The opening of Manu Warrier's Kuruthi is deliberately disorienting. We see a bunch of quick-cut events. There's a bit about cops. There's a bit about a tragedy. We are not able to string together a coherent story yet. But slowly the characters and their surroundings begin to make sense. (It's a big, big star cast: Prithviraj, Roshan Mathew, Manikandan Achari, Murali Gopy, Shine Tom Chacko and a very impressive Srindaa, who plays the sole female character.)
Ibrahim (Roshan Mathew) and Sumathi (Srindaa) are almost in an Eden-like place. Everyone else in that neighbourhood has left the place due to a calamity, and these are only two (with their families) that have chosen to stay back. And in this Eden, their religions don't matter. The two families live in total harmony.
But outside this little Eden, it is a different story. Hindus feel that their majoritarian status is being threatened. Muslims feel that atrocities are being committed on them. And this outside world — this serpent, if you will — slowly enters this Eden. And slowly, everyone's real colours come out.
Is it important to be a good Hindu or Muslim and do what your respective Gods or prophets say, or is it important to be a good human being? When you make a promise on the Quran, should you adhere to it even if your belief systems are being shaken, and people you thought you knew turn out to be religious chauvinists themselves?
All this philosophy is presented in the form of an action-packed home-invasion thriller. And the best part of the script by Anish Pallyal is how it redefines the concept of the home invasion thriller. Usually this genre is about one's own home, i.e. the place one lives in. But here, the very concept of home is questioned. For instance, is India a home for Muslims anymore?
The screenplay is a cracker. Yes, there is a little over-explaining of the themes via dialogue that seems redundant. But pay close attention and you will see everything has been hinted at before, from the presence of snakes to a man's ability to climb trees to a wasps' nest to the killing of a goat. All of these come back in a major way later on. Even the dialogues are filled with clues. Very early on, we hear about a man who is seeking revenge for his father's death. The man is not named and we don't even know if this man is going to be a part of this movie — that mention about him is so casual. But he does, and we recall that earlier hint.
And remember I said Eden? There is a strong Biblical undercurrent, right down to Cain murdering his brother Abel. This becomes a metaphor for Hindus and Muslims no longer being bhai-bhai, or brothers. We see how a completely good man can be forced to resort to violence, because the murderous Cain's blood runs through all of us. Another lovely point on religion is how God gives us burdens to bear depending on our inner strength.
Kuruthi is superbly crafted. From the slightly askew top angle shot of a police jeep at the beginning, Abinandan Ramanujam's cinematography is outstanding. When Sidney Lumet made his great courtroom drama 12 Angry Men, which is mostly set in one room, the great cinematographer Boris Kaufman found amazingly inventive ways to keep things visually interesting even while maintaining the sense of claustrophobia. That's what Abinandan does here. He keeps finding inventive ways to frame the same room, the same set of people.
If I did not talk about the specific roles played by the other actors, it's because it's all a surprise, a slow unravelling of events that I don't want to spoil for you. But the performers are terrific. Look at how Prithviraj plays a driven man with strong convictions. Look at how Roshan Mathew plays a mix of compassion and confusion. Look at how Srindaa plays a woman with her own little secrets. This cast elevates what could have been a routine thriller into something much larger. Kuruthi is a solid film that shows how you can make big statements even within the confines of genre.