I absolutely adored the romance in the classic 1994 Malayalam film Thenmavin Kombath (At the Top of Sweet Mango Tree). It was my very first Mohanlal film, and came highly recommended by Margaret at Don’t Call It Bollywood.
I was confused at the beginning of the movie exactly what Mohanlal’s relationship was to the man he was traveling back from market with, and the woman he both referred to as sister and mother. I finally figured out that Mohanlal was the key servant retainer of this farm owned by Sreekrishnan Thampuran and his sister, and had lived at the farm since he was 4 years old, away from his own family. The relationship lines were blurred, as Mohnalal viewed the sister like his own sister, and as the woman who raised him. Sreekishnan is like a brother to him. The unclear lines of the relationships and the confusion is very pertinent to the plot and the misunderstandings that follow.
On one of their trips to take their farm produce to sell in town, Sreekrishnan agrees to let a singer performer and her older uncle have a ride on their cart. But Mohanlal doesn’t know that, and gets into an argument with the spitfire young woman (Shobhana). It’s a total hate-to-love romance, which is my catnip! On the way home, they are separated from the others and get lost together in the cart in a forest. They’ve traveled so far that they’ve crossed a border and Mohanlal can’t speak the language of the inhabitants, but Shobhana can. She is able to get directions, and agrees to help Mohanlal if he gives her a kiss, but she says that in the language he doesn’t understand. He keeps asking all the villagers that phrase to try to figure out what she is saying to him, and gets into big trouble!
Later, as they’re on their way home, he overhears a woman asking her young child for a kiss with the same phrase, and my absolute favorite scene of the whole movie happens. It’s like a lightning bolt hits Mohanlal!
The first half is just wonderful as their romance develops, but the second half deals with the drama of what happens when they return to the farm and the insular village. The problem is that Sreekrishnan wants to marry Shobhana, so Mohanlal backs away.
It was great to see Sreenivasan (who I have seen in Traffic) as the villainous servant that sets in motion all the horrible things that befall Mohanlal.
Mohanlal was very good in this, but he didn’t blow me away. I know this isn’t his most famous role. I saw him in Janatha Garage in the theater opening night, even if he was dubbed for the Telugu. I really loved Shobhana in this film. She’s such a spitfire!
Really enjoyable film with a great romance.
Four stars out of five.