Cast: Asif Ali, Madonna Sebastian, Lal, Siddique
Director: Rohith V S
Rohith V S' second film Iblis is set in a seemingly utopian land where -- to put it vaguely so as to not spoil anything -- the living and dead share the same space. The people don’t mourn the death of their loved ones. Here death is treated like any other occasion with the guests exchanging pleasantries, sweets and what not. This land, detached from our own, operates on its rhythm. None of the inhabitants except Shridharan (Lal), Vysakhan (Asif Ali) and Fida (Madonna Sebastian) seem to possess the ability to display empathy and sorrow, and this quality make them stand out amongst the “emotionless souls” who have made up their minds to not venture outside their own land. To them, indulging in the melancholy of lost things is a "bad habit" familar to those living on the other side of the ocean.
The eccentricity of his land and his people have created so much disenchanment in him that Shridharan wishes to die in some other land. Being an adventure lover, he drives his vintage automobile to places unknown to others. He has seen and heard things others haven't. When Shridharan realises that Vysakhan has feelings for Fida, he comes up with ways to bring them together.
Iblis is something akin to a fable narrated to kids by their parents. Told in a non-linear format, it explores themes such as love, mortality, separation and loss. Rohith has given a fantastical spin to thoughts we may be already familiar with. There is almost every filmmaking trick in the book employed here to give the film a magical quality. Sometimes the camera finds itself on top of a tray or attached to the arm of a woman wielding a knife. At one point the viewer "becomes" a dog.
But there are few situations where the non-linear format creates some confusion as to who is dead and who is not. And it can be difficult to differentiate the two given the fact that the dead and living both wear coloured garments. Sometimes you find yourself asking, "Wait a minute, when did that character die?" Some characters show up at random, doing random things and then go their way. But these are minor quibbles about an otherwise bold and unconventional narrative.
Though Iblis is by no means a masterpiece, its short runtime and concise storytelling makes it superior to Rohith's previous attempt, Adventures of Omanakuttan. It didn't bore me for even a minute because all the colourful images and costumes kept me occupied. Also, I was busy trying to keep track of who was alive and who was not. Kudos to Asif Ali for continuing to encourage filmmakers who think out of the box.