'Kuruthi' movie review: Pertinent thriller in the garb of a Western

Kuruthi is a home invasion thriller in the same vein as Kala and Varathan.

Published: 13th August 2021 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2021 08:37 AM   |  A+A-

Prithviraj Sukumaran in Manu Warrier's 'Kuruthi'.

Prithviraj Sukumaran in Manu Warrier's 'Kuruthi'. (Photo | YouTube screengrab)

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When Sathyan (Murali Gopy as a police officer once again after Drishyam 2) shows up with a convict at the front door of a patriarch named Moosa (Mamukkoya), Kuruthi assumes the nature of a Western. Sathyan is a cross between Kurt Russell’s character in The Hateful Eight and John Wayne’s in Rio Bravo. In structure, Kuruthi resembles the former film. Moosa’s house would have been the Sheriff’s office in a 50’s Western. At one point in Kuruthi, the ‘Sheriff’—in this case, Sathyan—trusts one character to be his ‘deputy’. And in the film’s climax, a reverse ‘deputation’ happens with two different characters. But let’s not get into spoilers now, shall we?

The Western quality of the film becomes more pronounced when Prithviraj’s Laiq enters through the same door later, recalling Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. In terms of stubbornness, though, he resembles Ethan from The Searchers. But, unlike Ethan, Laiq gives the impression of someone incapable of redemption. This is not to say the performance is of the same calibre. But, more on that later. 

Kuruthi is a home invasion thriller in the same vein as Kala and Varathan. But it also uses elements of the Western genre and chamber drama to present familiar thoughts in a manner accessible to all age groups. Some might call it unsophisticated for this very reason. As was evident in the promos, Kuruthi explores the chaos unleashed by people with opposing ideologies and the pointlessness of violence provoked by religious fervour and fanaticism. It doesn’t take sides. The funniest moment in the film arrives when one character cites ancient history and another character mistakenly brings up a Bollywood superstar’s name, with hilarious results.  To put it simply, Kuruthi is one of those ‘need of the hour’ films that reflect our times. The action confined to a single location serves to continually remind us that despite being in the middle of a terrifying disaster, some folks still prefer to spew hatred instead of focusing on their survival. 

It is why the film has Mamukkoya—to constantly hammer home the absurdity of it all. In Moosa, we once again get to see a character that does justice to an actor of Mamukkoya’s stature. Despite the presence of Prithviraj, Roshan Mathew and others, it’s his presence that puts the film back on the rails in the brief instances where it goes off them. Though he is a relic of the past with archaic views on certain things, Moosa is the wisest character in the film. 

I have to admit, though, that Kuruthi delivers more in terms of staging than performances. Close-ups, split diopters, and dutch angles are used inventively in several places to heighten tension. Barring its sluggish opening minutes, the film successfully sustains the nervous energy established when Sathyan appears with his prisoner and turns into a litmus test for all the characters around him. This tension is sustained till the finale.

Speaking of performances, Prithviraj does something with his eyes that reminded me of his brother Indrajith’s Kathakali artiste-turned-avenger character in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Nayakan. This ‘eye-popping’ effect is a bit comical, but the actor seems to have enjoyed playing a deranged man. At one point, he recalls an encounter with a “Neo Nazi” and a “Macedonian Lady with cat-eyes”, and I wondered whether I was watching an Anoop Menon film. And once we get to the scene where Prithviraj wields an axe like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, I half expected him to yell, “Here’s Laiqqqq!!!” But surprisingly, this hamminess didn’t bother me much. I, too, had fun watching him go crazy. 

But even if one wants to overlook some of its minor shortcomings, certain aspects stick out like a sore thumb. The character, Suma, essayed by Srindaa, for instance. It seemed as though she was playing two different people at the same time. The fault lies not so much in her performance but the development of her character arc. Suma is as confusing to me as Game of Thrones’ Danaerys Targaryen. After everything she said in the film’s earlier portions, her decisions in the third act didn’t make any sense.

While the performances are occasionally stagey and accompanied by unrefined dialogue delivery, actors such as Roshan Mathew, Shine Tom Chacko, and Mamukkoya efficiently keep their characters’ true nature concealed till the end. While his crisis of faith makes Roshan’s character seem vulnerable, Shine manages to come across as a man who might harbour a motive different from his allies. 

I don’t know if this approach was intentional or not, but Kuruthi seems like a film that doesn’t take itself seriously even though it addresses a serious issue. I don’t mean this in a negative. It may seem an odd combination to some, but if a film such as Dr Strangelove addressed sensitive issues through darkly comical and over-the-top performances, can one find fault with Kuruthi for the same approach too—if that was, indeed, the intention? Yes, the film would’ve looked and sounded better with more nuanced writing, but would it have gotten the necessary reach otherwise? I doubt. 

Kuruthi is a film that seems complicated on the surface, but it’s really not. It calls out the hatemongers on both sides. And the fact that a big superstar agreed to take on an unconventional role like Laiq and produce the film is commendable indeed. Hopefully, the ‘performance’ of Prithviraj’s eyes doesn’t inspire long think pieces.

Mamukkoya steals the show in this tension-packed single location tale.

Film: Kuruthi
Director: Manu Warrier
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Roshan Mathew, Mamukkoya, Manikandan, Srindaa, Shine Tom Chacko

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video


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