Starring Vinay Forrt, Chemban Vinod Jose

Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery

Rating: * ½

Not all Malayalam cinema is worth our while. This talked-about film is a foul-mouthed aberration.The characters are all uncouth boorish forest dwellers who burp, belch and probably fart to their heart’s content. They drink and scream as if the fact that were far away from civilizations gives a certain social sanction to uncivilized behaviour.

They appear sinister. But nothing they do seems to ratify their claim to homicidal creepiness. In the absence of any real threat they just seem like a bunch of hooligans who have had too much to drink during Holi.

The characters all look like they haven’t bathed since the shooting began. Or maybe they have. But they are intrinsically grimy in look and outlook.

The film is about a journey into the darkness , a sort of subverted sickened sambhar-stained version of Francis Coppola’s Apolacypse Now ,undertaken by two undercover cops Anthony and Shajivan, played by Chemban Vinod Jose and Vinay Forrt.

A lot of the film’s scares rely on the peripheral characters’ sudden change of mood from rustic affability to primitive profanity.Abuses involving mothers and sisters flow out of the foul mouths as if by their own volition.Sadly these people who are supposed to be threateningly mysterious just end up looking like overgrown under-bathed brats who should have been spanked more often by their ammas.

Speaking of the mother figure (in this film lacking a murder vigour), there are two women characters , one the alcoholseller’s no-nonsense wife whose shout subdues a whole den of drinkers , and the other a smirky masseur who massages one of the undercover cop’s strained back and accuses the other of child molestation.

I really didn’t get the significance of bringing in sexual abuse into the purported horror plot. There is so much here that is written in just for affect,for instance strange creatures roaming in the night or an old woman running after our hero with an axe…is this a homage to a directorial I-am-known-for-weirdness-so-here-it-is whimsy that is both structurally and morally problematic?

Following the laws of the jungle is all very well. But what about tenets of aesthetic cinema? Churuli follows no rules. It thinks it can get away with anything on the wings of whimsy.Its arrogant seediness is more distressing than disconcerting.

Vinay Forrt and the director have worked together in the past in Thamasha. They have a certain understanding which squares off some of the storytelling’s spiky edges. But not enough to excuse the volley of foul-tongued ill-natured grump-dump that the film amounts to being. The director’s Jalikkattu in 2019(which I didn’t like) was about a bull on a rampage.Churuli follows the same trail . The bull this time being more metaphorical. The forest-induced energy may make you bullish. But don’t get carried way.What you are looking at is a highly self-indulgent self-serving film boring on megalomaniacal filmmaking.