Chunky Review: Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Visually Rich Commentary on the Human Condition

Lijo Jose Pellisserie is one big freak. If that was ambiguous from his previous film Jallikattu, his latest film Churuli makes it less ambiguous. He is unwilling to bear the cross of placing too much value on human nature. Film by film, he explores how men can transform into animals without encouragement, provided time and space are conducive for them to abandon the pretense of civilization.

Like Jallikattu, Churuli is also situated on a dense hill. In this small village nestled in the middle of the forest, the line separating humans from wild animals is very thin. Not only for animals, it is also a sanctuary for criminals, who are on the run from the law that governs civilized society.

Two undercover cops named Anthony (Chemban Vinod Jose) and Shajivan (Vinay Fort) are on their way to Churuli. An informer informs them that a fugitive named Joy, an escape artist, is hiding among the thick green cover of the area. Anthony, a seasoned cop who has undertaken many similar missions in his career, doubles as the mentor of the relatively inexperienced Shajivan as he tackles the challenges of the treacherous slippery maze of a mountain village.

Anthony admits that his 20 years of experience dealing with such undercover tasks has prepared him for Churuli. But, this is no ordinary place. And it seems that no one can prepare for the challenges posed by Churuli. It is a mystic land that evokes something very original in every person who steps into it.

At the beginning of the film, a female storyteller narrates a folk tale. This is the story of a phantom which is notorious for misleading people passing through the forest. The name of the phantom is Perumdan. Once a learned Brahmin set out on a mission to capture Perumdan, but in the end fell prey to his deceit.

In the story Perumdan is seated in a basket on top of the Brahmin’s head. In the film, Perumadan is in the air of churuli and corrupts everyone who breathes it.

What this place offers is ultimate freedom. Once people cross the dangerous bridge leading to the mysterious land, they become different people. They no longer need to pretend to be kind, polite and well behaved in this lawless land. The constructions of a civilized society do not apply there. There are no heroes and role models to look up to. Everyone in the village knows that every man there is evil and treacherous. And no one aims to find a higher purpose in their life. All they want is to stand on someone’s shoulders and enjoy every sense without judging them.

At first, Shajivan is presented as an obedient subordinate, who believes in the rule of law and wants to uphold it. But, the atmosphere of Churuli brings out something else in him. He fulfills his every wish without being accountable to anyone.

Lijo Jose Pellissery wrote screenwriter S. Has done a beautiful job of visualizing the mysterious Chakravyuh set by Harish. Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan has explored the picturesque scenes of Churuli from different and vivid angles, giving us a pleasant viewing experience.

Churuli is streaming on SonyLiv.

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