohol. In Hindi, the character is named Avni, played by Vidya Balan whereas in Bengali, the character is named Deboshree, played by Anu Choudhury.
  • All three South Indian versions (Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil) earned the actresses playing the central character (Shobhana, Soundarya, Jyothika, respectively) the state awards for best actress of the respective states (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).
  • In Apthamitra (the Kannada version) the character of psychiatrist, played by Vishnuvardhan, is given more screen time. The Tamil version, Chandramukhi, followed the same pattern. Both films were directed by P. Vasu.[20] However, the Hindi version (Bhool Bhulaiyaa, directed by Priyadarshan) and the Bengali version (Rajmohol directed by Swapan Saha)stuck to the original script.[21]
  • The story was not credited to Madhu Muttam in Apthamitra and Chandramukhi, in which the story was credited to the director P. Vasu himself. However, in Bhool Bhulaiyaa the story was credited to Madhu Muttam, following a Kerala High Court verdict in a case filed by him.
  • Long before Telugu version Chandramukhi was dubbed, Manichithrathazhu was dubbed into Telugu as Aathmaragam.
  • Apthamitra's sequel, Aptharakshaka starring Vishnuvardhan was written and directed by P. Vasu and went on to become a huge success in Kannada.
  • P. Vasu also planned to remake it in Tamil as Chandramukhi 2. But as Rajnikanth wasn't available, he approached Ajith Kumar for the film. But the Tamil version could never make it to the sets and finally Telugu producer Bellamkonda Suresh bought the movie rights and the movie was released as Nagavalli in Telugu starring Daggubati Venkatesh.
  • Even before the movie was officially remade in Kannada in 2004 as Apthamitra , the key sequences including the climax were copied in the 2004 Kannada movie Sagari which released five months before Apthamitra.[22]


A spin-off titled Geethanjali was released on 14 November 2013, with Mohanlal reprising his role as Sunny.[23]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Biscoot Regional (20 September 2013). "Manichitrathazhu 1993: Malayalam Full Movie | #Malayalam Movie Online | Mohanlal Movies | Shobana". YouTube. Biscoot Regional. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Manichitrathazhu at MSI". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  11. ^ James, Anu (5 December 2016). "Mohanlal's Manichitrathazhu gets a trailer after 23 years". International Business Times. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  12. ^ "25 Years Of Manichithrathazhu: Shobhana, Director Fazil Pay Tribute To Iconic Malayalam Film". HuffPost. 24 December 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "Malayalam cinema faces a threat" (PDF). The Statesman. 24 September 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "State Film Awards". Department of Information and Public Relations. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ Broadbent, Giles; Scott, Patrik (30 October 2015). "How many of these 100 best horror films have you seen?". The Wharf. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  20. ^ Ramanujam, Srinivasa (21 July 2015). "Malayalam remakes click in Kollywood". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Case of the missing marbles". The Hindu. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Nagarajan, Saraswathy (1 August 2013). "Return of Dr. Sunny". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2020.

External linksEdit