Why Chidambaram’s ‘Manjummel Boys’ (2024) is a must-watch movie for startups?

With the director Chidambaram S. Poduval’s second movie ‘Manjummel Boys’ (2024) rocking at the box office all over, it dares to be more than a chilling survival thriller—it’s a genre-bending treat, cutting language barriers and breaking regional borders with clinical efficiency and heart-winning performances.


The movie ‘Manjummel Boys’ is based on a true-life incident that happened in 2006, when a clique of 10 carefree young men from Manjummel, a suburb in Ernakulam, Kerala, some of whom make a living from odd jobs, set off on a trip to Kodaikanal, a popular hill station in Tamil Nadu. Led by the eldest member of the group, Siju David aka Kuttan (role-played by the actor Soubin Shahir), they joyfully explore every corner of the hill town without any inhibitions. Towards the fag-end of the tour, Sudheesh (Deepak Parambol) realizes they missed out on a significant tourist spot – the Guna caves (Devil’s Kitchen) where Gunaa, a Tamil movie directed by Santhana Bharathi, starring Kamal Haasan, was filmed in 1991. Upon arrival, they discover that the actual cave is closed off due to safety concerns. But putting up a brave face, they decide to trespass the gates and venture into its death-defying depths. Coming as a bolt from the blue, Subash (Sreenath Bhasi) falls into one of the deepest pits in the cave, causing panic among the group. Despite their frantic efforts to seek help, the locals and police refuse to assist initially, citing the grim history of the Devil’s Kitchen where no one has ever returned alive after falling in, with their bodies remaining unrecovered. The rest of the story follows the nine men as they make relentless attempts to rescue their friend to safety and direct a rescue operation credited with keeping Subash alive.

Image courtesy thesouthfirst.com

Watching “Manjummel Boys, as it turns out, was not just wholesale entertainment but also a profound learning experience in itself. Our team felt that startup entrepreneurs can learn a lesson or two from the movie, bold though it may be. Here are some of the life lessons that come to mind after watching the nail-biting thriller.

Decision-making: One of the key character traits of any startup founder. The decision to rescue Subash—as there have been no survivors making out from the dreaded cave and no corpses recovered either—proved to be the toughest decision ever under pressure. Now let’s do a reality check – how many of us find ourselves influenced by peer pressure almost every single day? This aspect of the movie acts as a crucial catalyst for discussions on the significance of critical thinking and the ability to make decisions that align with one’s values, despite mounting pressure or influence from different quarters.

Responsibility: The movie ‘Manjummel Boys also highlights the point that we have special moral duties to people near and dear to us. In the movie, though the police and fire department were summoned to the spot, they were extremely reluctant to enter the hole to rescue Subhash, citing personal safety. Witnessing this, Kuttan, one of the friends, volunteers to descend into the fatal hole at a critical juncture. At this, an eerie stillness engulfs the cave with the rescue team and group exchanging stares with great dismay. He stands firm on his decision like a rock.

The great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar sums it up beautifully in one of his succinct couplets, “What is the throne of friendship? It is that resolve of unfailing support given at all times1.” Likewise, any startup leader has the moral responsibility of protecting his or her herd and ensuring its survival, no matter what the situation is.

Persistence: The entire group’s resolve to rescue Subhash, with almost zero chance of his survival, stands as a testimony to unbridled grit, boundless determination and persistence in the face of adversity. Nearly 90 percent of the startups fail in their first five years, but only a truly determined startup is capable of gaining market adoption, attracting users and demonstrating growth potential, navigating through cash flow hurdles and an ever-changing business environment.

Risk-taking: The attribute of risk-taking is exemplified in the movie when Kuttan offers to go down into the perilous pit, upon hearing his friend’s cries, to rescue him, undeterred by the fear and horror gripping others. The morality of holding one’s life at a ransom to save another is generally questionable. Startup founders, however, should develop risk-taking ability, and effectively handle the multitude of day-to-day entrepreneurial challenges.

Camaraderie: A great sense of camaraderie among the group is reflected throughout the movie, especially when the going gets tough and is prolonged. Right from sharing the nostalgic lighter moments of life, getting detained by the local police for ignoring the warning signs at the cave’s entrance, unsuccessfully stopping the rainwater from possibly flowing into the pit, to retrieving Subhash, with the rest of the friends pulling the duo up together successfully, the Manjummel Boys personified mind-defying friendship and deep faith, showing that even a fatal mishap could lead to something beautiful and meaningful that will be etched in their memory forever.  

The American author Robert Collier’s quote is right on the money: “Success is the sum total of conscious efforts and consistency”. Needless to say, well-planned teamwork provides greater chances for unrestrained growth. Beyond the playing field, this concept holds even greater significance. Likewise, startup networking communities and business forums play an active role in promoting startups, supporting them in the areas of funding, mentoring, networking, and developing sales contacts.

Even from a production point of view, the film featured plenty of new faces. The naturally prevalent camaraderie and creative synergy within the unit greatly contributed to the success of the movie at the box office. In other words, the movie is a startup project in many ways, perfected to nicety, pretty much naturally without overly dramatizing the script or bombarding it with film biggies. Production simplicity, as it turns out, is the ultimate winner at the end of the day.

Mentorship: Kuttan, the senior-most member of the group, dares the almost impossible and acts as a trustworthy mentor throughout the rescue mission.  A point to be considered seriously if any new startup is looking for a mentor who is also an active listener and empathizer, enthusiastic about helping it achieve its goals.

Image courtesy onlykollywood.com

In what is a surprising move, particularly for critics, the movie unit vividly brought out the nostalgic angle of actor Kamal Haasan’s 1991 film Gunaa featuring the superhit Ilaiyaraaja song ‘Kanmani Anbodu Kadalan’, and images of the actor and heroine Roshini trapped in the creepy cave later named after the movie. The movie’s director Chidambaram looked upon Kamal as a mentor who reciprocated by offering to meet the crew and talk about the movie. The video went viral. The rest, as it’s said, is history. To sum up, the power of mentorship is undeniable.

Twist and more of it: The director’s ploy to include the evergreen hit song from the movie Gunaa ‘Kanmani Anbodu’ in the plot towards the climax proved to be the most surprising element invoking clapping and hoots of joy among the audience. And now you know why a Malayalam movie sans superstars could personally connect to a large audience base in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. Innovation, you may ask? This is it, man.

Things to avoid: If we were to compulsorily criticize the flip side of the movie, we’d have to say that to some extent, this film paints the youngsters (of the yesteryears) in a bad light, grappling with heavy boozing in public and abuse. Is that too big a deal to consider at this point? Definitely, when we’re talking about what startups can learn from a meticulously crafted movie that is stealthily inching towards the ₹200 crore mark at the box office worldwide (at the time of writing this article). Hey, it’s fairly a long post after all!

Verdict:  All said and done, there is a compelling reason why startups should watch this movie–made with a budget of only 20 crores–without fail. Probably throw a night show in a nice theatre with good sound quality and leg space, and enjoy the movie. And that resounding ‘why’ is:

‘Ithu Manitha Kaadhal Alla…Adhaiyum Thaandi Punithaamaanathu, Punithaamaanathu…’ (This divinely profound love transcends romantic love shared between individuals).

1. Thirukkural.net

Author Bio
Shameer.S is the founder of IT Projects Media, a creative Digital Marketing & Media Agency (started in 2017); Cogniquo, a Biztainment & Edutainment platform (2023), both based out of Coimbatore and By The Startups Business Networking Community (2017). Storytelling is in his DNA, and he revels in churning out stories of anything from anywhere.