Director Jay K has remade his debut Malayalam movie, Ezra, in Hindi as Dybbuk, which is set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Friday. The film starsand Nikita Dutta.
In Hebrew, Ezra means ‘a cry for help,’ which is also one of the film’s themes. The film revolves around an evil spirit of Jewish origin and that itself was a new concept in Malayalam cinema. The film was Jay’s nod to the Jewish community, which once thrived in Fort Kochi. However, now it only has a handful of Jews living in the area, who serve as the living testimony to their community’s long history in Kerala.
Ezra begins with the death of the last remaining Jew in Kerala. And with that, decades-old black magic that had been waiting in a box is now free to fulfil its mission. The man, who created this supernatural evil bomb called Dybbuk, had included a safety switch. According to that, Dybbuk will not wake up from the box and swallow God’s own country until there is still a practising Jew living in Kerala.
The set-up creates an engrossing mood of a mystery that holds the key to unravelling disturbing secrets of the past, which lies buried in the twilight zone between the dead and the living. And as if on a cue, Prithviraj’s Ranjan Mathew also gets transferred from Mumbai to Kochi right around the time of the death of the last Jew in Kerala. His wife Priya (Priya Anand) is sulking and whining about leaving behind her beloved city for a strange one. But, what other option does she have apart from divorcing him? So she goes along with Ranjan to Kerala, which is a strange land for her despite her Malayalam roots.
Under Ranjan’s supervision lies a massive dump of nuclear waste in Kochi, which is enough to turn God’s Own Country into scorched earth. To make things easier for the evil spirit, Priya takes a fancy to an ancient box, which is the house of Dybbuk, at an antique shop and brings it to her new home. What’s more, she even opens it, examines the terrifying contents of the box with such love and care. An ordinary person would have freaked out at the sight of a bottle with blood and a voodoo doll with a lot of pins stuck in it. But, not Priya. It is as if she was possessed by the box the moment she laid her eyes on it.
This entire stretch of how Priya comes in contact with Dybbuk is fraught with convenience. And convenience is the biggest enemy of greatness. However, in mainstream commercial movies, it usually doesn’t matter how we got here. What matters the most is what is going to happen next and will it keep the audience hooked to it?
And Ezra does keep you hooked to some extent. However, Jay fell short of exploring the full potential of his imagination. The film talks about a lingering catastrophe of the destruction of a state. The plot will not get any bigger. And yet, Jay develops a cold feet in exploring the bigger and the exhilaratingly thrilling possibility of this massive nuclear TNT box squatting on the port of Kochi.
Ezra had its flaws but it was still a solid spine-chilling horror drama to come out in Malayalam after a long time. When I re-watched it recently, the horror in the movie got me way better than it did the first time in 2017. It even made me watch some scenes through my fingers.
Perhaps, that will be the experience of the audience who will watch Dybbuk for the first time. And I hope Jay had learned from his past mistakes and made a stronger and horrifying version of Ezra.