Liho Jose Peliseri is a very cynical person. If this is ambiguous from his previous film Jallikattu, his latest film Churuli makes it less ambiguous.
He did not want to carry the cross of human nature, which is too high. He explores how people can become animals after film without asking too many questions as long as time and place allow them to leave an impression of manners.
Like Jallikattu, Churuli is also situated on a dense hilltop.
In this small village, nestled within the forest, the line between humans and wildlife was skinny. Not only for animals but also for criminals escaping the laws of civilized society.
Two undercover cops under their supposed names Anthony (Chamban Vinod Jose) and Shajivan (Viney Fort), are on their way to Churuli. An informant warns them that a fugitive named Joy, who is on the run, is hiding in the thick green blanket of the area.
Anthony, a seasoned police officer who has taken on several similar missions throughout his career, also acts as a mentor to the relatively inexperienced Shajivan, who masters the challenges of a dangerous slippery maze in a hillside village.
Anthony said that his 20 years of experience handling such undercover duties prepared him for Churuli. But this is no ordinary place. This is a mystical land that does something significant to everyone who enters it. And no one seems ready for Churuli’s challenge.
At the beginning of the film, a narrator tells a folk tale. This is a legend about a ghost who is known to mislead people walking through the forest. The ghost’s name is Perumadan. Once upon a time, a learned brahmin went on a mission to conquer Perumadan. But it ended up falling victim to his deception.
In the story, Perumadan sits in a basket on the head of a brahmin. In the film, Perumadan lies in the air of Churuli and damages anyone who inhales it.
What this place offers is complete freedom.
Once people cross the treacherous bridge that leads to a mysterious land, they become other people. You no longer have to pretend to be friendly, polite, and well-behaved in this lawless land. The construction of civilized society does not apply there. There are no characters or role models.
Everyone in the village knows that everyone there is evil and dangerous. And no one seeks to find a higher purpose in life. All they want is to give in to every feeling without anyone standing on their shoulders and judging them.
First, Shajivan is depicted as an obedient subordinate who believes in law and wants to enforce it. But Churuli’s mood drew something else from that. He managed to fulfil his every wish without having to answer anyone.
Liho Jose Peliseri has wonderfully visualized the mysterious labyrinth of screenwriter S. Harish. Cameraman Madhu Nilakandan explored the beautiful nature of Churuli from different and sunny angles and gave us an enjoyable viewing experience.
As a side note, this one, too, like many films from the famous Malayalam New Wave, revolves around a male and incorporates a female character essential to the process but still goes wrong.
Pellissery in Kerala first came under the spotlight ten years ago. She has been a favourite of Pan-Indian moviegoers since 2017 after gaining national attention with Angamaly Diaries. He follows this fun black comedy with the culturally insightful and highly entertaining Ee.Ma.Yau (2018) and the insane take on machoism and socio-political supremacy in Jallikattu (2019).
The benefits of Churuli start with the packaging.
It was beautifully filmed by DoP Madhu Neelakandan and played well by everyone, especially Vinay Fort, who was so great in Premam, Kisath and Thamaasha and is in top shape again here. Sreerag Saji’s original music is spooky and completes the narrative atmosphere. And Renanaath Ravee’s sound design is meticulous.
It was also clear that Peliseri liked to talk to Churuli. The elements at work make it even more annoying because he says it with intentional ambiguity.