Lijo Jose Pellissery's new movie Churuli is guaranteed to be a talking point among Malayalam movie buffs in the coming days. Premiered during IFFK 2021, Churuli (which means spiral in English) is now streaming on SonyLIV. Those who have watched the movie are baffled as to what they have seen here. Churuli has been crafted as a mysterious puzzle for which there is no clear answer as to how to solve them. Is it a sci-fi thriller? A horror movie? A psychological drama? Or a black comedy? Or a blend of everything, which not revealing its allegiance. There is hardly any doubt that Lijo Jose Pellissery has made a cult film that will be dissected for years to come. Churuli Movie Review: A Rare Lijo Jose Pellissery Misfire That Is Still Fascinating and Mystifying.

What is the plot? Two cops with fake names, Antony (Chemban Vinod Jose) and Shajivan (Vinay Forrt), go incognito to a hamlet called Churuli, hidden in jungle terrains, to catch a fugitive thief called Joy who is believed to be hiding there, though they don't even know how he looks like. There, the residents believe they are labourers coming to work in the plantain of Thankan, who is out of town for a few days. To pass time, the duo work at the arrack shop of Jaffer Idukki's character, till they figure out who Joy is. However, during the stay there, Shajivan and Antony are shocked by the people's raucous behaviour, Shajivan sees strange sightings including alien beings and inexplicable fire balls, and people there claim they have seen him before even though he is coming here for the first time.

The climax is even more baffling, offering even more surreal imagery and character behaviours, leaving you scratching your head more and more. So what happened there? Churuli is a difficult movie to decode, so we have to look into the internet, social media and YouTube channels (KhanMax did a terrific video on this) to look for theories that could unlock the puzzle. Believe me, decoding the ending of Dark series proved far easier than trying to solve the crazy, dark riddle that LJP had given us to play with. None of the theories were conclusive enough be the ONE answer, but they all made sense when stacked up against each other. But before we get into it, let's look at what happens in that strange climax.

The Finale

The return of Thankan, played by Joju George, exposes the lies of Shajivan and Antony. While the villagers round up on them and discuss plans on how to murder them, Shajivan takes the gun out on them and takes Thankan in their hold. Thankan claims Joy is his brother-in-law and he is at their home, and they had no plans to kill the policemen, only merely trying to scare them. The duo coerces Thankan to take them to his home, and the rest of the villagers follow them.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

At Thankan's house, they find Joy (Soubin Shahir) lying on the bed, apparently ill. He, along with Thankan and his wife, requests them to spare him, but they refuse to acquiesce. Suddenly they all began to laugh and the villagers try to converge on them. Shajivan tries to shoot the villagers as a warning, resulting in him blowing off the arrack shop owner's ear, but he reacts as if it didn't hurt. All the people around them close their eyes in unison, as if they are synced together. Once their eyes are open, Joy agrees to go with the cops.

They take the jeep of the driver who brought them to Churuli, putting Joy in bond. The villagers continue to follow them through the path, and so do glowing orbs we thought were fireflies. The police duo couldn't find the way back to civilisation, so they rely on Joy's direction to get them out. Joy narrates the story of the Namboothiri and the Perumadan (demon) that we hear in the start, but they ask him to stop. So instead he tells them of the policemen who comes to catch a thief to the jungle and how they could never get out of the forest. Joy misleads them into going into spirals to the centre of the jungle and then escapes from his bindings. He closes his eyes, and Shajivan and Antony inexplicably also do the same. The jeep is seen flying in the air in a spiral manner (Joy and Shajivan inexplicably switch seats). They are seen flying towards the moon, before the moon become a bright round white light in the room filled with whirring wheels (that Shajivan witnessed earlier in the film when he tried to peek into a house).

Confounded? Then look at some of the theories that explain what the hell is happening in the movie, that may not connect all the dots but we will try our level best here!

An Astral Plane Ruled By Aliens and Time Loops

Lijo Jose Pellissery called his latest film a sci-fi saga, so let's go by what he wants his movie to be seen as. What if by crossing the wornout log bridge at the first act, Shajivan and Antony might have crossed over into some astral plane that were taken over by some aliens? What if the two humanoids with blue orb-like eyes are the ones controlling Churuli? In the beginning, we hear a man sitting in a tea shop, that the cops visit before entering Churuli, reading about aliens being sighted.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

It is a probability that these aliens have created a world in Churuli where people are stripped of their basic civility, which is why the cops' co-travellers in the jeep, who were nice and cordial to them, suddenly starts abusing them and also each other. Churuli is a place that keeps the police away, people are free to do what they want, which includes poaching, and not averse to murdering someone. It's like someone is observing how humans would react to if the cloak of decency is taken away from them.

