Geethanjali is a Malayalam horror thriller starring Mohanlal, Keerthi Suresh and Nishan in lead roles. It is a spin-off of the famous Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu. A spin-off is a film derived from another. In the case of Geethanjali, all that is adopted from Manichitrathazhu are the characters– Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal) and Nakulan (Suresh Gopi). Suresh Gopi only has a special appearance of under one minute. Innocent and Ganesh Kumar from the cast of Manichitrathazhu also have roles in this film but they are playing different characters. The fim is directed by Priyadarshan who was an assistant director of Manichitrathazhu. The story was written by Abilash Nair. The film is apparently a remake of a Thai film called Alone.
The film is about Anjali (Keerthi Suresh) who returns to her parental home in Arackal with her fiance Anoop (Nishan) upon hearing about her mother falling off of the terrace of the home and getting hospitalized. Anjali and her mother recently experienced the shock of the untimely death of Anjali’s twin sister, Geetha. Anjali’s mother was not able to recover from this shock. Moreover, there are rumors among the servants that the house is haunted by Geetha’s ghost.
Anjali and Anoop were planning on getting married at their native place, so they stay back at the Arackal home. But immediately after they arrive, Anjali is bothered by Geetha’s ghost which she sees repeatedly around the house.
Meanwhile, Vasu uncle (Ganesh Kumar) wants to purchase the home but distant relatives, Thankappan (Innocent) and his daughter, show up at the place saying that they have a claim in the property. Anoop and others in the house notice that Anjali is becoming increasingly disturbed. So Anoop calls Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) and asks him about the psychiatrist who had helped them many years ago. Nakulan gets in touch with Dr. Sunny who soon arrives at the Arackal home to find out what is wrong. The rest of the story is about how Dr. Sunny solves the riddle behind Geetha’s ghost.
The first forty-five minutes of the film are rather slow, but the story picks up and becomes more interesting after Dr. Sunny makes an entry. After finishing the film and understanding the truth behind Geetha’s ghost, you will actually want to go back and take a look at the early scenes and think about them. So I suggest hanging in there even though you might feel bored at first.
Although I was excited about seeing this film for the sole reason of Mohanlal playing Dr. Sunny once again, I was intent on reviewing the film without comparing it with Manichitrathazhu. But as I watched the film, I realized that some comparison with Manichitrathazhu is inevitable because Priyadarshan intentionally put nuances in the film that reminds one of certain Manichitrathazhu scenes.
I think it is because of the inevitable comparison of two films that Geethanjali received low ratings from viewers. The film only has 4.5 out of 10 stars on IMDB, which I personally feel is underrated. I think that the audience’s expectations from the film were so high that the film naturally fell short. But in reality, Geethanjali is a decent film that lovers of the horror genre will enjoy. I urge viewers to try to watch the film without thinking about Manichitrathazhu.
The film is no doubt very different from Manichitrathazhu and it is meant to be so. As for the subtle similarities, I think that they ought to be considered a gesture by Priyadarshan and Abilash Nair for Manichitrathazhu fans.
*if you have not seen the film but want to, stop reading here, spoilers ahead, please jump to the last paragraph of the review
Here are some of those nuances that I picked up while watching Geethanjali:
- Just like the ghost of Nagavalli at the Madampally palace, there is a ghost at the Arackal home, the ghost of Geetha. Geetha’s room was locked to keep her spirit there by a Christian priest. But Anjali opened the door after arriving home, thereby letting the ghost free. Now the priest must return to Arackal and keep the spirit back in the room. In Manichitrathazhu, Ganga had opened the door of Nagavalli’s room and allowed the spirit to roam. Priests had to come to lock the room again.
- Around the 50th minute of Geethanjali, Innocent is afraid of a series of things that are actually normal, just as his character had feared random yet normal things in Manichitrathazhu. This also marks the entry of Dr. Sunny in the film, which I think was an impressive entry.
- In this film again there is a silly priest claiming that he will cast off the spirit through rituals
- There are also a few funny scenes where the intention of Dr. Sunny is misunderstood just as it was in Manichitrathazhu
- There is a scene where Dr. Sunny again speaks the same phrases over and over again in different ways and quickly, and no one understands what he is trying to say
- To find out the truth, Dr. Sunny is shown to be visiting different places and asking people questions, just as he had done for Ganga’s case
- Just like the scene where Dr. Sunny had explained everything to Nakulan in Manichitrathazhu, there is a scene where Dr. Sunny explains everything to Anoop in Geethanjali. I really like this scene because the whole conversation takes place in the cemetery at night under heavy rain
- As Ganga had transformed into Nagavalli while speaking to her husband, Anjali/Geetha transforms while speaking to Anoop, after Anoop finds out the truth. Her looks and way of speaking change and show all the signs of a mentally imbalanced person
Aside from these nuisances, the film is very different from Manichitrathazhu. First of all, as you can see from the stills, Geethanjali is a dark and gloomy film. It does not have bright visuals like Manichitrathazhu, nor does it have a happy ending. Manichitrathazhu was a psychological thriller, but Geethanjali is a horror film. There is a psychological aspect to the story but it is weak. The suspense elements are also weak. Unfortunately, despite being a horror film, the film is not frightening. Moreover music and dance have no importance in this film.
Ganesh Kumar, Innocent and Suresh Gopi who were also part of the cast of Manichitrathazhu
Mohanlal is in top shape in his performance as Dr. Sunny. Dr. Sunny is just as playful, funny, witty and lovable in Geethanjali as he was in Manichitrathazhu. After seeing Mohanlal’s performance, one remembers what natural acting looks like. We don’t see much of it these days. And Mohanlal’s face is such that when one looks at him, it feels like he’s a friend, someone that is close and dear. There is a sweetness and simplicity in his looks, attitude and speech that makes the audience warm up to him immediately. Mohanlal is the best, and perhaps the only reason to see the film for some.
Keerthi Suresh was very good in her two roles. This was her debut film and she is not like a newcomer at all, she is completely in grasp of her performance. She has done everything from editing, directing, producing and costume designing for short films previously. She obviously knows about film-making and needs to continue her career as anactress.
I think the story of the film was good but the one aspect I did not understand was how Anoop does not recognize his fiance or how one sister can pose for the other so successfully.
The music of the film is okay. I do like Doore Doore, which reminds me of the song Varuvaanillarumee from Manichitrathazhu. Both melodies are soft and sad, with lyrics about separation and longing.
I think that the editing and post-production teams deserve a mention because in the fight scenes and the scenes where the sisters appeared together, the editing and post-production was done perfectly without any glitches. However the visuals for Geetha’s ghost were poor and failed to frighten or thrill.
In conclusion, I recommend this film for those who enjoy horror films. However, if you see the film expecting another Manichitrathazhu, you will be disappointed. Keep your expectations low and keep in mind that this is not a remake or sequel. If you enjoyed Mohanlal’s Dr. Sunny performance in Manichitrathazhu, then you might want to see this film for Mohanlal.
I really would like to see the Thai original film and compare it with Geethanjali to get an idea of how much the writer added to/changed the story.
Also take a look at my post: The Differences Between Manichitrathazhu and Bhool Bhulaiyya.