Megastar Mammootty plays the lead role in ‘Joseph’ director M. Padmakumar’s magnum opus Mamangam. Produced by Kavya Film Company, Mamangam also stars Unni Mukundan, Prachi Tehlan, Kaniha, Anu Sithara among others in crucial supporting roles. The adapted screenplay of the period epic is written by Shanker Ramakrishnan (the Tamil dialogues are written by Ram).
Set in the medieval period, Mamangam deals with the feud between the warring Chaver clan and the dominant Samutri clan, who are at the forefront of the auspicious Mamangam festival. Twenty-four years after the defeat of Chavers headed by Chandroth Periya Panicker (played by Mammootty), another warrior from the clan (Unni Mukundan) and his nephew Unni (Achutan) become the chosen ones to fight the battle against the opposite group.
Mamangam starts with an engrossing fight sequence and the intrigue is carried by the subsequent scenes that throw light on the valor of the Chaver clan. The scenes where the warriors’ matriarchs choose between honour and their men’s existence is a fine instance of the film’s well-conceived stretches. But the narrative loses steam when the Samutri king’s deputy Valluvakonathri (played by Siddique) investigates the murder of Samarkoya, an Arab trader, which connects. As soon as the procedural starts, one can see the resolution from miles ahead. The biggest issue is that a major part of the screenplay is solely dedicated to this predictable whodunnit.
But the flaws are slightly balanced by the characterization of Mammootty’s role, and the dual life associated with it. The film places some good clues within the procedural (for instance, the sleuths find an aerial view of the Mamangam festival in a mural painted by one of their usual suspects). But the film makes less use of such moments. Even the interval point doesn’t hold any tension.
As the film moves forward, we get to see that the narrative is an antithesis to the war genre, as the story tries to look at things from the perspective of a wounded warrior. Chandroth Periya Panicker’s prolonged absence and his failure to kill his enemy is being seen as treason in his own land, but they seldom realize that he made that decision to save future generations from the fate encountered by his martyred compatriots. One of the refreshing aspects of Mamangam is that the film does not glorify the concept of retribution, as opposed to the other period dramas. On the surface level, Mamangam would’ve made an interesting character study, but ends up reaching too high for the low hanging fruit.
Mamangam is hugely benefitted by Mammootty’s restrained and dignified performance. The actor handles the two extremes of his character with such ease and effortlessness. Unni Mukundan is aptly cast while its Achutan, who surprises you in various scenes, especially during the action sequences. Siddique plays to his strengths and portrays the antagonist well. The production design by Mohandas adds more value to the milieu and with Manoj Pillai’s cinematography, the film ably recreates Mamangam’s festive atmosphere. Overall, Mamangam is a middling period drama that is powered by the presence of its leads.