After being chased away from their own land of Thirunavaya by the treacherous Zamorins over 300 years ago, the bravest of warriors from Valluvakonathiri keep turning up at the Mamangam festival – which takes place once in 12 years for 30 days – to get back what’s rightfully theirs. But, with 30,000 army at Zamorins’ disposal, is revenge and redemption going to be a cake walk for the distraught?
The very first element that ticks the right box in this film are the grand locations. The sets are spread over acres of land and special attention has been paid to the intricacies of the period setting. Yet another aspect of this war drama that stands out is how all the actors, including superstar Mammootty, excel at the marital arts form, Kalaripayattu. Not only do the actors present themselves as valiant representatives of their clan, but also go on to display their action skills on celluloid with panache. It is delightful to watch Unni Mukundan as a dutiful son and a death-or-glory warrior, who’s willing to go to painful lengths for triumph. His kind eyes give away his innermost turmoil, thus making the character both secure and vulnerable at the same time; a prerequisite for the portrayal of his character, Chandroth Panikkar. Master Achuthan, as the youngest Chandroth scion to fight the Zamorins, is adorable and a force to reckon with. Despite his small frame, the child artiste manages to hold his ground while sharing the screen space with established senior actors. Mammootty, as a skilled artisan and a sword-wielding, courageous soldier of the soil, is a sight to behold. Even at 68, he has the same charm and zeal that he has showcased throughout his career. The actresses – Prachi Tehlan, Anu Sithara – look glamorous in their roles as dancers.
However, what works against this otherwise engaging tale is its length. At 157 minutes, ‘Manamgam’ unfolds as a tedious watch. And, as far as the narrative goes, it derails quite often, especially during the middle portion of the film. The screenplay often pays too much attention to parallel plots and tries to build a back story that has very little significance to the central theme. Also, it is sad to see that a star of Mammootty’s stature is limited to a character like Panikkar – a role that has been under explored by writer Shankar Ramakrishnan.
All said and done, ‘Mamangam’ is for Mammootty's mammoth fan base. Period!