Churuli is a Malayalam mystery thriller directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery. Vinoy Thomas wrote the story, and the screenplay is by S Hareesh. It stars Chemban Vinod Jose, Vinay Forrt, Joju George, Soubin Shahir and Jaffar Idukki. The SonyLIV film has Madhu Neelakandan’s cinematography and Sreerag Saju’s music. They are English subtitles available for non-Malayalee speakers.
The synopsis reads, “A few people who go in search of a man named Mayiladuparambil Joy, get trapped in a terrifying time loop in this sci-fi/horror tale of insanity, fear and ‘aliens’?”
SonyLIV’s Churuli Review Contains No Spoilers
Churuli in Malayalam means Spiral or Labyrinth. The film is about a small village in Kerala that is spiralling, leaving one confused and lost. The film begins with a woman’s voice in the background who tells us the story of Namboothiri. She tells how the monk once went to a forest to catch a Perumadan (evil). The monk finds a basket that he keeps on his head while walking. At one point, he doesn’t know where to go, and that’s when the anteater from the basket speaks to him. The anteater tells the monk where to go, and he keeps walking for days in the wrong directions. That’s what happens with the two cops in the film.
The story is about two undercover cops Anthony and Shajivan (Chemban Vinod Jose and Vinay Forrt), who go there to arrest a criminal named Mayiladuparambil Joy. The cops know nothing else about the man, how he looks if he still goes by the name Joy or not. Yet, they’re hopeful of finding him.
After getting down from a bus, they travel in a jeep to Churuli through the narrow and twisted path. Before crossing a wooden bridge, the jeep driver and men in the vehicle are nice to Anthony and Shajivan. However, as soon as they cross the wooden bridge and enter Churuli, these men turn mean, angry and use foul language for the undercover cops. Anthony and Shajivan are as confused as us, wondering what suddenly happened.
But that’s just the beginning of the creepiness we experience in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli. Until they find Joy, Anthony and Shajivan stay at a toddy hotel and blend in with the village’s people. However, as they spend more time in the village, the more they lose touch with themselves and reality. If I tell what happens further, I’d be giving spoilers. So it’s best to see what happens and how the creepiness of Churuli reveals itself.
S. Hareesh has written a screenplay that’s far-stretched and takes its sweet time to show what’s going on. Director Lijo Jose Pellissery doesn’t make it obvious that it’s a mystery thriller. One has to wait to witness how the puzzle unfolds, adding thrills throughout. The story is quite engaging and Madhu Neelakandan’s spectacular cinematography holds your attention. His long and close up still shots, ASMR shots and night scenes are mystifying. Even if the characters are just walking in the huge, creepy forest, you admire how beautiful it looks.
The night scenes are my favourite, where the eeriness is intensified with cold shots and a chilling background score. The forest keeps changing colours, usually at night, just the way how people in that little village do. People with smiles are hiding a thousand horrors. The roads in the village go on forever. The cops lose track of time, with Anthony almost forgetting their mission to catch Joy.
The film isn’t for everyone to understand. If it’s thrilling and fascinating, it’s also baffling. The ending unfolds mystically, it’s bewildering. The mystery keeps you glued to the end, but with no definitive answers. But the last shot stays in your mind because of how beautiful it looks. Lijo’s vision of a sci-fi thriller in an isolated village wraps up in a picturesque manner.
Coming to performances, Vinay Fortt and Chemban Vinod Jose do a remarkable job as Shajivan and Anthony. They rightly display the confusion and discomfort felt by Shajivan and the switch in Anthony’s personality. The women characters contribute nothing major to the story. Even a special appearance by an actor fails to have any impact.
Churuli Review: Final Thoughts
Overall, Churuli should be watched for the cinematic experience it displays on the screen. It’s a different kind of mystery thriller with a blend of horror. But don’t expect to find all the answers.
The film is now out on Sony LIV.