Director Anwar Rasheed's movie explores the business of belief in the modern world, says Sami Ha Zen
Trance begins with a spiral view of an old ladder leading to the dwelling of its protagonist Viju Prasad, a motivational speaker played by Fahadh Faasil, who plays his character to perfection - a cynic with a passion. It reminds us of a desi Joaquin Phoenix (in Joker). The protagonist, who faces multiple atrocities - death of his family members and financial struggles - falls prey to a conglomerate firm, who then utilises Viju's skills to make profits.
Director Anwar Rasheed's film had claimed austerity, expected to be audacious and exciting. He politely but actively mocks the subject of his choice. While the posters and teasers claimed the film explores psychedelic hallucinations, a scene at the beginning of the movie refutes that 'religion is the biggest drug of all'.
The story takes extended references from viral social media videos of faith healers and the public who believe in them. The use of symbolism with shots of fish becomes repetitive, so are the extras who appear multiple times in different characters, not a credible choice for a movie making tall claims.
Rasheed touches the subject of the corporate exploitation of beliefs, but does not go beyond superficiality as his characters are tied to the projected experience of religion, not to the cinematic experience of spirituality.
Viju travels through an emotional rollercoaster with recurrent memories. He stumbles between his real self and the identity invoked by his decision With his acquired identity as a pastor living moments of ecstasy, spectators are given doses of depression disguised as intelligence. The thin line of living his dreams is intertwined with the fear, imposed by his corporate masters.
The strange exhilaration when Viju meets Esther (Nazriya Nasrin) does not play out well because the heroine is showcased as simply a symbol of sensuality.
Cinematographer Amal Neerad displays a clean card throughout the film, while the editor Praveen Prabhakar, shuffles between mid and close shots for most of the 170-minute act. As the film reaches its climax, the cliched 'good-hearted people win in the end despite being smitten by evil' is well played out. Viju escapes judicial scrutiny and is sent to an asylum. He later travels to Amsterdam - on a surreal flight - after his two-year treatment, in search of Esther.
Rasheed's entire plot tries to portray the duo's experience of survival, holding on fiercely to each moment. The secular intellect of spectators, tapped throughout the movie, strengthens cautiousness against miracle practices.
Trance is ambitious because it tries to place the image of Christ in a much complicated modern world, but fails to address the actual concerns - the desperation of unemployed youth in India.
Director: Anwar Rasheed
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Nazriya Nazim, Soubin Shahir, Vinayakan, Chemban Vinod Jose, Dileesh Pothan and Gautham Menon