A box office flop which became a hit after being released in mini-screen, eventually Devadoothan earned the cult status among Malayalam film audience. The major leverage the film had is the haunting songs, the jukebox is very famous even today. This is the kind of film, that is mysterious, scary and at the same time, lures you in letting you experience whatever is happening onscreen. Directed by the maestro from the golden age of Malayalam films, Sibi Malayil backed by the imagination of Raghunath Paleri, Devadoothan is a thrill ride that is worth watching over and over.
The movie is about Vishal Krishna Moorthy (Mohanlal), a world famous music director recalling the days from where he got the inspiration for award winning album “rhythm of love”. He remembers the incident that inspired and the flashback is presented. As a young man and an aspiring music director turned rowdy, he is invited back to the college from which he was once rusticated, by the principal (Janardhanan) who admired him. He is requested to direct a musical play for the students where Sneha (Vijayalakshmi) plays the lead role. He meets Angelina Ignatius (Jayaprada), a rich countess and the owner of the college which from he was thrown out based on false allegations. Angelina is waiting for her lover Maheshwaran (Vineeth Kumar), a blind music player who was hired by her father to play the musical instrument “seven bells”, to come back for her. Vishal, during his stay in the college, experiences supernatural occurrences which prompts him to dig deeper to investigate the reason why he is being haunted.
Devadoothan is one of the best Malayalam thrillers and one of my most favorite films by Mohanlal-Sibi Malayil combination. The structure of the movie has intense suspense, scary situations, and hilarity; audience looking for them will enjoy. The key moment is when Vishal discovers the seven bells playing by itself at night. There are many wonderful moments of suspense and vivid direction that leaves Sibi Malayil’s signature onscreen. But most of these moments are ruined by a slapstick comic sequence or a song sequence. For eg: Vishal Krishna Moorthy’s character creation. It doesn’t matter if he turned into a goon as circumstances have turned against his desire to live a dignified life. There are fight sequences initially, which were completely unnecessary ruining the charm and seemingly they were created for the sake of it. It is one of the reasons why I feel that the movie could have been way better; the action sequences were created due to Mohanlal’s star power. The movie stood out as far as the story and built-up is concerned. One might predict what happened to Maheshwaran but the way it was presented is what takes the cake. Mohanlal is fantastic and lively in his role and he is the perfect choice to play the teacher and music director. His physical appearance with beard and hair, at the beginning of this film, is definitely one of his best on-screen. He looked a bit like Kaithapram and drew in a lot of respect. The first 10 minutes of Devadoothan is grant with the adeptly directed song “entharo mahanu bhavulu “, which is so haunting that it could be viewed again and again. Mohanlal’s body language, fluent movements and ability to blend into any scene redefined his status as the complete actor. That being said, the character of Vishal needed polishing along with the script. His combination scenes with Jayapradha are well-directed. One of my favorite moments is the scene where they both attend Fr Stefan’s funeral. They stand apart but stare at each other with contempt and curiosity. Jayapradha played a character who draws admiration and respect, but sometimes she looked artificial in terms of dialogue delivery. Janardhanan and Jagathy Sreekumar had their respective moments of humor which helped in neutralizing the suspense. Janardhanan’s presence during intense suspense and nerve racking scenarios should have been less as it reduced the impact, notably during the final scene where he is in the library with Vishal. Vishal sees life in a skeleton (not giving anything away), there is ample buildup in that scene and the direction made it profound but Janardhanan’s performance turned it into a comic scenario which makes one feel like face-palming. Jagadheesh is OK in his role but at times he is annoying. Vijayalakshmi is just average, her character creation is nice but she is also annoying; at times she comes on-screen for the sake of having someone for Vishal to narrate his story. Her acting during the scary scenes are bothersome, more like a stage drama. Or, the director wanted to reinforce on the idea that women gets scared *a lot* during such situations. What even annoying is her breakdowns. Why would someone openly sob when two people fight with each-other? If this is an individual’s idea about women’s nature then they should change it. Murali is a great actor but even he could not do complete justice to his character due to the long monologues during a crucial situation and his character Alberto lacked proper introduction & description even though he plays a major role in Angelina’s life. The ending was too abrupt for a film with massive built-up. This is tradition noticed in Malayalam cinema as a whole. We can’t make out what exactly the result was. I wished the script gave 5 more minutes for the resolution after the climax which was presented ardently.
The combination of cinematography and editing worked as far as the vision of Sibi Malayil is concerned even while lacking the number of angles and shots. I liked the picturization of the songs, “entharo mahanu” and “poove poove”. People watch this movie to listen to the songs, but the background scores are not as good, but the theme music is fervent for a suspense thriller. The concept of the “doves” is well executed and is a major attraction in terms of creating the thrills.
Devadoothan is a good movie, it could have been made into a great movie if it wasn’t for all the structural flaws with abhorrent comedy and stunt sequences. There’s more to Malayalam cinema than just making Masala flicks. The impact this film was able to make, with the direction which made the suspense lively, is the proof of it.
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