Trance (2020) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


‘Trance’ does address a theme that is radically important and proffers a compelling investigation into the unexplored realms of religion, faith and belief. But it’s also a movie that eventually gets choked by the mistiness that pervades its plot and design, and ends up a pale shadow of the head turner flick that it should have been.


The opening frames of Anwar Rasheed’s ‘Trance’ set on the sandy shores of Kanyakumari follows Viju Prasad (Fahadh Faasil),  a self proclaimed motivational trainer who works as a waiter at a restaurant and who hopes to strike gold some day as a speaker who could influence a million lives. Leafing through the pages of Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking’, he readily looks forward to those days that he believes are just round those sunny streets that he rides his bike on, and hangs on despite his life and the turbulent events in it suggesting otherwise.

Far away from the rocky piers of the Cape, Viju is almost lost in the multitudes that throng the brightly lit roads of Mumbai, where he starts working as a courier boy. As luck would have it, his home videos catch the attention of Solomon (Gautham Menon) and Isaac (Chemban Vinod Jose), two business tycoons who spot a charismatic leader in him. An offer that Viju simply cannot refuse is laid out on a platter before him, and before he knows it, he is rechristened as Pastor Joshua Carlton – a miracle worker who touches and transforms tormented lives from around the globe.

Vincent Vadakkan’s script has the daring bite that makes it obvious that it’s not the kind that is on the lookout for easy targets. Religion, and faith for that matter, have remained issues that have stayed almost taboo for film makers this side of the world, and Vadakkan goes at it with a gung-ho that at least initially astonishes you. The barbs are darted off dime a dozen, and the critique bracingly laid out, appearing audacious and at times, even a bit provocative by the contemporary movie standards.

This is a film that invites you to make your own judgement, and it’s a whopper ride without doubt for almost an hour and a half, and it seems like Vadakkan and Rasheed have a cheeky winner in their hands.  Post the half way point though, ‘Trance’ starts losing itself in more ways than one, and the delirium that is purposefully induced in its protagonist spills over to the script as well.

Thereon, with the arrival of Esther Lopez (Nazriya Nazim), things turn topsy-turvy, and as the young girl sets herself to the task of uncovering the real man that Carlton is, ‘Trance’ starts showing signs of scampering off track. There is talk of depression, teen pregnancy and prostitution, and it gets hazier as Carlton starts struggling to grapple with multiple identities.

The film does offer plenty of food for thought, and is a stinging take-down on the nasty, booming business that religious faith has turned out to be. But eventually, its scattershot narrative in the latter half proves detrimental to its coherence, and a film that could have spurred a rational analysis and constructive inquiry runs out of steam as its running time of around three hours finally draws to a close.

There are the strange digressions that for instance rob the film of its gravity, and one such scene is the one that involves journalist Mathews (Soubin Shahir) and his friend (Dharmajan), who are out to disprove Carlton’s credibility. This is a scene that strikes you as an odd thumb jutting out from an otherwise sober narrative, and while its comic import cannot be denied, it strikes you as tonally awkward. There is also the final scene set in Amsterdam that moves much further beyond where they should have finally and ideally drawn the curtains, and it’s here that  you murmur to yourself, that at times, some things are best left unexpressed and some words best left unspoken.

And yet, there is no turning away from the powerhouse actor that Fahadh Faasil is, and for the astounding performance that he comes up with, yet again, for ‘Trance’. As Carlton drives his engrossed spectators into a mass hysteria and ecstatic raptures, we are left no less awestruck by this astonishing performer that Fahadh is. Solomon, and the momentous menace that hangs about in the air when the man is around is etched to exactness by Gautham Menon.

‘Trance’ is brilliantly shot, and Amal Neerad ensures that the reverie that Viju Prasad indulges in turns into brightly hued reality, where the emerald lights mirror on the transformed man’s eyes. This is a swanky world that Carlton lives in – ritzy homes, plush cars and the overpowering smell of fresh currency –  and it’s far, far away from the filth and grime that his former self had trodden on, and Neerad’s exemplary cinematography brings it all into perspective, rendering ‘Trance’ into an absolute visual delight. The fabulous musical score by Sushin Shyam and Jackson Vijayan is absolutely befitting to the piece.

‘Trance’ does address a theme that is radically important and proffers a compelling investigation into the unexplored realms of religion, faith and belief. But it’s also a movie that eventually gets choked by the mistiness that pervades its plot and design, and ends up a pale shadow of the head turner flick that it should have been.


Verdict: Mixed Bag


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