Koimoi Recommends Churuli: If there is someone who finds peace in chaos and sanity in people going completely insane, it has to be Lijo Jose Pellissery and his gigantically functioning mind. Taking a drastic turn from his previous movies, Churuli is poetry of discomfort, a lullaby for the devil and top of all it is a test of your fear and the victory of a forest that literally eats people. Nothing makes actual sense here, not even what I wrote, but that’s what the filmmaker has done to my brain!
Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery.
Language: Malayalam (with English subtitles).
Available on: Sony Liv.
Two policemen Antony (Chemban Vinod Jose) and Shajivan (Vinay Forrt) come to a mystic village of Churuli, set in middle of a dense forest. Their aim is to catch a wanted criminal Joy, so they disguise as daily wage workers. But the sting operation isn’t as easy as it seems because humans are not running the show here.
Disclaimer: Churuli might have just a single interpretation in Lijo’s head, but for a viewer there are multiple. If yours doesn’t sit with mine, we still will be friends!
The film that takes place in a maze literally opens to an animated montage which tells you the story of a monk who ventured into a forest to catch a shape-shifting phantom. An ant-eater promises to help him and starts giving him the directions. The monk is still wandering and you already know who the phantom is. Lijo with writers Hareesh S (screenplay) and Vinay Thomas (story) tell you the premise in the first 10 minutes. What is exactly left then?
That’s where the Pellissery, Hareesh & Vinay magic kicks in. You know there will be a monk (2 in this case), you know the phantom will mislead them. But what you don’t know is that the forest in itself is a maze and a character that will eat them up. The makers focus exactly on that. The mystical land of Churuli is lawless. People murder, abuse, abuse children (by paying money for it), and go unquestioned always. There is no consequence for wrong doing, but definitely worse if you decide to showcase the good in you.
This is the land where men talk only in abuses, and are ready to fight at the drop of a hat. But dare you think women have no agency. Rather they are the only ones who can stop these fights and have command over a group of men. These are all criminals of different degrees eloped from the cities and now settled in Churuli. Two police officers enter such a village to find a man whom they have not even seen ever. No picture, or mark to describe.
Scratch the surface and it doesn’t seem like Churuli exists in the real-time. It’s on the other side of the bridge and once everyone gets down there their attitude changes. Every time a local from the village sees Shajivan they recall having seen him in the past. Which suggests he might be stuck in some time loop, where he has come in with a wiped memory and a new officer (Antony) to turn him into a follower of the cult this forest is. There’s no network, people hardly react to being hit by a bullet, and their attitudes fluctuate making them look like two different people.
My bid is that the two aliens mentioned at the beginning and later seen by Shajivan are running the show. Tell me yours! But in any case, Churuli is haunting and fascinating at the same time. The extent that the human mind can think to and the art that can be created is so amazing.
Madhu Neelakandan’s camera is a beast on its own. It wanders through this landscape like it has come alive and also got a brain. The colour pallet, angle and depth, each element in the frame makes sure it triggers discomfort. Sreerag Saji adds to this experience with his music and creates the maximum spooky effect.
We might probably sit after a couple of years and dissect this film that is deeper than the forest it is set in. But for that, you must watch it first. Go on. You can stream it on Sony Liv.