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Manjummel Boys: An exciting faith-based blockbuster that doesn’t use religion as a crutch

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Manjummel Boys: An exciting faith-based blockbuster that doesn’t use religion as a crutch

Manjummel Boys toy teases with the concept of being a horror film for a scant ten minutes following the first act. There had been no indication in the last forty-odd minutes that this might possibly be possible. You also hadn’t heard anybody discuss this change in tone in the few months it took for the Malayalam smash, the biggest hit in the history of the industry, to become available on streaming services. However, at that very moment, when the Devil’s Kitchen is mentioned for the first time, you lean in because Manjummel Boys is giving you something that is getting harder and harder to find in contemporary Indian cinema: complete unpredictability.

During a vacation in the Gunaa Caves in Kodaikanal, a group of young men from Kerala discover that one of their friends, Subhash, whose atheism is a major story element, has fallen hundreds of feet into a hole that can only fit one person into. The group finds itself in a life-threatening predicament. The odds of surviving are next to none, it’s pouring, and the police are of little assistance. Nevertheless, the gang perseveres, building a makeshift human fortification around the pit to prevent rains from entering and drowning Subhash. Even though they have no idea whether he is still alive, they never give up. It’s a scary scenario that brings to mind the well-known Thai cave rescue effort from 2018, the Chilean miners’ predicament from 2010, or the Prince tragedy from 2006—which is still vividly remembered by all Indians who were alive during the TataSky period.

However, writer-director Chidambaram briefly upends the story’s comparatively realistic realism when he gets the villagers to whisper incoherently about the caverns serving as some kind of otherworldly entrance to hell. You never see it coming, but Stephen King must have sneezed someplace in Maine. The Devil’s Kitchen, a hillside labyrinth that has claimed several lives over the years, was the moniker given to the tourist site during the British rule, before the Gunaa Caves were named after a Kamal Haasan movie that was made there many years ago.

Some members of the gang search for assistance while others stand guard near the cave’s entrance. They finally arrive at the local store where, only a few hours before, they had bought some munchies. The storekeeper is reminded of them, but the notion of the pit makes her shudder. He says that Subhash is effectively dead and declines to assist them. The shopkeeper grudgingly decides to accompany them back to the location after receiving a reprimand from his daughter for abandoning visitors from a different city who are in need. However, not before gathering a handful of lemons to fend off evil spirits. And this is the moment when the film presents us with the terrifying carrot. However, Even though it would have been entertaining, Manjummel Boys’ decision not to pursue this idea demonstrates the storytelling discipline that has recently distinguished the Malayalam film industry from other regions of the nation.

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Manjummel Boys, like the extremely successful Fahadh Faasil-starring Malayankunju from a few years ago (about which the actor has voiced unjustified unhappiness), doesn’t let anything that doesn’t advance the plot weaken it. Even the flashbacks are sparsely used, conveying more character dynamics subtly than long, wordy dialogue in a lower-budget film would. We avoid wasting time on choreographed dance scenes or comedic relief characters, which are a common feature in popular Indian films, nor do we cut away to their families. Rather, Chidambaram does what any competent director would do when handling an ensemble drama such as this one: he ensures that each of the “boys” has distinguishable characteristics and provides a sufficient explanation of the location’s topography. to the extent that you could possibly reach the pit on your own if you went to the Gunaa Caves tomorrow. Please refrain from.

Manjummel Boys is essentially a faith-based film; it accepts the existence of purgatory, hell, and heaven but never uses organised religion as a crutch to explain what transpired that day. Furthermore, at no time during the movie do any of the characters—and there are a tonne of them—pray for their missing friend’s safety. During the rescue operation, there are no cutaways leading to a church, temple, or mosque; yet, Chidambaram was quite free to choose this route and most likely get away with it with a pat on the back. For example, in his fantastic Thai cave rescue film Thirteen Lives, Ron Howard couldn’t help but include Buddhist monks.

On the other hand, The Manjummel Boys are an inclusive, secular group. After all, this is a tale of brotherhood, of strangers becoming lifelong friends, and of people supporting one another. They get their hands filthy, sometimes literally, since they can’t just sit around and wait for God to work a miracle. The idea that supernatural intervention had a role in the rescue effort is not intended to weaken the relationship between them in the film. It was all down to the utter bravery of these common people; there wasn’t. Manjummel Boys intentionally downplays the significance of religion, if anything. The one and only time a church and priest are mentioned in the film—right at the very end—they are used as just another means of sprinkling praise on human accomplishments rather than reaching for any excuse to give thanks to the Lord.

Furthermore, Manjummel Boys’ occasional forays into horror don’t really rely on well-known religious iconography. The underground prison in Malayankunju, where the main character was imprisoned following a landslip, was designed to resemble a womb, signifying his rebirth. Cinematographer Shyju Khalid’s artistic lighting in Subhash’s purgatorial prison in Manjummel Boys creates a more abstract atmosphere. Following his extraction, the people in the area assemble around Subhash and, in a scene reminiscent of a paganism ceremony, proclaim him to be a deity. Is there a more overt metaphor for the message this film is attempting to convey?

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The Manjummel Boys team receives a legal notice from Ilaiyaraaja saying, “Remove the song Kanmani Anbodu Kaadhalan or…”

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The Manjummel Boys team receives a legal notice from Ilaiyaraaja saying, “Remove the song Kanmani Anbodu Kaadhalan or…”

In February 2024, the film Manjummel Boys, starring Sreenath Bhasi and Soubin Shahir, was released. The unauthorised use of renowned Tamil music composer Ilaiyaraaja’s song, Kanmani Anbodu Kaadhalan, from the Tamil film Guna (1991) in Manjummel Boys has resulted in legal trouble for the Malayalam film, according to The Hindu.

Makers of Manjummel Boys vs. Ilaiyaraaja

The Manjummel Boys makers were accused by Ilaiyaraaja of “illegally” using Kamal Haasan’s song Kanmani Anbodu Kaadhalan in their film without getting his “consent, permission or licence,” according to the report.

According to the notice sent through Ilaiyaraaja’s attorney, he wrote the song. The notice stated that “the same or any underlying gesture cannot be a substitute for our client’s permission/licence/content for such usage,” even though the Manjummel Boys creators had acknowledged this fact in the title cards.

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Select one of the two options.

Given that the musical piece had been used commercially without permission and without paying royalty or licence fees to Ilaiyaraaja, his legal team demanded that the producers of Manjummel Boys either get the composer’s consent or immediately remove the musical piece from their film in addition to making restitution for unauthorised usage.

The notice purportedly threatened to take appropriate legal action, both civil and criminal, against Shawn Antony, Babu Shahir, and Soubhin Shahir, the film’s producers, should they choose not to pursue either of the two options.

Concerning Manjummel Boys

In the survival drama Manjummel Boys, a group of eleven friends from Kerala are organising a trip to Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal. Their journey takes an unexpected turn when one of the friends falls into the Guna Caves, so named because of the 1991 film of the same name starring Kamal Haasan. The next scene in Manjummel Boys depicts the other friends fighting against all obstacles to save their friend.

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