Trivandrum, 13 Dec 2017 9:00 IST
Riddled with weak camera work, haphhazard editing and temporal ambiguity, the film is worth a watch only if you are a Salim Kumar fan.
Karutha Joodhan (2017) is Salim Kumar’s second directorial venture, after Compartment in 2015. The film has received the Kerala State Award for Best Story and that remains the only appreciable aspect of the film.
The film is the tale of a Jew who is forgotten by time and his people. Aron Elyahu (Salim Kumar) is the son of a rich Jewish landlord in the Mala village of Kerala. He sets out to research the 2000 year old history of the Jewish community in Kerala, leaving his mother, sister and a vast property behind under the care of his friend Beeran.
After a year of wandering and toil, when he is about to return home, he meets with a motor accident and the news of his death spreads in the village. In despair, the mother and sister, along with all the other Jews in the village, travel back to their homeland, Israel. The mother, however, refuses to believe that her son is dead and hands over the property under the care of the village panchayat with a deed that it would be handed over to her son when he returns.
Meanwhile, Aron, with a handicapped hand, stays at an ashram, apparently, for years. He returns to his village and realizes that his ancestral home is a post office now and that his estate has been illegally beleaguered by the villages. Predictably enough, the villagers refuse to believe his claims of being Eliyahu’s son.
While the story is good, there are quite a few loopholes in the plot. For example, how Aron lands up in the ashram is not explained, how come he stays there for years and the thought of writing to his friend Beeran never occurs to him is just strange. Further, it's difficult to digest that an MA graduate fails to prove his identity, even in court.
Another major issue with the film is its temporal ambiguity. The film begins with an old Beeran buying his friend’s book on the history of the Jews. The scene soon shifts into a flashback, which has further stories of the past to tell, with further flash backs. While the plot doesn’t get confusing, the shifts could have been smoother and structured. Moreover, time lapses are communicated with a series of quick montages, that are difficult to understand and are unquantifiable. Aron’s stay at the ashram is depicted with a few shots in quick succession, they give no sense of the number of years he spent there.
While the camera work is haphazard and littered with random panning and tilting, the edit by Premsai is weak. Unnecessary shots at crucial points and jump cuts, don’t allow the required mood to set in.
Salim Kumar as Aron has done a fairly good job, except for the bits where he tries to cry. He just ends up batting his eyelashes, without any attepmts to emote in the scene. Other actors do a decent job, but not enough to make you want more.
The film has a relatable story to tell, with the ongoing massacre and exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh. However, the weak execution fails to build any connect with the beleaguered character.