The battle at Helm’s Deep is nearing its end. Countless people have perished, Wizard Saruman’s army of orcs have overrun Helm’s Deep and defeat seems inevitable. “What can men do against such reckless hate?” King Theoden wonders as his impenetrable fort crumbles from the onslaught of enemies in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
While watching Amazon Prime Video’s latest release Kuruthi you may also wonder what men can do against such reckless hate? Screenwriter Anish Pallyal constructs a trap from which no character emerges unscathed. Under the grab of darkness, each character reveals their true self, and transforms to the point that they are unrecognisable when the sun rises again.
Ibrahim (Roshan Mathew), a man in his early 30s, is coming to terms with a massive personal loss. His wife and daughter died in a landslide that killed 24 people. We see how people, irrespective of their religion, are dealing with losing their loved ones. The scene is a reminder that when a catastrophe strikes, it affects all human beings the same way. Death is not prejudiced by caste, religion, creed, language or the colour of skin. It is the ultimate leveller.
Ibrahim turns to spirituality to seek answers and ensure a place for him in heaven, because he believes that is where his daughter is. When Ibrahim expresses he’s full of doubt as to what God wants from him, his spiritual guru tells him that doubt is the sign of a true believer. The guru says when in doubt, pray.
A similar situation plays later on in the movie. Ibrahim’s brother Rasool (Naslen K. Gafoor) is simmering with anger. He has been semi-radicalised but is on the fence about being an accessory to a cold-blooded murder. Laiq (Prithviraj Sukumaran) asks Rasool whether he’s doubtful if he’s doing the right thing? Laiq tells Rasool that doubt is his biggest enemy and if he encourages it, it will cost him dearly. In effect, Laiq says, when in doubt, kill.
We get the diametrically opposed ideologies of people who share the same faith.
All hell breaks loose when S.I Sathyan (Murali Gopy) barges into Ibrahim’s house uninvited, with a murder accused named Vishnu (Sagar Surya). Vishnu has murdered a man for hurting his religious sentiments. Now he’s being chased by a group of men who are baying for blood. Sathyan, however, is determined not to let that happen.
After a few twists and turns, the responsibility to protect Vishnu’s life falls on Ibrahim. Now, he has to choose between supporting the vengeance of his friends or saving the life of a stranger. What does God want him to do?
As various strands of the conflict develop, like Helm’s Deep, human bonds that were once believed to be strong and unbreakable, begin to crumble. Ibrahim’s shock is palpable as he realises that people who he thought were above communal differences have fallen for the rising tide of hatred. It is the same shock one feels when they find out their closest friends was a closet bigot all along.
Kuruthi is a brave film in more ways than one. It discusses the growing fear of majoritarian sentiment, the alienation of minorities, and the mounting human cost of communalisation in a way that will have a profound effect on the audience. The film is a microcosm of our society, which is increasingly becoming paranoid of the Other. The film doesn’t take sides or justify any acts of its characters. It simply observes the eroding harmony and a sense of brotherhood. It helps us to see senselessness of violence committed in the name of God. It is a vicious cycle that won’t stop until an individual takes one for the greater good of human civilization.
Besides the politics, Kuruthi is also a claustrophobic and nerve-wracking thriller. The home invasion setup is powered by Tarantino-esque suspense building and shuddering reveals. It is like Straw Dogs meet the opening sequence of Inglourious Basterds, with a less artistic flourish. The film’s significant achievement is it helps us see the limitations of our capacity to pass a moral and informed judgement while exploring the true meaning of faith.