Then there is the matter of time loop theory. Even within a day of arrival, Shajivan feels that he had been here before. Certain characters keep telling him that his face looks familiar, and we also hear a story of how two policemen came to the village to catch a criminal but couldn't escape. Interestingly, Antony doesn't have the same sense of deja vu as Shajivan, So what if Shajivan is caught in a time loop and this time, he brought in Antony along with him. Which is why in the final scene, after Joy closes his eyes, it is Shajivan who closes his eyes next and then Antony who could be the final addition to the surreal roster of Churuli.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

Maybe this whole thing is like a well-oiled machinery run by aliens, which is also why Shajivan keeps seeing wheels. Also interesting to note here, that the jeep they travelled to come here, looks like a police jeep, whose tag board is taken off. So was this the jeep that Shajiivan and some other unfortunate cop used to come in Churuli, before his memory was wiped off?

Shajivan's Broken Mind in a Cult

Another interesting theory I read is that Churuli is a cult, where the inhabitants are criminals on the run who want to behave any way they want, speak in any manner and are fiercely protective of their exclusivity. Interesting to note here, that the women are safer here than in the outside world despite the lack of civility. Antony finds it's easy to adjust with this world, but the more innocent Shajivan finds himself to be a fish out of water, shocked by the people's behaviour there and further scared when he is chased by the old woman with an axe. He is far more obsessed with catching Joy and escape from there, while Antony demands patience. Then there is the matter that he keeps getting bullied by Antony, and then further humiliated by the rich man who defeats him in the slap contest at the fair.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

What if all these slights and insults cause Shajivan's mind to break down and he begins to relate himself to Joy, the man he is supposed to apprehend? Which could be why he killed the man who defeated him the slap contest. Or how he became an expert hunter, while Antony sucked at it, or how he smoothly he acclimatised himself in the abusive mould and can take on brawlers and abusers, even impressing others. What if the medicine woman was right and he did sexually abuse her nephew? One of Joy's crimes were sodomy, so Shajivan could be becoming closer to what Joy was. It is interesting to note that the aliens, the whirring wheels and fireballs were all observed by him and not Antony.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

So in the finale, when he finally closes his eyes, he has accept his transformation to Joy, which also might explain the switch of seats between him and Joy. Then their jeep might have crashed, and the final scene of them flying into the moon might be him imagining himself to be dying.

The Perumadan Story

Let's not forget that the movie begins with what we assume to be the medicine woman who tells Shajivan the story of the Namboothiri who is tricked into going walking into an infinite spiral road by a Perumadan, a shape-shifting demon masquerading as a talking ant-eater. Coming back to the time loop theory, we never see this moment in the film itself. So it seems that the medicine woman told this story to Shajivan in some other loop.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

Anyway, what if that Perumadan is real and he happens to be none other than Joy, which explains his crazy behaviour in the finale. Which may be why the other villagers are fiercely protective of him. Remember no one cared a bit when Shajivan killed the other man. Perumadan could either be Joy, or have taken him as the new host, and the other villagers could be demons as well. Shajivan and Antony could be the Namboothiri in this tale, trapped into a time loop by the Perumadan who could never escape the spiral dimensions of Churulu. The final scene of them flying to the moon, could be the end of the loop and the beginning of a new one.

Interestingly, LJP loves to play around with fantastical elements. His Amen alluded to the fact that Indrajith's priest could be Jesus Christ in disguise. Ee Ma Yau showed glimpses of path to purgatory. Which could also add a new theory to Churuli. What if this place is a purgatory, and Shajivan and Antony are stuck there as trapped souls before they are taken to afterlife in the final scene? Which could explain that glowworms seen in the night scenes and the climax are probably other trapped souls.

Never-Ending Quest to Seek Happiness

This might be a strange theory, but not strange enough for this movie. Let's take Joy's name in literal sense, which means 'happiness'. Considering Antony and Shajivan as mankind trying to seek the ultimate happiness, but gets distracted by other quests and emotions that they think are making them happy.

A Still From Churuli (Photo Credit: Sony LIV)

In the end, they manage to come close to the truth about true happiness, only to realise it has taken a dangerous form for them because how they changed themselves for the worse in reaching there, ultimately setting them on a lost journey and resulting in their doom.

Homage to LJP's Previous Masterpieces

One more interesting theory I found is that Churuli could be LJP playing homages to his own movies, especially the acclaimed ones like Angamaly Diaries, Ee Ma Yau and Jallikattu. These three movies dissected the rough nature of mankind, the flawed world of men where women are peripherals and yet not inconsequential.

Still from Jallikattu

Churuli could have taken the essence of these movies, removed the triggers that invoke the roughness, bestiality and the wild nature of humans (be the the bull in Jallikattu or the funeral in Ee May Yau) and then see how easy it is for the viewer, like Shajivan, to acclimatise to abusive language and the violent content, once the initial shock wears off.

So what do you think of these theories? Do you have any of your own about what Churuli is all about? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Nov 20, 2021 10:42 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website