Anwar Rasheed’s transition in craftsmanship is fascinating, from the kinky mass-masala trilogy to a beautifully realised artistic masterpiece to a mainstream masterclass that quantifies art house sensibilities in commercial cinema to a visual narrative pinnacle. All of them have the director creatively innovating and inventing himself. Now, ‘Trance‘ is an extension to his previously directed segment in 5 Sundarikal. It is a brilliant visual narrative. But if Aamy’s screenplay was something that laid the ground zero for a visual narrative, Trance’s screenplay (written by Vincent Vadakkan) further from demanding a visual synchronisation that’s big canvas, also demands a draining physical, psychological and creative effort to convince the vocabulary of this meta-spiritual narrative.
Half of the aforementioned, that includes physical and psychological, is punctuated and elevated by Fahad Faazil’s outstanding act, bar none. The motivational speaker ‘Viju Prasad’ might come near ‘Kallan Prasad’ of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, in the list of Fahad’s career best performances. With Trance, Anwar also slightly pushes the edge, it’s a visual, aural and psychological narrative. When I watch the 80’s Malayalam movies, i always wonder why isn’t anybody in the present crop not cracking psychological subjects. Earlier there were superbly crafted mainstream psycho movies of K.G. George and Lohithadas. Lohi’s films used to be blockbusters. Not an expert on the authentic factors of psychology, but still i could say that Anwar has given full esteem to the universe of Trance he creates. The sound design (by Resul Pookutty), cinematography (by Amal Neerad), music (Jackson Vijayan) and background scores (Sushin Shyam and Jackson Vijayan) elevates this umpteen. The beats of music are supposed to make us trippy along with the characters – see Nazriya Nazim’s fabulously presented introduction sequence, and it’s vibrations are supposed to tug your heartstrings – see the brilliantly extended stretch of Sreenath Bhasi’s subplot. The latter is also a peak point of opportune writing that favours Anwar to cash-in his calibre of scene choreography.
The cinematography, which is the most interesting part IMO was a pleasant surprise – even though most of the long shots plays it out as typical Amal Neerad, the simplest of frames are glossy and are not essentially showy. Most of Amal’s works as a cinematographer are attuned to sophistication, but in Trance, Rasheed uses Amal’s cinematography as a narrative prop. You must know how much contribution could a god’s-eye-view add up in a religious narrative and how the movement of camera could elevate psychological narratives. The hyped up robotic-cam sequence post interval is bonkers, in that scene Anwar summons up action and comedy seamlessly. I couldn’t remember laughing out loud to this extent in the movie hall before. The last and most important factor is sound, and it gets a seamless clutch in the narrative for settling psychological exasperations for Viju Prasad and for the spectator who’s hooked and rooted for Viju. Take a bow, for the spectacular sync sound in the crowded sequences as well.
As said above, the perplexing lexicon of the screenplay that attracts a lots of dimensions is too much a tough puzzle to crack. The biggest complexity is that it’s disguised inside a mainstream framework, the classic ” rise of an underdog” template. Anwar is undoubtedly the best mainstream maverick at Malayalam Cinema’s fortune. He puts all of his effort into making this an uncompromising crowd-pleaser of sorts. He needs a detailed encryption in this big canvas film while he also needs a potboiler. And that’s exactly the problem with Trance. More than the above redeeming factors, the production design (by Ajayan Chalassery) adds more flavour in extending the dope universe. Costume design (done by Mashar Hamsa) of Viju Prasad at one point denotes a psychological transition.
We see Renaissance paintings, christian symbols and a few fabulous aesthetics in few of the scenes. This is also something Anwar as a craftsman introduces, with any other filmmaker Trance’s visual palette would have been lost. See the set ups like the coastal landscape including Viju’s home, the huge empty spaces of a white painted hospital, the chilling fay countryside of Vinayakan’s subplot (equal credits to Amal Neerad) and the trance-inducing black and white climax panorama. This is an ethereal creation that also sensitively handles the trauma. The backstory which we come across early lays the foundation for Viju’s trauma and most of the sequences that come after halfway are hallucinogenic. A line says, I’m not living in your reality.
Trance is a spiritual, psychological, psychedelic and political take on the underdog story. Spirituality is not just about the human mind, it’s also associated with sacred contamination. It’s obvious for someone to think, isn’t this loudness too monotonous, but this is a subtext that subordinates both of the psychological transition and political righteousness. The latter politics of Trance is toned down for mainstream frame working. The exploration is not as profound for sparking huge controversies. There are obvious instances, right from the make-up to some of the liners which resemble some popular godmen of our country, living and dead. It’s general than specific, starting from Mata Amruthananthamayi to the fabled Osho. Most of the politics is but watered down for mainstream flourishes, but the effort by Anwar is outstanding to say the least.
The mainstream flourishes are tricky conceived. Like the surprise in store that Nazriya is (only revealed in the second half) the postpartum trauma of a woman is also sensitively explored. Not going to water down your excitement by giving hints about Nazriya’s role, but she’s madcap, watch out. Dileesh Pothen gets an interesting mentor role to Fahad Faazil’s character. There is a tendency to denote every bizarre narratives as experimental and pretentiously appreciate every movie of auteur-directors. Genuinely this isn’t a plan for both and Trance isn’t just a technically gorgeous and excellently performed film – as this and ‘superb first half boring second half’ Facebook reviews are going to tamper your viewing experience. Beneath everything, there is a fascinating attempt and uncompromising plight of a genuine filmmaker to tell a story devoid of mainstream clichés and still making it mainstream. Trance is with much more intensity than what Anwar Rasheed did 15 years ago in a Rajamanikyam. I won’t exaggerate it by saying it is the director’s most consummated creation, but it is a fascinating narrative that has tiny shortcomings. Shortcomings which “could be” forgotten down the line, remember what happened to Sibi Malayail’s Devadoothan.