The rainbow of gravity

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Churuli’s dialogues aren’t for the faint hearted, but his ethereal exploration of time is, well, levitating.

A benevolent god promises life many times over / Benevolent, to the last fold / In your tail is savored

– The lord of time

So begins the film ‘Churuli’, citing Kalpatta Narayanan’s famous poem, Samayaprabhu. The poem is a meditation on death, where a mother mouse tells her cub about how cat gods are of different kinds, some nice enough to give them more time to die. The poem sets the tone for the film, a possible exploration of the concept called the time loop, in which all of humanity and cultures are trapped. The film asks an open question: is redemption possible before saying its final farewell to this world?

The desire to seek asylum from this world and enter an alien zone, devoid of guilt and past sins, is ludicrous but remains a big theme worthy of a modern visual art form like cinema. Lijo Jose Pellissery’s “Churuli”, to that extent, does this art form justice, although its language may not be appreciated by viewers accustomed to family entertainers. At the end of the film, the criminal and his pursuers seek a united release – the jeep carrying the criminal and the cops rise from the ground even as the full moon appears. The unlucky beings enter a moonlit area and appear to be redeemed, almost like an alien-inspired dream sequence.

“Churuli” is an experimental film, and the use of abusive language in a brutally natural way may have sent shockwaves among viewers. The abusive video clips that are trolled show the film in a bad light. “Cultural” Kerala has been sharply divided over whether these dialogues are attention-grabbing gimmicks or genuinely revolutionary. “Isn’t it hypocritical that we accept the word ‘damn’ and the associated abuses that are widely used in some classic Hollywood movies and yet if a Malayalam movie violates the standards of sanitized scripting, we are criticized for belittling our culture, ” says S Hareesh who wrote the script for the film. Lijo’s Jallikettu, also based on the short story by this award-winning novelist, was more symbolic and stronger, but the treatment of ‘Churuli’ is more subtle and stands out. like a surrealist painting.

“Churuli” begins with two policemen – brilliantly played by Vinay Fort and Chemban Vinod – in pursuit of a fugitive from justice and their mission takes them to an outpost on the border of Karnataka and Kerala, where men and women with questionable past have settled down and lead a nomadic life. They get a first impression of this uncharted territory through the use of vulgar language by the natives, who use the most chosen abuses, as they travel in a rickety jeep to their destination. The language used by these outlaws is part of a catharsis to get rid of their violent past, and the rules of language and civility no longer make sense to them. So when Agent Shajeevan – Vinay Fort – sees images floating in the misty jungle at night, he is told it is the spirit of Theechamundi. “Take a sip at night and sleep peacefully,” recalls the grog store owner.

The film slowly focuses on the activities of the police officers who have come in search of a person accused of minor offenses. Ironically, the cops commit the same petty crimes like poaching that were committed by the accused and are even involved in the murder of a thug and the sexual abuse of a child. When they finally catch the culprit, they realize that it is too late, for they too are trapped in the labyrinth of sin and death, and are entangled in a circular temporal envelope: a “Churuli” of which he is not. there is no escape.

The film was shot at Kulamavu in Idduki just before Covid in 18 days. Unlike previous Lijo films like Jallikettu and Ee. Ma.Yau, where there was a definitive closure, ‘Churuli’ is an open film that ends with a fresh start. “Lijo likes to improvise the script while filming. It gives the writer complete creative freedom to develop a character, ”Hareesh explains. Madhu Neelakandan’s camera work is a visual treat, especially the night shots, where forest spirits come to life in the mists of the Western Ghats. Vinoy Thomas, whose original story was adapted for the film, says his story was based on a real-life incident of a policeman who set out to find a criminal in a remote village inhabited by hors- the law. “In the pursuit to catch the thief, the policeman also had to commit minor crimes there. My story was pretty straightforward, but Lijo used his creative imagination and blended western and eastern folk elements into the story, ” he says.

Thematically, Lijo’s films explore the agony of human existence and yet how local myths, music and cuisine play an important role in alleviating the misery of the poor, who celebrate life. For example, in Ee .Ma. Yau, arguably the director’s best film to date, Vavachan Mestri speaks to angels, coastal winds and dances to the death; Jallikettu takes a peek at the settler community, as the latest offering ‘Churuli’ attempts to open an imaginary window to heaven in an unholy universe.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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