Director: K. G. George
Writer: K. G. George
Cast: Ganesh Kumar, Thilakan, Sukumaran
Baby (Ganesh) is the youngest son of a rubber baron (Thilakan) from high-range Mundakkayam. His eldest brother is involved with illegal timber and ganja business while his middle brother is a drunkard who is pissed off with their controlling father. His elder sister is a loose woman whose marriage is in doldrums. Film begins with Baby injuring a junior student seriously, during a ragging session, because of which he is suspended and forced to go back to his home. From the first scene itself it is clear that he is psychologically in a precarious state and when he gets back to his home we find the reasons for him being such and the dysfunctional family got a lot to do with it. Basically the film is an examination of Baby's psychological state when put in context with his family's state. It also works as one of the best portrayal of a Christian family setting in the Achayan mode.
Good psychological thrillers are rare in Malayalam. Manichithrathazhu is more of a mystery film and cannot be classed as a psychological thriller. Irakal, which translates as Victims in English, would remind one of Roman Polanski films like 'Repulsion' and 'The Tenant' with its use of dream/surreal imagery, even though only in limited doses. The film is told from the perspective of its psychologically traumatized protagonist and other good film from Malayalam with such an approach that I could think of is 'Aham'. The best thing about Irakal is that there aren't any binary characters in it. Baby has a love interest in the film and she is shown to be extremely practical about it due to her poor background. She doesn't expect him to marry him and there isn't the usual melodramatic hoopla surrounding the fixing of her marriage to someone else. But in what can be considered as a cliche-bender, Baby is slighted by it and proceeds to prevent the marriage by killing the groom. In one sense, Baby is feeling cheated by everyone else and we are totally sympathetic towards him even though he is spiraling out of control. The film reaches the predictable conclusion of putting an end to all this but that is also done in a very fresh manner.
Overall the film is a great watch and is a unique one in Malayalam film history because of the treatment of its characters. Thilakan is excellent in his role as the father character and according to wiki, he narrowly missed out on a National award for his performance. He has portrayed so many memorable father roles but many of them tended to be on the extremes (strictness being a regular trait for eg,). In this one, he plays someone who want to just get on with things. One criticism that one could make is that there is some sub-par acting involved but it doesn't bring down the quality of the film. Ganesh made his debut with this film and he is good overall in the role even though one could say it is a bit uneven in some places. It was produced by actor Sukumaran who plays middle brother in the film. It was well-received critically but bombed at the box office.