Director-producer Anwar Rasheed wanted to keep the story of his new film, Trance, close to his chest and guard its fantastically intricate concepts till the film's release. So much so that he didn't even want to release a trailer just to avoid any sort of spoilers. It was for his hero Fahadh Faasil's push that Rasheed released the trailer for Trance at the last minute. Of course, revealing details of the film before its release would not only have killed the curiosity, but also could have invited controversies. Because, the film deals with a very sensitive subject—religion.
Trance is definitely a bold attempt for its theme, as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned. But it fails to do justice to the theme it explores with its weak script that becomes so cluttered and confused towards the third act.
The film explores the journey of a motivational speaker, Viju Prasad, from the locale of Kanyakumari to the world of tele-evangelism. In the first half, we see the intelligent use of montages to tell Viju's past. The sound design in these portions are truly world-class. The film follows a linear progression in its narrative. It starts at a slow pace. The protagonist’s character-building is decent. But, once his new avatar is introduced, the film gains speed and the whole show becomes more stylised. It becomes more and more messy, too, as far as storyline is concerned. Fahadh's character has references from Indian Godman Osho to Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn.
Hinn used to have a theme of using his jacket (or 'God's Jacket') to “heal blind, deaf, people with cancer and AIDS” in his evangelical shows. His ministries had been dubbed financially suspect and corrupt by Ministry Watch—an organisation who reviews Protestant ministries for financial accountability and transparency—in 2006. In Trance, you could see its protagonist, too, waving his coat to sell “God”.
Trance goes to the depth of financial crimes happening in name of “God”. Though the film makes a direct attack on Protestant and independent churches, it takes extra care not to piss off the powerful Catholic church. There is a conscious effort from the director to show that Catholic priests or nuns do not support activities like interfering with medical treatment in the name of religion.
Trance is a technically brilliant film. DOP Amal Neerad makes it a visual treat. Reportedly, this is the first time a Bolt High Speed Cine-bot camera has been used in a Malayalam film. Neerad explores a range of shots and angles to give a stylised output. Editor Praveen Prabhakar really deserves an applause for the beautiful montages, and the sound designing by Resul Pookutty is just mind blowing. However, at the end of the day, technical brilliance alone cannot save the film.
The film’s cast is huge. Fahadh Faasil does a neat job. Actor-filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon makes his acting debut in Malayalam. But, the exceptional performance is that of Sreenath Bhasi. In Trance, Nazriya Nazim finally comes out of the cocoon of her cute, cuddly and naive “Nazriya-like” characters. But she is neither an enigmatic Ma Anand Sheela nor an eccentric Harley Quinn. And, her character is one of the badly written ones in the film.
Expectations for Trance were quite high, and for many good reasons. This is Anwar Rasheed’s first feature film after a gap of eight long years. The team had big names in front of the camera, and also in the background. Also, there were lot of speculations and intrigue about the theme it explores. But it fails to give a great impression, overall.
Director: Anwar Rasheed
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Nazriya Nazim, Gautam Vasudev Menon, Sreenath Bhasi