Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Detective Films of Malayalam

I like reading detective fiction and watching detective films, however bad they are. The thrilling sensation of adventure and problem-solving - it somehow immediately pulls me into the story and keeps me engaged in. Sherlock Holmes stories, of course, have been my favorites in detective genre. Among Indian works, I like stories of Byomkesh Bakshi and Feluda, even though these stories are many a time indigestible, with several unbelievable coincidences helping the detectives to solve the mystery. Still, they have a special charm of Indianness which makes them likeable. In Malayalam, I haven't read many detective stories or novels; I think the most interesting one I have read is the good old Viruthan Shanku, which is regarded as one of the earliest detective fiction works in Malayalam. But then, even in historical fiction works like Dharmaraja, there are elements of intrigue and suspense.

My most favorite detective films in Malayalam are Mohan's Mukham (1990), Padmarajan's Kariyilakkattu Pole (1986), Pavithran's Utharam (1989) and Shaji Kailas's The Truth (1998). In Mukham, Mohanlal plays the role of a police officer looking for a serial killer who murders three women in the city and is after the fourth one. Kariyilakkattu Pole has Mohanlal again, as a police officer, investigating the murder of a celebrity (played by Mammootty) and has few brilliant questioning sessions featuring Lal and the three suspects. Utharam is not exactly a detective film. It has a journalist (played by Mammootty) trying to find the reason behind his close friend's wife's suicide, which leads him to findings that are totally unexpected. Utharam was based on a script by MT Vasudevan Nair, and probably it is his only work in the detective genre. The Truth is loosely structured compared to the above three films. Its presentation is too commercialized and its story is filled with too many incidents that it doesn't have enough scope for character development; But still, it is one of my favorites because it has few interesting twists and turns and is technically brilliant.

I vaguely remember an old black & white film called Lottery Ticket (1970) which I had watched long time back in Doordarshan. It was about a missing lottery ticket, and Adoor Bhasi starred in it. In addition to the old-age charm, Lottery Ticket was also a well-made film, especially if we consider the time it was made.

KG George's Yavanika (1982) was a landmark film in the history of Malayalam cinema. Yavanika also shows us the story of an investigation, but it is much more than a detective film.

One more film that would probably come in my list is GS Vijayan's Charithram (1989), which was inspired from the Tamil film Puthiya Paravai (1964) starring Shivaji Ganeshan (I am not sure whether that one was based on an original story, or whether that was also a remake). Charithram was not exactly a detective film, but it has elements of suspense and was presented nicely. The main character (played Mammootty) of the film is having a haunting past, which reappears in front of him when his younger brother (played by Rehman), who is supposedly dead, comes back alive.

Jagathi, Mammootty and Mukesh in Nerariyan CBI (image from nowrunning dot com)

The most popular detective films in Malayalam would be the CBI series films from SN Swamy- K Madhu - Mammootty team. I have watched all the four films in the series (Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), Jagratha (1989), Sethuramiyer CBI (2004) and Nerariyan CBI (2005)). I had liked the first two films immensely when I watched them some 10+ years back. Oru CBI Diary Kurippu was a trend-setter when it was released and I guess it was the first full-length investigative thriller in Malayalam, giving no importance to romance, songs, or anything else. A nostalgia had developed in me for the CBI films, which probably biased my views and I liked the third and fourth films in the series when they were made after a gap of 15 years.

However, when I watched Oru CBI Diary Kurippu two days back, I was surprised to see how primitive the investigation scenes are in this film. Near the climax of this film, the criminal's blood group is known and he just has to be identified from a list of four or five suspects. Instead of doing this in the most obvious and simplest manner, the CBI officer goes through a round-about way: He is so sure that the criminal might have tested his blood sample at a free malaria camp organized by the panchayat! So, he goes through the panchayat records and find the culprit, it seems! Jagratha is neater, and I think it is the best one in the CBI series. It has a bit more of Sukumaran's portrayal of the arrogant, corrupt police officer - complete with his inimitable mannerisms and dialogue delivery - which we miss in the later films in the series.

In spite of all shortcomings, the nostalgia effect is still strong, and the CBI films would be still among my favorites.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also like to add the following movies to your detective list : "Yavanika"(By KG George),"Oru Abhibhashekante case diary".

11:08 PM  
Blogger Ratheesh said...

Yes, Yavanika should be there in the list, definitely. And it is much more than a detective film, too. I have updated my post with this film in the list:-)

I think I have seen parts of Abhibhashekante case diary, but I don't remember much of it. Is it the one where Mammootty uses wall-clock's image in a photograph to prove his point?


1:37 AM  
Anonymous Unnikrishnan G Nair said...

