Malikappuram is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.
In terms of box office success, Malikappuram achieved something pretty close to Kantara. While it was quite popular in Kerala, it didn’t catch on nationally like Kantara. These films have one thing in common: prior to their premieres, many people had low expectations for them. Despite their lacklustre debuts, both films managed to surpass many of their more talented rivals at the box office. According to official reports, Malikappuram grossed an astounding Rs 100 crore from ticket sales abroad. A remarkable accomplishment for a film whose budget was less than Rs 4 crore. That is Unni Mukundan’s biggest hit to date.
While Unni Mukundan is the face of this success, Deva Nandha, a young artist, deserves the lion’s share of the credit for making this movie what it is. Her naive shoulders bear the weight of this almost two-hour drama about a young girl who longs to travel to Sabarimala before she reaches the legal age restriction. Girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 are prohibited from visiting Sabarimala, as has long been custom. Also, the pilgrims who are females under the age of 10 are referred to as Malikappuram, thus the name.
The tradition of Lord Appayappa was passed down to Kalyani Ajayan, affectionately known as Kallu (Deva Nandha), by her grandmother. She is now so consumed with the deity that she starts to think of Lord Appayappa as her companion. She also lives so close to Sabarimala that it is difficult for her to avoid discussing and thinking about her favourite deity on a daily basis. She only needed to get to her town’s highest point to literally view Sabarimala.
In all honesty, Malikappuram’s central conflict isn’t compelling enough to hold our attention for very long. A young girl’s desire to go on a pilgrimage is not a life or death situation. Also, there isn’t enough dramatic tension to keep us on the edge of our seats. We may giggle at her innocence and ignorance while enjoying the tension. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Kallu chose not to travel on the journey. Not all of our aspirations as children come true. She would probably still develop into a content and adaptable young woman. Where then is the issue causing our anxiety? Just before the first half’s conclusion, the narrative’s dramatic tension begins to increase.
Acting-wise, Deva Nandha has done an outstanding job. You can’t help but be drawn in by the genuine innocence with which she illuminates the screen, even moments when it feels dragged out and monotonous. When it comes to theatrical acting, she performs above her weight class. As Piyush Unni, Sreepath Yan also performs a commendable job. His performance adds to the amusement, especially when he realises that he has taken on too much halfway to Sabarimala.
The ironic twist that writer Abhilash Pillai and director Vishnu Sasi Shankar give to Ayyappan, played by Unni Mukundan, is also endearing. It demonstrates that the movie’s creators had a clear direction in mind. And that undoubtedly contributed to the movie’s widespread appeal.