Film Review of Malayalam Film ‘Ezra’
Ezra is a film both about black magic as well as the happenings in a Jewish family in the 1940s in Kerala; hence the name of the film which derives from the name of a murdered scion of that family. At the same time this film is about reincarnation as well and of how the soul of one dead individual transfers itself into another many, many years later.
This happens through the setting of a young couple who migrate from Mumbai to Cochin. The husband Ranjan Mathew (Prithviraj) works for a company that processes nuclear waste. He is the reincarnation of the murdered Ezra. Events are set in motion when his wife Priya (Priya Anand) buys an antique box from an antiquities store. The box unknown to them contains the spirit of the dead Ezra which then proceeds to wreak havoc in the bungalow in Cochin where they are living when Priya unwittingly opens the box and lets out the spirit. It’s never quite explained why the couple choose to live in a rented bungalow instead of a modern flat as they were doing in Mumbai. Ranjan Mathew being a Jew, on the advice of his father, goes away in the meanwhile to consult with some Jewish clergy about what can be done to ward off calamity. On the way Priya calls him to inform him that she is pregnant. The priest tells him that this is nothing but an evil spirit about to be reborn.
With this disquieting news which he keeps to himself Ranjan Mathew returns to his abode in Cochin. Soon after their confabulations the priest dies and his son who is also a priest lands there to see what can be done about matters. In a gripping final scene where exorcism is done on Ranjan Mathew, it is revealed that he is himself the murdered Ezra. He then proceeds to attack the priests conducting the exorcism who continually meanwhile chants from the Torah. Ezra finally perishes when the spirit leaves his body and returns to the box which is then quickly closed and submerged in the body of water where Ezra’s mortal remains lie. One may think therefore that all ends well; except that the box is again picked up by some vagrants further down the shore. It is then left to the viewer’s imagination to conjecture what would ensue and thus the film ends.
This is simply a broad outline and it’s for the viewer to watch to get a full idea of the many details in between by viewing the film. Prithviraj makes a stellar role as Ranjan Mathew and other noteworthy performances are by Tovino Thomas as a local cop and Vijayraghavan as a priest. It’s not for nothing that this film has been described in a recent review as a trend setting Malayalam horror film. Replete with Hebrew dialogue with Malayalam subtitles, the horror scenes gel well with the overall story.
To fully appreciate the film one also needs to be aware of Kerala’s Jewish traditions, namely that after the dispersal of the Jews by the Roman empire in ancient times they reassembled among other places in Kerala where they continued their unique way of life till the formation of Israel when they all emigrated to that land and that the oldest synagogue in the world located in Kerala, the ‘Black Synagogue’was also dismantled and reassembled in Israel in the final years of the twentieth century; thereby as it were decisively closing a chapter in the history of Judaism; though as this film shows the cultural connections continue. This film in part is about one of the prominent traditions of Judaism; namely that Jews are forbidden to marry outside their faith unlike some other Indian minorities such as Parsis who do. There are to the best of my knowledge no more Jews remaining in Kerala though perhaps vestiges of their traditions can still perhaps be seen in places such as Matancherry.