Hi Ratheesh, This was an extensive list of suspense and thriller movies that U had compiled here. My favorites are "The Truth" and CBI series, sans the fourth episode, I have not seen it yet. Though the third part of CBI is not as exciting and interesting as the 2 predecessors, its still good thanks to the excellent portrayal of Mamooty as Sethurama Iyer the all brains officer. The reason I like The truth is because of its ending. It was simply great and the twist in the end as to whom the killers wanted to kill really was too good. There was one another old movie with Sukumaran in lead and he is investigating the murders of a few men. It has also K R Vijaya in cast as a young widow and at last it is revealed that she is the murderer and all the dead guys were killed when they tried to outrage her modesty. It was a good movie, but I dont remember its name.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Ratheesh said...


I think you are referring to "Oru Sindoorappottinte Ormakku", in which Seema played the role of the murderer. I also have seen it on Doordarshan sometime back, but dont remember much of its story.

It was a good suspense film, I recollect.


2:51 AM  
Blogger Ratheesh said...

... Also, I had listed my favorite Malayalam films containing a suspense element as the most prominent one in the theme.

If we consider thrillers, there are many more to add, and Padmarajan's Season should definitely be added in the list.


2:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I dont know much about law other than watching CSI & some other American Crime Dramas.

But it think the basic principles of justice will be the same everywhere.

To extract a blood sample from a suspect , the police needs a warrant.

Instead of waiting for the judicial system to give the warrant to him , Sethurama Iyer decided to use government records to verify the blood type.( Which is the faster route)

to borrow a line from the series , ratheeshae ee CBI ennu vechal Central Bureau of Idiots alla Ketto :)

9:10 AM  
Blogger Litty said...

ALthough Jagtatha was the best made movie in the CBI series, it was the least successful one.The last CBI movie Nrariyan CBI is the worst.

I think it was the style of Agatha christie's detective Horcule Poirot, to bring all the suspects around the table and to reveal the culprit only in the end.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Ratheesh said...

ok :-)

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Sudhi said...

Yes, ratheesh "Abhibhashekante diary" is the same one in which the case is solved by clock's image. Also there was a recent investigative film named "Fingerprints" (Jayaram, Gopika, N.Venu) which was also different.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ratheesh,

I watched "Kariyila kaattu Pole" and was impressed. Esp the parts where Lal finds the missing link from Unnimary's photograph , Karthika giving descriptions of her relationship with Mammootty which inturn leads to Sripriya as the suspect. Also the Rahman twist at the end was brilliant

Padmarajan delivered tight suspense thru simple camera movements and story telling, without much gimmicks.

Among other movies, I think "Oru thanutha veluppan kaalathu", "Mownam Sammatham"(Tamil, Mammooty's first tamil movie), "Nee Yaar" (old Tmil movie, Jayalalitha is heroine), are all good suspense investigation movies


9:58 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

hi ratheesh

nice read ur thrillers.Among this my fav is padmajajan kariyilakattu pole.U know the filim, kariyilakattupole,its first name was 'Aram'.Later he changed b cas of some blind belives.
Then I would like to submit one more name to this list.That is 'lekhayude maranam oruflash back'This i also an interesting detective film on its making.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Anup said...

you probably should include KG George's Ee Kannikoodi to the list!!

7:01 PM  
Blogger Anup said...

You should probably add KG George's " Ee kanni Koodi to the list..pretty well made movie!!

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nadiya kollapetta raathri and detective were decent suspense thrilers

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Jayadevan D said...

There are some more good films... which is also investigating story, but not with twist ending...still having a good suspense..

Adikkuruppu , August 1, Iyer the great(not investigative thriller but still a thriller..)

My favourates

1) The truth and Utharam in (malayalam)

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

u can add some more Suspense thrillers - Viji Thampi's "NewYear" & "Mandrikakkuthira".
k.g.George's " EE Kannikoodi " is a good Murder mystery.
Baby's "Avano Atho Avalo "
Shaji Kailas " News "

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i too njoy watching investigative thrillers...others include kanathaya pennkutti, Crime file

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Jishnu said...

Crime File,The tiger,FIR,Nariman,Adayalam(Mammootty as suoolier of security guards with maniyan pilla Raju) are good investigative thrillers.K Madhu-SN Swamy team is the best in Malayalam.But that teams last movie Rahasya Police was a waste

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha is a critically acclaimed Malayalam film written and directed by Renjith starring Mammootty and Mythili.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Narayanan K.P., Mahe said...

