Four years of ‘Trance’: A critical take on commercialisation of religion and spirituality

'Trance' was discussed for the performance of Fahadh Faasil as Viju Prasad, the motivational speaker who built his own empire as a pastor.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Feb 20, 2024 | 1:34 PMUpdatedFeb 20, 2024 | 1:34 PM

Fahad Faasil as motivational speaker in Trance

Director Anwar Rasheed’s Trance was released four years ago, in 2020.

The neo-noir psychological thriller, starring Fahadh Faasil and Nazriya Fahadh in the lead, did decent business at the Malayalam box office.

When expectations run high, certain films fail to deliver. However, the theme of Trance kicked off discussions on social media.

But, most importantly, the Malayalam movie became the talk of the town for the awe-inspiring performance of Fahadh Faasil as Viju Prasad, a motivational speaker who built his empire as a pastor.

Sreenath Bhasi, who played the younger brother of Viju Prasad, also drew applause for his fine acting skills. Earlier, he grabbed the attention with his performance in Virus (2019) and Anjaam Pathira (2020).

Trance also faced hurdles during its censorship. But the revising committee gave a clean chit to the movie.

It was released on 20 February 2020, after a delay of six days.

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Did Trance hit the mark?

Trance was released in 2020

‘Trance’ was released four years ago in 2020.(Supplied)

Trance begins with Viju Prasad (Fahadh Faasil), a youngster working in a restaurant in Kanyakumari, aiming to become a high-profile motivational speaker.

He has a younger brother Kunjan (Sreenath Bhasi). They had a troublesome childhood after their mother died by suicide. Their relationship, particularly, after their mother’s death, was unlike the other siblings.

Viju fears that his brother is vicious due to his depressed state of mind.

However, after the untimely death of his brother, Viju develops suicidal thoughts. But he travels to Mumbai to find solace.

In Mumbai, Viju Prasad gets a new life as a pastor.

He is recruited by a corporate company that finds its new profitable investment in faith and religion.

Viju is trained by Avarachan (Dileesh Pothan) to become a pastor.

South Indian director Gautam Vasudev Menon and Chemban Vinod play the role of wicked businessmen who recruit Viju.

The new life of Viju as Pastor Joshua Carlton takes the audience to a new theme, which the Malayalam cinema has less focused on.

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One-man show by Fahadh Faasil

Fahadh Faasil in Trance

Fahadh Faasil played a motivational speaker and pastor in ‘Trance’. (Supplied)

Trance delves deep into the mystery behind the business (references to real-time ones) centred around faith and religion.

Writer Vincent Vadakkan penned an engaging script that strikes chords with healers, pastors, and even saints who claim to heal incurable diseases through traditional methods neglecting science.

Trance is an out-and-out Fahadh Faasil’s show. His energy as restrained Viju and dashing Joshua who attracts followers, including foreigners, takes the film to a different level.

Gautam Menon, Chemban, and Pothan play powerful roles from the beginning. They were perfectly cast by the director.

Soubin Shahir as a young journalist appears in an important role in the movie.

The first half ends with an intriguing scene with Soubin Shahir and Fahadh Faasil in their top form.

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Less focus on other characters

Fahadh Faasil and Nazriya Nazim in Trance

Fahadh Faasil and Nazriya Nazim in ‘Trance’. (Supplied)

Nazriya Nazim, as Esther Lopez, appears in the second half.

She sheds her girl-next-door image and plays a weed-smoker and alcoholic in the flick. Though it is pivotal in the plot, her character was not written in detail.

Her disappearance at a certain point after her findings about the condition of Joshua and the following scenes were not clear.

Indeed, Nazriya Nazim’s character lacks clarity. This is one of the major flaws of the script in the second half, which confuses the viewers.

Though Fahadh Faasil shoulders the entire film, several scenes make the audience wonder if he is mentally ill.

Another major performer in the movie is Vinayakan, a follower of Joshua. But miracles do not happen in his life as transpired to others.

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A visual treat

Trance is directed by Anwar Rasheed

‘Trance’ is directed by Anwar Rasheed. (Supplied)

Amal Neerad’s cinematography contributes a lot to the nearly three-hour film. The colour tones used in various frames add charm to the scenes.

The frames of fish used to convey the daze felt by Fahadh Faasil’s character during regular intervals make for a good watch.

Kanyakumari, Mumbai, and Amsterdam are captured mind-blowingly on screen. Trance is possibly Amal’s career-best project.

Jackson Vijayan’s music and Sushin Syam’s background score perfectly balance the movie, which deals with a sensitive issue.

An element of entertainment goes missing in the movie though, when compared to Anwar’s previous works like Rajamanikyam (2005), Chotta Mumbai (2007), and Ustad Hotel (2012).

Director Anwar Rasheed, who is also the producer of Trance, tries to deal with a subject that may not be appealing to some people. But we have seen enough “fake” saints and preachers who landed behind bars.

The filmmaker should be appreciated for choosing the subject.

In a nutshell, Anwar Rasheed crafted a technically sound film loaded with a superb theme and fine performances. Surprisingly, the director did not announce any project after that!

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