How does it feel to come back home after many years and find out that there is no home anymore to welcome you back? Karutha Joodhan, writen, directed and co-produced by actor Salim Kumar, is about a man who lost his home to time and societal systems. It also deals with the historical event of Jewish exodus with a certain morbid fascination. It is on the heights of gloom that Salim Kumar builds up his film. Incidents of death and loss drive the plot. Several scenes have rain drizzling in the background, adding to the gravity of the tragic tale that is unfolding.
Aaron Illyahu aka Avaron Joothan (Salim Kumar) desperately tries to cling on to the house in which he grew up, even if that means he will eventually have to give his life to it. His friends, family members and neighbours migrated to Israel, the holy land that their community regards as their ultimate ‘home’. But for Avaron, home is Mala, a small village in Kerala where he grew up. For a year, he roams around north India, looking for graves of his Jewish ancestors, to record the details of a forgotten fragmented piece of history of Cochin Jews, the dark-complexioned community who migrated to Kerala during King Solomon’s time. Eventually, the history swallows this frail man who lived his life as a social reject.
While watching the film, one can’t help shake off the feeling that Karutha Joodhan would have made a great novel, than a motion picture. The subtext is of immense potential, and the narration and dialogues are sublimely poetic. But Salim Kumar fails to translate it to an engaging cinematic language. The visuals are uninspiring and redundant, marred by the kind of dramatic lighting that you only get to see in theatre plays these days. You would rather look away from the screen and listen to the film’s prose with your eyes closed.
The best part of Karutha Joodhan is, perhaps, the history that it attempts to narrate. The story of the black Jews who settled down in central and north Kerala, away from Mattanchery where the celebrated white Jews lived, is fascinating. The landscape that the film features adds to the story’s mystical appeal.
And Salim Kumar whose performance as Avaron is deeply moving. He interprets the loneliness and grief of Avaron with a lot of empathy, and he ingeniously uses the frailties of his body to his advantage. There are instances where the camera and production design go wrong, and his co-actors ham it up, but Salim Kumar brings credibility to the proceedings on-screen. Babu Annur who plays Beeran, Avaron’s friend, delivers a remarkable performance too.
Had Salim Kumar’s beautifully-written story been brought to silver screen by a more creative filmmaker, who loves the complex grammar of cinema as much as he loves great stories, Karutha Joodhan would have been a fine movie. Now what we get is a clumsily executed film that would lull into sleep even the most curious person in the audience.
The Karutha Joodhan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.