Karutha Joothan (2017) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


Ambition does not necessarily always result in achievement, and ‘Karutha Joothan’ leaves us wishing that the director had displayed a better flair to spin a fine yarn. It is one of those films that weighs so much and yet holds inside much less, and a film that unquestionably gets lost in a fog of smugness that it has created around itself.


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On retrospect, Salim Kumar’s ‘Karutha Joothan’ strikes us as bearing the lumber of a National Award on it back, and suffers from an excessive urge to match up to the standards laid down by a former celebrated film as ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’. However, while the latter film was achingly poignant, ‘Karutha Joothan’ has little in it that would let it qualify as a sensitive interpretation of a hitherto undiscussed theme.

Salim Kumar plays the title role of Avaroni, a black Jew who has developed a morbid fear of crows, ever since being attacked by one, on his way to school. Growing up, he carries a crow feather staff in his hands and finally casting it aside, sets out to unearth the history of his lesser known ancestors, who had traversed oceans and deserts to reach Kerala.

Having discovered the truth, Avaroni decides to return to Mala, but is hit by a vehicle and presumed to be dead. His grieving mother (Usha) and sister board a ship for Israel, along with the rest of the community, and entrust Beeran (Babu Annur) to let Avaroni know about their whereabouts, if ever he returns.

‘Karutha Joothan’ then goes on to hold the mirror on the contemporary society in Kerala, where Avaroni returns to, years later. He discovers that his ancestral house had long been occupied as the Government Post Office, and loses a legal battle to regain it, after he fails to prove his identity in court.

The intention is loud and clear, and the film laments that any historical account of the Jews who had lived in Kerala for more than two thousand years, would invariably be traced back to the white skinned Jews of Cochin, where as the black Jews of Malabar would be forced to retrace their steps to the concealed, dark corners of the state’s Jewish history.

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The black Jew, sans an identity, is who would have made this film trace a divergent path, but instead ‘Karutha Joothan’ seems to be on the lookout for carefully orchestrated and simulated moments that would lend it an offbeat air. The film has a visual design that seems cold and almost claustrophobic, and there are times, when it mawkishly slips into a stupor.

The last few minutes of ‘Karutha Joothan’ are the best, and it shakes off that indolent tone that it had steadfastly maintained and springs a shock, and a jolting one at that. It is here that it finally is able to make a reflective statement and offers an observation that is wrenchingly honest, unlike the many tangential ones that had preceded it.

There are times when ‘Karutha Joothan’ strikes you as experimental, and moments when you feel that the film is too self-indulgent to be taken seriously. Perhaps it does offer a rumination, or at least opportunities for one, but which are totally lost on the audience, since the film merely revels in inflated moments that can hardly claim to have clarity or real emotion.

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As Avaroni, Salim Kumar gives it his very best and is impressive as the old man who finds himself as an unsolicited outsider in his own homeland , though it remains that he quite looks ill-at-ease as the younger protagonist. Usha and Babu Annur lend ample support.

Ambition does not necessarily always result in achievement, and ‘Karutha Joothan’ leaves us wishing that the director had displayed a better flair to spin a fine yarn. It is one of those films that weighs so much and yet holds inside much less, and a film that unquestionably gets lost in a fog of smugness that it has created around itself.


Verdict: Average


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