Trance Movie Review: Fahadh Faasil - the faadu!

Updated: Apr 04, 2020, 07:23 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Trance could easily be an imagined biopic of a globally popular religious interpreter, with supposed powers to perform magic, while the public before him harnesses the power of the prayer.

Trance
On: Amazon Prime Video
Director: Anwar Rasheed
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Dileesh Pothan
Rating: pic

Can't recall the last time, or in fact ever, that I've seen a director, in this case, Robert Zemeckis, and more particularly his film, Contact (1997), thanked in the opening credits of a film. That said, can't sense much in common between Contact and Trance (that just dropped on Amazon Prime Video) — by way of an adapted screenplay, if you may.

And there are other films and their directors named as well — such as Anjali Menon, and her Malayalam blockbuster Bangalore Days (2014, on Hotstar), which also featured this film's lead actor, Fahadh Faasil, in a prominent role.

Fahadh who, again? Well how does one quite introduce Faasil to an as-yet uninitiated audience, except to suggest that he's currently the Ayushmann Khurrana of Malayalam movies. This might sound like under-selling him, actually.

Or, that he's maybe the Aamir Khan of Mallu films, which is at the same time an over-reach of sorts, given the scale of his films — a couple of them, such as the stellar Kumbalangi Nights (2019), he's also co-produced.

Looks-wise, he could remind you of the Tamil, intelligent woman's pin-up Arvind Swamy (from back in the '90s). Speaking of which, Faasil also starred in Super Deluxe (2019), arguably the most critically acclaimed Tamil film in recent years.

Why am I going on about the lead actor's résumé leading up to the review of this film? Because the film, for the most part, is a one-man show. And sometimes it's important to place an actor in context, if the audience is going to sit through two hours, 49 minutes of him dominating the screen. What draws you into the film though is the set-up, and then build-up, and therefore the lead character.

Watch the trailer of Fahadh Faasil, Dileesh Pothan starrer Trance here

He's a faadu, feisty motivational speaker, with a contrastingly grim life of his own — poverty, and series of family deaths — that appears far too debilitating, 'demotivating' to carry on with. This dichotomy, I feel, is a short film by itself!

But wait for the moment when you realise how the movie goes further with this, still. That's when it has you by the eyeballs — with this motivational speaker being hired by a shadowy outfit, to be turned, through intense training and image building, into a religious guru, televangelist and miracle-worker, all at once!

How does this bloke find this job? Through a Bollywood casting agent! What part of this seems relatable/real to you? All of it — if you scan your eyes towards all the babas, priests, gurus, and fake god-men (as if there are any other); always dressed in character, making an event of themselves, on-ground or online; delivering lines like they were in a play or on a set, with audiences enchanted by their every move. Yes, this also happens in the movies. The irony should be lost on no one.

This could easily be an imagined biopic of a globally popular religious interpreter, with supposed powers to perform magic, while the public before him harnesses the power of the prayer. They're in trance. Sounds even more familiar?

Step back a few steps and you'll find in this script (written by Vincent Vadakkan) such rich parallels to dangers of personality cults, and how it infects and leaves a society deranged, whether through spirituality/religion, or politics, or inevitably, a toxic mix of both!

Just as there is that moment in this movie — when the motivational-speaker interviews with big-time, global-level kingmakers/crooks for a job — that had me instantly hooked, there is in fact a scene (in the second half) after which the film switches abruptly to another gear altogether. To a point that I found myself switching off completely!

Much like Iranian cinema, Mallu movies — quite the rage, lately — shine in their minimalism. Trance isn't one of those films. Let's just say, it's more 'blockbusterish' in its appeal/ambition, and thereby slickly produced and directed (by Anwar Rasheed), stylishly shot, set across multiple outdoor locations, but ultimately, lacking in a bountiful payoff. Somehow the rise and fall don't look adequately spaced.

Don't get me wrong. Did soldier on, after the point that I said I had switched off. But that's because, one, I was already mentally invested. Two, Fahadh 'the faadu' Faasil — this is arguably his finest lead role, and therefore, from films of his that I'm familiar with, doubtlessly his best performance.

That said, since everyone these days (Prime Minister onwards) gives each other online challenges/tasks to complete at home — in case this is going to be your first Faasil film, I suggest you start with Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017; on Hotstar). Get on to this after. And thank me later.

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