Directed by: Manu Warrier
Writer: Anish Pallyal
Cinematography: Abhinadhan Ramanujan
Edited by: Akhilesh Mohan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Kuruthi means "the holy slaughter" in Malayalam. There is much that gets slaughtered in the course of this two-hour film – relationships, an ancestral home, notions of religion, faith and of course, human beings. Director Manu Warrier and writer Anish Pallyal build a Trojan horse – a home invasion movie that works as a gripping thriller but at the same time asks us to consider religious fanaticism, how faith can create good and evil, how hate persists and how ultimately, violence begets violence. While there are echoes here of two of my favourite films of the year – Kala and Nayattu – Kuruthi is very much its own beast.
The film is largely set in a house in a remote forested area. Ibrahim, or Ibru as most people call him, lives here with his cantankerous father, Moosa and his belligerent younger brother, Rasool. A year ago, his family suffered a horrific loss and Ibru is still struggling to make sense of it. Doubts are a part of faith, he is told. Ibru's neighbour Suma brings food for the men and does chores around the house, which is steeped in sadness and resentment.
Then one night, an injured cop barges in, with a handcuffed man accused of murder. The prisoner is a Hindu extremist who admits to murdering a Muslim. He is now being sheltered in a Muslim house, from a Muslim extremist who has vowed to kill him.
Through the night as both ideologies and human beings are pitted against each other, the bigotry that festers even in those who appear to be beyond it, rises to the surface. Relationships that have endured for years are frayed by conversations of 'your people' and 'my people'. The film doesn't take sides. Instead, it presents a harrowing view of the divisions and hate that have penetrated so deeply into the fabric of our country that any semblance of unity seems impossible. And in the midst of the emotional and physical violence stands Ibru, a gentle, devout man wondering what his god would like him to do.
Anish's screenplay is tightly constructed. You hear stray references to a wasp's nest and a snake from a temple that become significant later. Much of the action takes place in one house, but the visuals don't become repetitive. DOP Abinandhan Ramanujam keeps the camera moving and darting between faces and spaces. At one point, the conflict even takes the men to the roof. Editor Akhilesh Mohan keeps the tension bubbling. The first few scenes in the film are purposefully confusing. It might take you a few minutes to piece together these people and their relationships. Manu immerses us into Ibru's world and the profound faith he holds on to, despite his staggering loss.
Kuruthi is brimming with stellar actors who deliver strong performances. Roshan Mathew stands out as Ibru, an unassuming man who strives to do the right thing in horrific circumstances. The scene stealer is Mamukkoya as Moosa – he gets some of the best lines in the film and runs with them. Pay attention to the layering in Srindaa's rendition of Suma – a woman filled with contradictions. There's also Murali Gopy, Shine Tom Chacko and Prithiviraj Sukumaran, who has also produced the film.
It's laudable that the man enabling the project and the biggest star in it has chosen to do the film's most unsympathetic character, Laiq. Prithviraj doesn't hold back in infusing Laiq with malevolence and menace. But this is also the film's most underwritten character. He comes off more as an idea than a person. Towards the end, Kuruthi also veers into preaching, which seems redundant given what has played out.
In one scene in Kuruthi, a character asks: Where is this country headed to? Only the devil's arrival is left now. The film suggests that the devil is already here, comfortably concealed within all of us. Kuruthi smartly disguises an urgent wake-up call as a genre movie.
You can watch the film on Amazon Prime Video.