A few of the same genre are:
1. Uttaram- Mammootty, Sukumaran, Parvathi, Suparna (Script- M.T. vasudevan Nair, Direction- Pavithran)
2. Yavanika- Gopi, Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Venu Nagavalli, Mammootty, Asokan, jalaja (Direction- K.G. George)
3. Sound of Boot- Suresh Gopi
4. Kariyila Kattu Pole- Mammootty, Mohan Lal, Rahman, Karthika, Unnimery (Direction- Padmarajan)
5. Lekhayude Maranam Oru Flashback (Story of the film actress Shobha who committed suicide)-Gopi, Nedumudi Venu, Nalini (Direction- K.G. George)
6. A Wednesday (Hindi)- Nasiruddin Shah, Anupam Kher (It was remade in Tamil with Kamal Hassan and Mohanlal- Unnaippol Oruvan- but the original Hindi film is far better than the latter.)
7. Uyarangalil- Mohan Lal as Villain
8. Sigappu Rojakkal(Tamil)- Kamal Hassan as Villain
9. Artham- jayaram, Parvathi, Mammootty
10. August 1?- Mammootty, Sukumaran
11. Ee Thanutha Veluppan kalathu (Direction- Padmarajan)
12. Raakkilippattu (Snehithaye in Tamil)- Jyothika
13. Chinthamani Kolakkese- Suresh Gopi, Bhavana, Thilakan, Saikumar, Prem Prakash
14. Black Daliya- Vani Viswanath, Baburaj
15. Vairam- Pasupathi, Jayasoorya
16. Janakan- Mohan Lal, Suesh Gopi
17. Positive- Jayasoorya (Script- S.N. Swami)
18. Pakal Nakshathrangal- Anoop Menon, Mohan Lal
19. Bhargavi Nilayam- Madhu (Though it is a fairy tale, it is a thriller of the previous era)
20. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (English)
21. Mouse Trap (English)(Agatha Christie)
22. Psycho (English)- Antoney Perkins (Alfred Hichcock)
22. Kaun (Hindi)- Urmila Mandondkar

Vigatha Kumaran, the first movie in Malayalam was a ditective film

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was really surprised to see that the very well made movie 'Detective'(Suresh Gopi Double role, Sindu Menon) is not included in any ones list...It is an absolute piece of great work...thrilling ..very good suspense...you will have no questions to the director...everthing is made very clear and natural..must watch

4:26 AM  
Blogger Kannadi said...

'kidilol kidilam' is also a thriller movie

1:12 AM  
Anonymous sitara said...

I wish to say there are some more detedctive movies
1.C.B.I movies
4.balck daliya
7.ee thanutha veluppan kalathu
8.kariyila kattu pole
9.kanathaya penkutti
10.chintamani kolacase
15.oru c.b.i diarikurippu
17.finger print
19.the truth
21.lekahyude maranam oru flash back
22.august 1?

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some more Thriller Generartion Films in Malayalam

1. AgniVyooham ( sukumaran & Subha)
2. Manassariyaathe ( Mohanlal, Nedumudi ,Zarina wahab )
3. Aayur Reka
4. August 15
5. Sunday 7 PM
6. Dheera
7. Avano Atho Avalo

4:48 AM  
Blogger aravind bs said...

I think suresh gopi is the actor with most number of films in investigative role.here are some of his detective movies.
crime file
kanyakumari express
nadiya kollapetta rathri
the tiger
Sound of Boot
Chinthamani Kolakkese

6:53 AM  
Blogger Gopi said...

Puthiya Paravai(Tamil) was adapted from Chase a crooked shadow by Agatha Christie. Another Tamil thriller Nadu Iravail was adapted from Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie.


6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say among all these UTHARAM is the best . It got the most unexpected climax and the most complicated story . I really love it .


8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lekahyude maranam oru flash back is not a detective movie.It is a waste.
Kidilol kidilam is a great movie but it is not available anywhere.

3:29 AM  
Anonymous Rajeek said...

Prithviraj's Thriller is an investigation thriller movie....

5:35 PM  
Blogger Sheryl Parakkal said...

Thank you very much. I was looking for a list and yours first turned up on Google. Now I've started watching the movies and am very happy.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous nrml said...

'Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kaalath' is one of the best investigatiion thriller in malayalam... scripted by the legendary padmarajan sir and directed by joshi.. it has mammooty, sumalatha, suresh gopi, nedumudi venu etc.. i think it is one of the best roles suresh gopi ever got

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Have just watched ee thanutha veluppaankaalathu...... its a very good film, but not one among the best.....Will post the comments of other too after watching all those....

2:21 PM  
Blogger ബ്ലൂ റോസ്‌..! said...


3:17 AM  
Anonymous ABDUL JALEEL said...

see the movie ADAYALAM

11:21 AM  
Blogger venu gopal said...

Yavanika, the horror element was too good.
Utharam also I liked, they way in which the story developed

10:32 PM  
Blogger anoojultimate said...

l like vyooham
moonnam mura

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to dl english subtitles of the movie 'Detective' by jithu joseph

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naadiya kollappetta raathri, chaarulatha and geethanjali were just poor imitations of an english novel

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kariyilakkaattupole, utharam and yavanika are excellent movies.. the truth is also fabulous..kariyilakkaattupole is not a mere detective movie.. it shows the magical play of fate and coincidences

12:26 AM  
Blogger Ajin KR said...

These are my favourites

1. Yavanika
2. Kariyilakkatupole
3. Mukham
4. Ee Kannikoodi
5. Kanathaya Penkutty
6. Ee Thanutha Veluppankalath
7. Mumbai Police
8. Memories
9. Drisyam
10. Jagratha

1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

malayalam films like ' boyfriend' ...which isnt a crime genre ..... But a climax suspense crime thriller can also be included in the list ....and what About suresh gopis IG....?.......sreenivasans 'ayur rekha'....?

3:48 AM  

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