Saturday, February 11, 2017

എസ്ര (Ezra) (2017)

Director: Jay K
Writers: Jay K, Manu Gopal
DOP: Sujith Vasudevan
Cast: Prithviraj, Priya Anand, Vijayaraghavan, Sujith Shankar, Tovino Thomas
Language: Malayalam

Ranjan (Prithviraj) and his wife Priya (Priya Anand) had recently shifted to Kochi from Mumbai due to a transfer in his posting as the manager of a logistics company which handles nuclear waste disposal. They rent an old villa and furnish it with a lot of antique stuff which also includes a Jewish box, that is apparently a Dyybuk: a carrier for the spirit of a dead person seeking revenge. Spooky things follow.

The Jewish heritage of Kochi has been something of  fancy and only very rarely have been they captured in Malayalam films (I haven't seen Gramaphone). I came to know of it only after watching the two part Indian travel documentary done by Jeremy Piven, which is highly recommended. The Jewish population of Kochi is dwindling and only a few are left now. Ezra manages to weave this aspect into a credible storyline using mythologies surrounding Judaism giving it a very sophisticated feel even though it is basically a quite clichéd horror storyline (പഴയ ബോംബ് കഥ തന്നെ).

Biggest job to pull off in films of this genre is to give a good enough backstory to justify the revenge aspect and connections to various other characters in the film and that is done quite well in this film. But there is a lot of explaining in the film between the characters through out which is not a great way to tell a story. Many of the conversations are to just there to make the audience understand what is going on and it begins gratingly with a conversation between the couple about their decision to move, whose timing won't naturally be just before they are ready to move. Sujith Shankar who had played meaty roles in two films I love, has been kind of wasted due to the same explanation aspect that he has to contend with in his role as Rabbi ready to do exorcism. These things are kind of the baggage that Malayalam film traditionally carries as the makers don't just trust the intelligence of its audience.

The trailer of the film suggested its stunning technical quality and you won't be disappointed with it. Visuals, set and sound are all off the scale and it is a treat to see such neatly done films from Malayalam. The same producers had backed 'Guppy' and so it is not a surprise. The three songs in it are quite good and are used to move the story forward. Even though I caught this on an Atmos theatre, the first day first show crowd kind of ruined the horror mood. I would recommend that it should be watched with a quiet audience. Also please do stay for closing credits because it looks like Balettan is gonna destroy Kamattipaadam.

It is often a quandary to figure out a way to end films like these and in Ezra they choose to go with a twist. But once the twist is revealed, the rest of the exorcism part is a bit tame. Overall it is a very good watch but you are left with the feeling that it could have been even better. I would certainly like to give it a rewatch with a quiet multiplex kind of audience. It is probably the only proper horror film from Malayalam as most others choose to go with heavy usage of comedy. Even Manichithrathazhu, which is more of a psychological thriller than horror, had a humour thread running throughout.

PS: Only a handful of Jews are left in Kochi now and I wonder whether they will also take off after seeing the way Zionist fella who spawned Ezra in the film is portrayed.

Rating: 3.5/5