This Latest Hit In Southern India Has Ignited A Fierce Debate On Drinking Problem Among Kerala-Tamil Nadu Youth

K Balakumar

Mar 14, 2024, 04:49 PM | Updated 04:49 PM IST

A scene from Malayalam movie 'Manjummel Boys'.
A scene from Malayalam movie 'Manjummel Boys'.
  • It is surprising that woke liberals don't have a problem with the drunken revelry by evidently irresponsible men in this film.
  • There is no taking Manjummel Boys away from the headlines, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

    The movie, which is running to packed cinema houses in both the states, is also courting a strange controversy, thanks in the main to the no-holds-barred attack by the well-known writer Jeyamohan last week.

    In a trenchant piece, Jeyamohan blasted the underlying irresponsible bacchanalian ethos in the film. Just in case you haven't heard about the movie, well, it is about a bunch of men from Manjummel area in Kochi who are on a rambunctious drunken vacation to Kodaikanal.

    In that trip, one of the friends slips into a 900-feet deep abyss in the Guna caves.  The film, in a rousing spirit, chronicles the perseverent efforts of the rest of friends to rescue the slipped gent.

    The film directed by Chidamabarm has been a big success and just when everyone was praising it, Jeyamohan arrived with a flame-thrower and set the narrative around the movie afire. Jeyamohan's words were not really a review of the film. He used the film and its story to wade into the Kerala youth and the drinking culture that he said is rampant in the state.  

    He said that the gang in Manjummel Boys reflects the mentality that prevails across Malayali 'porrukis' (which roughly translates to louts) who tour south Tamil Nadu. And he continued in the same vehement vein.

    "These guys travel even deep into the forest. Drink. Drink. Drink. That’s it. Vomit. Create ruckus. Pass out on the roads. Cross limits. They have no interest in anything else. They lack common sense and basic public etiquette. As shown in the films, these people break and throw away the bottles."

    Jeyamohan lambasted Manjummel Boys for celebrating the drinking culture and mis-labeling it as acceptable fun behaviour by young men.

    There Is Merit In Jeyamohan's Observations 

    Jeyamohan evidently wrote with a pen dipped in vitriol. It was no sympathetic gaze. So was Jeyamohan overboard? He was, as he was pretty sweeping in his observations.

    The reference to Malayalis being reluctant to learn other languages but expect others to learn theirs are things that don't belong to this piece. These segments of the article were overarching.

    But was he off the mark in his central point? Not really.

    Anyone who has been through Kerala and Tamil Nadu and seen the young people around would know that there is a drinking problem among them. As he observes, in many tourist places, it is not impossible to find these types throwing a noisy racquet and creating problems for others. 

    It is not just the drinking culture that seems to be out of control. There is widespread use of drugs, which Jeyamaohan alludes to.

    In Tamil Nadu, a major drug network has been busted, and its tentacles seem to have reached the mightiest in the state power hierarchy. The kingpin of the drug cabal was part of the ruling party. In Kerala too, it is no less problematic.

    Manjummel Boys’ Hero Himself Was Banned For Alleged Use Of Drugs

    It is one of those sobering ironies that the main character in the film Manjummel Boys, Subhash who slips into the pit is played by Sreenath Bhasi was actually banned by the Kerala film industry for alleged unruly behaviour on sets under the influence of drugs.

    He was also arrested in September 2022 for abusing a woman anchor during a film promo when he was said to be 'high' on some substance.

    Last April, the Kerala film industry did meet to take stock of the situation arising out of drug abuse by some young up and coming actors like Sreenath and Shane Nigam. So within the Kerala film industry itself they are aware that such a sorry situation prevails.

    Jeyamohan is spot on when he says that films like Manjummel Boys implicitly glorify over-the-top drinking, and the resultant uncouth and crass behaviour is taken to be fun jollification.

    Many Tamil movies are guilty of this irresponsibility. Many social and civil society activists have seen a parallel between romantisicing such loutish liquor-induced attitudes on screen and the increasing liquor problems in the state.

    Many crimes in recent times, especially those perpetrated against women in the state, have been carried out by persons under the influence of alcohol. There is a straight link between crime and liquor (and drugs).

    Manjummel Boys, though on the face of it is about bravura friendship, actually takes off from a problematic fulcrum. These are bondages lubricated through booze. It has come to a stage where friendship means guzzling potent drinks together.

    Liberals And Their Misplaced Politics

    Manjummel Boys' director Chidambaram's previous movie, the whacky comedy Jan. E. Man (2021), also had a bunch of intoxicant youngsters throwing a loud fit.

    That film, in spirit — no pun intended — is no different from Manjummel Boys. So, as Jeyamohan says, Manjummel Boys is not one off and many such movies have been, disturbingly, getting adulatory responses. 

    It is strange that the usually touchy sections of the woke liberal group, who are quick to come down on such films where irresponsible men are (wrongly) applauded, are quite warm to Manjummel Boys. That is where the politics of those defending the film kicks in.

    Jeyamohan has been branded as a right-wing writer. Even the father of the film director has castigated Jeyamohan as being an RSS man.  In general, to stand up for Manjummel Boys is seen as, by extension, a courageous fight put up against the marauding right-wing. 

    Well, you can't expect the liberal gang to think any better. But it is pertinent to ask the question: Is Jeyamohan really right-wing?

    Well, the same Left liberals were using his article where he fulminated against the Ayodhya temple. If anything, Jeyamohan has come out with another article against the Ram temple today. What kind of right-wing thinker keeps churning out articles against the Hindutva movement?

    To label him right-wing is cunning politics in this election season. It perpetuates the kind of image that the right-wing is mostly against popular entertainment.  

    Anyway, Jeyamohan has doubled down on his criticism of Manjummel Boys. In another equally strongly-worded piece (Tamil content), the Tamil and Malayalam writer has held forth on the 'criticism on his criticism'.

    Though he explains that he has high regards for Malayalis, Jeyamohan sticks to his guns on the drinking culture sweeping Tamil Nadu and Kerala. If anything, he is even more forthright. 

    Just as well. Manjummel Boys is a fun movie alright. But the problems hidden in its ambit cannot be lost sight of. One needs to be extremely drunk to miss it.  

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