Over the last few months, the Kerala police have unearthed a case of serial murders in a family in Kozhikode district’s Koodathayi village. The unfolding narrative about a closet serial killer, Jolly Joseph, a 47-year-old woman who poisoned six of her family members to death over a period of 14 years, has taken Kerala society by storm. At least two Malayalam film producers have laid claim to the subject.
Producer Antony Perumbavoor of Ashirwad Cinemas has announced a film based on the case with Mohan Lal in the lead role as an investigating officer. A Malayala Manorama report quotes Antony as saying that Koodathai case will replace the plot of a crime movie that was on the cards. Meanwhile, actress Dini Daniel has also announced a movie on the same subject, titled Koodathayi, in which she will be essaying the role of the serial killer. The film will be directed by Ronex Philip, produced by Alex Jacob, and written by Vijeesh Thundathil.
In the past, there has been a slew of Malayalam films based on real criminal cases. One of the most ‘popular’ cases of crime that has been adapted on screen multiple times, is the murder of Chacko in 1984, by Sukumara Kurup who is to date a wanted fugitive. In 2009, filmmaker Ranjith made Paleri Manikyam, Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha (Paleri Manikyam, A midnight murder story) based on the true story of a young girl who was raped and murdered in the early 1950s.
Here is a list of other popular films that are based on real crime incidents:
Crime File (1999)
In K Madhu’s Crime Film, Suresh Gopi played a crime branch officer investigating the murder case of Sister Amala (Sangeetha) in a convent where she lived. The film is based on one of the most sensational murder cases in Kerala, the mystery around which is yet to settle. Sister Abhaya, a 19-year-old nun, was found dead in the well of the convent in Kottayam where she lived. The incident happened in 1992. The case, initially handled by the local police, was closed after being concluded as a matter of suicide. However, the case was soon transferred to the Crime Branch of Police and subsequently to the CBI which, after many rounds of investigation, found out in 2008 that the nun was killed by three fellow members of the clergy. Crime File, which came out before the CBI revelations, talks about the rampant corruption within Christian organisations. The Church, in 1999, protested against the film when it was released.
Madrasile Mon (1982)
Directed by J Sasikumar, Madrasile Mon is based on another sensational criminal case that takes an epic trajectory. An old couple, KC George and Rachel George, leading a retired life in their home, Karikkanvilla, in Alappuzha, was found murdered one morning in 1980. A CBI team led by Sibi Mathews went after some footprints they discovered in the house, which belonged to a pair of shoes manufactured outside India. They found out that the murders were executed by a distant relative of the couple, Renny Joseph who lived in Chennai, whom the couple referred to as Madrasile Mon (the boy from Madras). Renny and his hippie friends who helped him do the murders were addicted to drugs. After committing the crime, they robbed the couple’s house. Renny, while serving life imprisonment, got embroiled in drug trafficking, and later, turned to evangelism. After being released from prison, he founded an NGO for children of convicts serving sentence in prison and is also involved in rehabilitating former prisoners.
Oru Kuprasidha Paiyyan (2018)
Madhupal’s Oru Kuprasidha Paiyyan is loosely based on the murder of a 69-year-old woman, Sundari Amma, and the subsequent trial. Sundari Amma was murdered in her home around midnight, on the outskirts of Kozhikode on July 12, 2012. The crime branch arrested Jayesh aka Jabbar, a 28-year-old man from Kozhikode’s Kallayi area, who had been working in a nearby hotel on September 11, 2013, was kept in remand for over a year. In 2014, the court found that Jayesh had been falsely implicated by the special team of the Crime Branch and the city police. He was exonerated of all charges and was also awarded a compensation of Rs 1,00,000. In Madhupal’s film, Tovino Thomas played Jayesh, and Saranya Ponvannan played Sundari Amma. Nimisha Sajayan played the young advocate who helps Jayesh clear his name.
Mynatharuvi Kola Case/Madatharuvi (1967)
In 1966, the Quilon District and Sessions Court sentenced 37-year-old a vicar, Father Benedict Onamkulam of Changanacherry diocese, to death for allegedly murdering a 43-year-old widow, Mariakutty. In the following year, two movies were made on the case — Mynatharuvi Kola Case, directed by Kunchakko, and starring Sathyan, Sheela, Adoor Bhasi and Hari, and Madatharuvi, directed by PA Thomas, featuring Sukumari, Adoor Bhasi, Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair and Musthafa. The films released within a gap of three weeks were backed by the yesteryear’s leading production houses, Udaya Films, and Thomas Pictures.
Rakshasa Rajavu (2001)
Directed by Vinayan, Rakshasa Rajavu is centred on a dare-devil cop – a typical mass hero – played by Mammootty. The film’s climax, where six people in a family are butchered, took a cue from a similar crime that happened in Manjooran House in Aluva in the same year. On 7th January 2001, the Manjooran family were massacred by a distant relative for money. He was awarded capital punishment by the Kerala High court in 2006, which was commuted by a Supreme court bench in 2018. While Manjooran House was a lower-middle-class household, the one in Rakshasa Rajavu is an upper-class Christian household.