I know a section of the audience who felt Jallikkattu from Lijo Jose Pellissery was just Girish Gangadharan running behind some hyper-active locals. And for the same audience, his new film Churuli will feel like a movie where he decided to cut loose all his actors and allowed them to abuse each other to the highest degree possible. Churuli is a fantasy narrated in Lijo’s typical style. By that, I don’t mean the abuse part. His decision to not spoon-feed the audience is what makes Churuli a different experience, and I really think a second watch can enhance the surreal feel it achieves by the time it reaches the climax.
Two cops from the crime squad are going to this place named Churuli in disguise as rubber plantation workers. The actual aim of their journey is to capture a wanted man named Joy. When they reached there, the plantation owner was not there, and they decided to stay in the local toddy shop as helpers till he came back. How these two try to capture this Joy, about whom they have very minimal information, is the story of Churuli.
We are shown a story through an animated sequence at the beginning of the film. What you see in the movie is the same story in the real world. But Lijo maintains the curiosity till the end by keeping us guessing about who the Thirumeni is and who the Madan is. A lot of the events that happen during the stay of the two policemen start to connect the dots once we back-track the whole story after experiencing that climax. It is one of those films where I felt like having a lengthy conversation with someone after finishing the film to explore any layers that I might have missed.
The amount of cuss words that are there in the film is going to make a lot of noise in the coming days for sure. But if you look at it, the director has used it as a tool to mark their (and ours) entry into the loop (Churuli.) Once that brittle bridge is covered, the movie has entered Churuli, and the tone shift of the driver is that heads-up for the viewer to expect something really harsh. Churuli is a place where everyone is casually abusing each other. It is a lawless land, and all the natives have some kind of criminal background. When your budget isn’t that extravagant, using cuss words in its extremity to show the viewer that the story is set in an odd land is a smart move.
Based on Vinoy Thomas’ story, Lijo Jose Pellissey and screenwriter Hareesh do not give you direct information. In the initial bits of the movie, when a random guy laughs about an alien invasion, there is a sense of casualness to the way it is expressed. When everyone in that place talks to Shajivan as someone who has been there before, our instinctive reaction is to look at those people with some animosity. But these less emphasized details and the smart distractions help Churuli in creating that hangover where we as an audience are trying to solve the puzzle as the end credits roll. The kind of minimalism Lijo and cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan has applied to create the supernatural appeal without really boasting about it is fabulous. From the opening shot to the climax, at regular intervals of time, we are seeing these aerial shots that represent the Churuli.
Vinay Forrt’s inherent naivety makes him a perfect choice to be Shajivan. The foolishness of the character we see in the initial areas of the film is something we have seen Vinay do in his filmography of characters. But as the movie moves closer to the climax, the body language and even the language of the character change, and the actor performs that transition neatly. Chemban Vinod Jose is somewhere repeating his typical foolish goon avatar. But it was really enjoyable. Jaffar Idukki scores enormously with his timing, and his shifting of tone was totally unpredictable. Joju George and Soubin Shahir are there in the movie as pivotal characters with minimum screen time.
Churuli is an eerie mystery that looks like a puzzle rather than a scary film. If you can look beyond the abuses, you can see a smart mindfuck film in it. I watched the climax once again before writing this review to ensure that my understanding of the movie was clear. And I have this feeling that there could well be a bit more details that could make the second viewing even more enjoyable.
His decision to not spoon-feed the audience is what makes Churuli a different experience, and I really think a second watch can enhance the surreal feel it achieves by the time it reaches the climax.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended