Churuli ★★★½

One thing's for sure - Lijo Jose Pellissery isn't the kind of filmmaker interested in spoon-feeding the audience. His films are doused in metaphors and allegories, and Churuli is no different. Would you call it a thinking viewer's film? Nope. Because there is a deliberate attempt for the proceedings to stop making sense beyond a point. It all harks back to the mythical plot that the film opens with — the story of a monk who's misled into an unending spiral by a fey creature. LJP mounts the film in a fantastic forested landscape - Madhu Neelakantan's frames are a total feast for the eyes, punctuated occasionally by Sreerag Saji's minimalist score. Renganaath Ravee's sound design also deserves special mention.

The film's absurdity begins the moment a jeep crosses a derelict bridge carrying the two (undercover cop) protagonists played by Vinay Forrt and Chemban Vinod. The initially friendly residents of Churuli, all of a sudden, turn hostile and begin hurling abuses at each other. Heck, if this film was given to the Censors, they would have had a tough time beeping out words from almost every dialogue. I had a jolly time reading (and observing) the PG-13 English subtitles of every cuss word mentioned in the film. Jokes aside, the foul-mouthed nature of Churuli's residents stands out as yet another metaphor for lawlessness. Anything goes, from an old lady suddenly coming at you with an axe to celestial bodies flying across the sky at night to randomly shooting someone's ear off only for him to joke about it - it's chaotic the way only LJP movies can get!

Yet, when you think the quirkiness can't advance any further, the climax of Churuli is even more bonkers. It treads that thin line between science fiction and over-the-top fantasy, not giving itself entirely into either. If you feel dazed and confused about what you have just watched, you may not be the only one. But come to think of it, LJP already gave you the short synopsis in the first place. It's you, the viewer, who was simply taken for a ride. I liked Churuli for the most part - it has the director's stamp in almost every department. Given the nature of the film, I wouldn't vouch for anyone else to feel what I felt watching it. At the very least, it's not calculative; it's not predictable (at all).

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