Churuli Movie Review - A bizarre hybrid genre blend
Updated: Nov 21, 2021
The name Lijo Jose Pellissery is now stamped for bringing an unusualness in Malayalam cinema. Once again he took a different approach and its definitely not aimed for masses and not everybody is going to enjoy this experiment. This one feels very strange, atmospheric and open to many interpretations. Like a fine wine, its aftertaste takes time to mature. Lijo left the ending deliberately a mystery and undefined. Like his previous movies, it has deeper meaning than its surface-level narrative and hard to decipher. This is a kind of movie that calls out not merely to be experienced, but to be solved. Its a tough film to explain or even discuss and the plot coils back on itself in intriguing mind puzzles.
The set-up and development is fascinating. Its part fantasy, part mystery and part science fiction. Its a story about two undercover cops in search for a convict who seems to be hiding in a fictitious place called Churuli (meaning Spiral) deep inside a forest land. How this mysterious place transforms these police officers, who identifies themselves as daily wage workers, forms the crux of the story. The so called outsiders in this alien land setup is told in an intriguing way. At first, it seems like a simple hunt, but things are not as simple as it sounds, and as the movies progresses, the exact point being they crossing a wooden bridge (symbolizes the end of civilization or alternate dimension or a dream) en-route into the deep forest. Welcome to the land of unknown and mystery.
Clearly, there is something going on from the moment they foot in this land and as each day passes by. The characters are either found to be a in a loop as they feel dejavu moments or they feel they belong to that place for a long time. The life inside forest is centered around a toddy shop and a bunch of people living there. The so called civilized rules dont apply there and they greet each other only using cuss words and expletives. They find their own guilty pleasure and life for them is around eating, drinking and doing whatever they want. As villages explains murders, people going missing etc are very common and no one cares about life and death. People who have watched AK movies (BC and MC words are so common in his movies) or Tarantino movies (MF word) wont be surprised by this explicit language use. Malayalee audience at the max had seen the usage of cuss words only in Suresh Gopi movies, but those words are used with caution and on special occasions. So this direct usage will surprise many but here its an integral part of their life and story telling. On a lighter note this film can be used as a dictionary for Malayalam cuss words. Towards the end you will realize they are being controlled by someone else, its kind of possessed nature or losing track of time and sense.
<Begin Spoiler or My Interpretation> -- Skip if you have not watched the movie
The short novel on this film is based actually deals with existential crisis and how the law makers becomes law breakers themselves. But Lijo did not settle for a simple tale. He added a Catholicism and their concept purgatory (a temporal punishment for sin) angle along with other complicated stuffs into the narrative. Now i did not get purgatory part and how it fits in the story line, because there is no purification happens in this land, they commit more sins, or all are souls wandering? But the reference is explicit when they convert the toddy shop to a church .
Now lets try to unlock the mystery, there is this concept of tangent universe and an existence of supernatural power that controls many things (a master is involved known as Perumadan a folklore character). In this film that telekinesis power or Perumadan character is revealed at the end. Then comes the second concept of a dead being revived back or an alternate version of Perumadan exists and has the ability to create a trap. This is where the time loop comes in. Its a probability that one of the undercover cop is doing this again and again or one of the cops has Schizophrenia and slowly he becomes what he came looking for. So every loop creates a new Perumadan. Then finally we have these people who lives in the forest and they are connected to the master subconsciously and that happens via a specific gesture. We get the glimpse of the time loop machine in one of the houses. The interconnection of one of the police officer and whom he came looking for is the key for understanding the climax.
So everything in some shape and form is linked. Its not easy to make out what is real here, but a second viewing will help narrow down few things if not entirely. Now is my interpretation right? i dont know but i wanted a closure in mind than an open ended one. The final flying scene (straight out of Spielberg E.T shot) ends the loops or finally the soul is redeemed, but it will start over when the next set of people arrives in the forest. Perumadan continues to exist and new Namboothiri's (cops here) will come and go.
<End Spoiler or My Interpretation>
Interestingly the film gives a clue at the beginning itself through a voice over narrator (a female one, shown later in the film) explain how an evil spirit misleads people and how they are mazed inside a temporal time-loop forever. The visuals are stunning, the blue tone of the mist and Ariel shots (being interpreted as someone watching from above) are terrific. The mood and eeriness of the forest is captured to its finest form. This is a film where director blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Its a journey through darkness and the air of Churuli is a difficult breath for many. I infact enjoyed this more than his previous movie Jallikattu. Wish i had few people at a coffee table to discuss ,debate and hear their view points. And for some this may be a trash (infact that's i heard the most) and i dont blame those criticism too.
Verdict - 3.5/5(Lord of Time)