Monday, August 6, 2018


Release date:
August 3, 2018
Rohith V.S.

Asif Ali, Lal, Madonna Sebastian, Siddique, Saiju Kurup, Adish Praveen, Sreenath Bhasi, Aju Varghese      

What happens after we die? The answer has fascinated religionists, philosophers, literateurs, ordinary women and men for centuries, irrespective of what scientists say. The latest to take up the matter is writer-director Rohith V.S. whose Iblis is about emotional connects from the afterwards.

When a man loves a woman, when a child loves a parent, when subjects love a monarch, does the force of that love have the power to hold the dead back among the living? Rohith examines the question in this film for which he has authored the story while Sameer Abdul has written the screenplay and dialogues. To establish the theory they propound, the two take us to an obscure place in Kerala where most adults are in fancy dress, death shadows the residents and there is constant talk of akkara (the other side) and ikkara (this side).

In this fantastical village lives Vyshakhan who has been pre-occupied since his childhood with the mystery of where human beings disappear when their last breath ebbs out of their bodies. Having bombarded his grandfather Shreedharan (Lal) with questions for years, Vyshakhan (Asif Ali) retains his fascination for the subject into his adulthood. In another sphere of his life, the young man moons over the lovely Fida (Madonna Sebastian), his childhood friend who is now the object of his unrequited love. Also in the picture is Jabbar (played by Siddique), an inveterate liar who claims to have a connection with the dead though he does not.

Large parts of the village look like something out of The Arabian Nights, and colourful puppets are a permanent fixture in the background. These attractive accoutrements are not sufficient to hold up Iblis though, weighed down as it is by its scattered screenplay.

Clearly Rohith is charismatic enough to rope in a bunch of capable actors, established and new, for Iblis (including the arresting young Madonna Sebastian from Premam), and he has the ability to inspire these artistes to throw themselves into their performances with gusto. Lal in particular rises above the weak writing, as Bhavana did in Rohith’s first directorial venture released last year. However, as with that one – Adventures of Omanakuttan, also starring Asif Ali – in this one too it is apparent that he has struggled to flesh out what was an essentially interesting idea.

I wasn’t there that morning / When my Father passed away / I didn’t get to tell him / All the things I had to say… …I just wish I could have told him, in the living years,” goes the song from the English pop group Mike + the Mechanics that has resonated with listeners across the world since its release in the 1980s. We often hear people express remorse for not having conveyed their true feelings to a loved one in her/his lifetime. The Living Years was a note of regret from a son mourning a father who is no more. But what if you realise you love someone only when they are gone? Alternatively, is it possible to develop feelings for a person after they pass away? And if so, is it too late for you? These questions raised by one character’s journey in Iblis are fascinating.

The thoughtful concept and the unexpected moments of humour in the narrative (such as in Aju Varghese’s minuscule but striking cameo) suggest that some day Rohith might write and direct a good film. That day is not here yet though. Iblis could have been a neat little children’s fantasy comedy with appeal for adults too. Sadly, the inability to expand a smart idea into an effective screenplay ensures that this film fails to lift off at all.

Rating (out of five stars): 1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
2 hours 

A version of this review has also been published on Firstpost:

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