Malaikottai Vaaliban review: An experimental folk tale from Lijo Jose Pellissery with a power-packed Mohanlal

Action scenes are a major highlight of the movie, and Lijo Jose brings the best out of Mohanlal, who is known for his special interest in fights.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published:Jan 25, 2024

Mohanlal in Malaikottai Vaaliban

Malaikottai Vaaliban (Malayalam)

25-01-2024, Action, Adventure, and Period Fantasy, 2 hours 35 minutes U/A
  • Main Cast: Mohanlal, Danish Sait, Sonalee Kulkarni, Hareesh Peradi, and Manikandan Achari
  • Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
  • Producer: John and Mary Creative, and Century Films
  • Music Director: Prashant Pillai
  • Cinematography: Madhu Neelakandan



After much hype, Mohanlal’s Malaikottai Vaaliban has finally hit the silver screen.

The movie has a story that is just like a folk tale set in a period that’s not mentioned.

Director Lijo Jose Pellissery’s films have a different genre. In Malaikottai Vaaliban, he experiments more by incorporating mass sequences and class elements.

Malaikottai Vaaliban (Mohanlal) is a wrestler and a gypsy. This is similar to Akira Kurosova’s Yojimbo (1961), where the central character reaches a village. But Vaaliban doesn’t stay anywhere.

He travels in his bullock cart with his brother Chinna Payyan (Manoj Moses) and his stepfather Ayyanar (Hareesh Peradi).

Also Read: ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ trailer lauded for its rich visuals

Character arcs

A poster of the Malayalam film Malaikottai Vaaliban

A poster of the Malayalam film ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’. (X)

Travel plays a key role in the film as these three characters visit different villages to reach their destiny.

But what makes the movie interesting is the introduction of characters in every village and how they are connected to Vaaliban, both positively and negatively.

Malaikottai Vaaliban has a love interest named Mathangi (Suchitra Nair), but he leaves her for his mission.

An interesting part of the film is that he visits villages where people are oppressed and fights for them with the ruling class.

Vaaliban’s entry to Mangattu Kalari and his encounter with Chamatakan (Danish Sait) changes his life entirely. These new enemies create obstacles in his mission.

Vaaliban’s entry to Ambattur Malaikottai village is a crucial part of the flick. The subsequent events bring a new twist to the story.

Here, writer PK Rafeeque presents the feeling that Vaaliban left the village for a mission. However, his whereabouts are tracked by a central character.

The film is all about Vaaliban’s fight against evil and his secret mission.

Though it looks like a folk tale, it is presented like a drama with an old filmmaking style. It’s a pure experimental movie from Lijo Jose Pellissery.

The female characters in the movie — Rangarani (Sonalee Kulkarni), Jamanthi Poovu (Katha Nandi) and Mathangi (Suchithra Nair) — are given equal screen space. These women are the reasons for the highs and lows in Vaaliban’s life.

The flick ends with a note that there is a second part.

Also Read: Mohanlal’s ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ to be released in two parts?


Director Lijo Jose Pellissery is known for his technical perfection. Sound plays a vital role in elevating the movie.

The audio output in a scene where Vaaliban indulges in a fight with Chamatakan’s (Danish Sait) army is awe-inspiring.

Similarly, the sounds of gunshots in the fight scenes near the fort are presented brilliantly.

The visuals by Madhu Neelakandan are secitacular. The cinematography adds colour to every scene — daytime, nightfall or a fight sequence.

The fight scenes in Mangattu Kalari and Macalay’s Fort are picturised well.

The long shots and the longer frames are a visual treat for movie buffs.

The locations in Rajasthan and the artwork by Gokul Das are amazing.

Though films like Guru (1997) and Daya (1998) boasted unique sets, today’s technology has helped present Malaikottai Vaaliban with grandeur and sheen.

Also Read: ‘Lavani’ gets a twist in ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’, says actor Sonalee Kulkarni

Fight sequences

Director Lijo Jose Pellissery helmed Malaikottai Vaaliban

Director Lijo Jose Pellissery helmed ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’. (X)

Action scenes are a major highlight of the movie, and the director brings the best out of Mohanlal, known for his special interest in fight sequences.

In an interview, Lijo Jose revealed that he took elements from Japanese Samurai folk culture. The Samurai look of Mohanlal has a good impact on the story, especially in the action scenes.

Action choreographers Vikram More and Supreme Sundar deserve appreciation as the fights give goosebumps moments to the audience.

Music by Prashant Pillai is another highlight of Malaikottai Vaaliban. The songs are not the usual tunes expected in a big-budget movie and are entirely different.

The movie is slightly similar to Lijo Jose’s Double Barrel (2015) in some areas where the characters are eccentric.

The film runs at a slow pace, and this may be a turn-off for the audience who is looking for mass masala entertainment.

Also Read: Mohanlal’s ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’ earns ₹3.16 crore in pre-sales

Mohanlal is the soul

Mohanlal plays the titular role in Malaikottai Vaaliban

Mohanlal plays the titular role in ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’. (X)

Mohanlal, as Malaikottai Vaaliban, is the soul of the movie. The veteran actor nails it in the fight sequences. His performance takes the climax scenes to a whole new level. He rocks in the new avatar.

An interesting character in the film is Danish Sait’s Chamatakan. Lijo Jose presents him as an eccentric. Danish Sait’s performance as a wicked man waiting to seek vengeance is a huge takeaway.

Marathi actor Sonalee Kulkarni, as dancer Rangarani does justice to her role. Her Lavani performance (Marathi folk dance) is a good package for the Malayali audience. Her expressions are too good in the song.

Katha Nandi, as Jamanthipoovu, is a romantic and witty character. Her love scenes with Manoj Moses are decent.

Ayyanar — the stepfather of Vaaliban, is safe in the hands of Hareesh Peradi. His emotions in the climax part give a different mood.

Manoj Moses, as Chinna Payyan, is impressive. His one-liners throughout the movie evoke good laughter. A dancer by profession, the young actor has a bright future.

Final take

Malaikottai Vaaliban is a typical Lijo Jose Pellissery film — strong in its content and technical aspects. It is a pleasant mix of illusion-reality and class-mass elements.

(Views expressed here are personal.)