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Review Malayalam

Churuli review: Cryptic tale laced with magical realism

Release Date: 19 Nov 2021 / 02hr 00min

Cinestaan Rating

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Vidyasree Bindu

The film, which breaks barriers and explores new frontiers, challenges conventional movie formulae.

Lijo Jose Pellissery is a director who has established a unique style, and Churuli deepens the imprint he is making on the landscape of Indian cinema. The film has a never-ending spiral lurking underneath which can be understood as the endless mystery of the human mind or time or even the journey towards meaning, leaving the film beautifully open to interpretation.

Set in the wild backdrop of Churuli, a remote village in north Kerala, the film begins with a woman (Geethi Sangeetha) narrating an ancient myth to Shajeevan (Vinay Forrt), one of the central characters. Shajeevan and Anthony (Chemban Vinod Jose) are two undercover police officers in search of an infamous criminal who is suspected to be in Churuli. The mystery deepens as both are clueless about his appearance. Churuli is all about the two police officers’ startling experience in the uncanny land and, magnificently enough, each viewer might have a different idea about what makes Churuli uncanny.

Right from the artistes who have played minor roles to the main cast, the performances are excellent. Chemban Vinod Jose, Vinay Forrt, Geethi Sangeetha, Jaffer Idukki, Joju and Surjith are some of the familiar names who have delivered yet another worthy performance. The script, which is based on the short story Kaligeminaarile Kuttavaalikal by Vinoy Thomas, has been written by renowned novelist S Hareesh. The film maintains its suspense without flagging anywhere.

Aside from being a visual experience, Churuli offers an auditory treat — the sounds of the forest, of the strange events and people conversing in local slang. Myriad voices are layered and strategically placed throughout the film, culminating in a beautiful polyphony. Even silence becomes so loud in this surreal tale.

The cinematography of Madhu Neelakantan makes the ‘magic’ in this magical-realist experience profound. The stunning visuals and incredible sound engineering make you ‘feel’ the movie in a way that surpasses any recent cinematic endeavour. It is as if the movie in itself is a conflict between the first scene that tries to break the fourth wall and the rest of the movie that tries to subsume the viewer.

Churuli is not an easy watch. While it breaks barriers and enters new frontiers, it is also going to be a tumultuous ride for all those who are comfortably seated in the realm of conventional movie formulae. Churuli is local, Churuli is international. Churuli is cult, Churuli is classic. Churuli is everything we thought an Indian movie could never be. 

Churuli was screened at the 25th International Film Festival of Kerala in February 2021 and is being released on the SonyLIV streaming service on 19 November 2021.


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