Lijo Jose Pellissery set to unleash a new VR-based movie going experience with his upcoming sci-fi thriller ‘Churuli’

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Murtaza Ali Khan
Churuli, Lijo Jose Pellissery
Lijo Jose Pellissery on the location of his upcoming sci-fi thriller 'Churuli'
Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery is one of the most original and exciting filmmaker working in India right now. In the recent years, Lijo has succeeded in raising his game by leaps and bounds to produce some of the best films seen in Indian cinema over the last decade. The dream run started with Angamaly Diaries, his 2017 Malayalam-language crime drama film, which proved to be a major critical and commercial success. The story follows Vincent Pepe who wants to be a powerful leader of a righteous gang that would rule the town of Angamaly. The film features a breathtaking 11-minute-long single take in the climax that features around 1000 artists.

Ee.Ma.Yau, his 2018 Malayalam-language satire, revolves around the death and funeral of an older man from the Roman Catholic community in a coastal village. The film won the Best Director and Best Actor awards at the 49th International Film Festival of India. Jallikattu, his 2019 Malayalam-language action film, is set in a remote village where a buffalo escapes slaughter and triggers an orgy of violence involving the beast and the villagers. Lijo Jose Pellissery received the IFFI Silver Peacock Award for Best Director at the 50th International Film Festival of India.

Lijo’s upcoming film Churuli, a sci-fi thriller set in a tiny, nondescript village nested in a lush, impenetrable forest, was all set to premiere at film festivals but the ongoing pandemic thwarted his plans. “A film like Churuli, just like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, can only be complete as an experience in the cinemas. In the context of the pandemic, I thought of many options like online release, prop up film tents and modular cinemas seating limited to 20 people. As social distancing is a need of the time, the social movie going experience was no more an option along with mounting legal barriers, and an online release would not do justice to the art,” reveals Lijo.

A still from the trailer of 'Churuli'
A still from the trailer of 'Churuli'
This pushed him to think of some innovative solution. “This is when an idea of a simple device struck me, which I thought, can be a solution to this problem of providing a cinema hall experience. The irony in the situation is that we have all the infrastructure ready right before us, yet we never put them together. The idea is to bridge the gap between the creator and viewer by introducing matchbox cinema headset into the equation. This is basically a VR headset which can deliver a whole new movie going experience at par or even sometimes better than that of going to a theatre. The MatchBox headset is essentially a VR monitor to your phone,” explains Lijo.

Lijo proposes a unique approach to create accessibility of VR gears to all. “While cheaper ones bought more problems, the ones with quality weren't affordable for all. This prompted the need for a distribution system, much like our old movie libraries. How do we implement this? Imagine an additional device on the library rack, a VR Headset. Synonymous to a book library providing the reader with the reading experience, VR facilitates cinema hall experience to viewers. You can implement this immediately because it is an enhancement of a personal experience, just like buying a brand new headphones. I am deeply concerned with the release of films on online platforms when a simple idea may revolutionize the industry,” adds Lijo who is ready with the complete implementation model and is close to the implementation of his film in a VR platform by partnering with companies like HTC, Sony and Oculus.

The technology behind the solution

Simply put, Virtual Reality (VR) is experiencing different worlds when you put on the equipment. Let's say, you want to see what's it like on the surface of the moon, just put on the VR headset and you see the moon around you, just like how it would be if you were on the moon. VR headsets contain a completely different view inside, not related to what is in the real world.

Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand, is a digital layer added on top of the real world, with the help of another device like a pair of AR glasses or a mobile phone and its camera. This is much like how you put on funny filters on instagram. Imagine you wear a pair of glasses and you see the filters on the real world. To further simplify, you see the world in blue when you put on blue shades, similarly you see the world with a digital layer when you put on AR glasses. AR glasses may be transparent, with digital world overlay.

The technology has been in existence for a long time now, yet only a few are aware of it. So, all it takes is to configure and position it right for the audience and the service. There is a huge gap right now in the entertainment space which this solution can help bridge.

An AR-VR Case Study

Imagine a scenario where there is a wife and a husband in two different places physically. The husband decided to go out for shopping before heading back home. 

He is now at the shop and he is now wearing his AR glasses with a camera feed streaming to the VR headset that his wife is wearing, at home. The wife is able to see what the husband sees using this simple AR-VR combination, and is able to direct him to shop with ease. This is a simple addition that the husband can use, keeping his hands free for operating at the shop. 

The wife and husband are seamlessly connected to each other as if they both were at the market with almost no communication gap. This glasses are easy to use rather than connecting with a video call.

A couple of use case scenarios

i. Hafeez, Ameer, Akash and Akshay

They are school friends and all of them, in their mid 20’s, are working in different professional fields. They are very much excited for the movie Churuli, looking forward to watch it in full experience. On the release date of Churuli, they decided to book MatchBoxes for all. They are people who enjoy going out and meeting each other, and ready to spend on movies and other recreational activities. They all are at home due to the pandemic and cannot meet in person to enjoy the movie together.

1. Booking four headset through their mobile apps, typing four different addresses. Pay 150 each
2. The VR headset tray come to their homes.
3. They put on the headset seated in a comfortable position.
4. They meet each other in an online virtual lobby.
5. The movie starts once everyone is in
6. Talking to each other during intervals
7. After watching the movie, they all are talking to each other in the virtual theatre, discussing about the movie
8. Enter a return request through the mobile app.
9. MatchBoxes are collected from their respective addresses.

ii. Anoop and his wife Sreelekha

Anoop is a teacher and Sreelekha is a homemaker. Both of them are waiting to watch Churuli in the theatres. They came to know about VR headsets recently. It's been the 5th day after the release of the film. They have been hearing the experience with VR headsets from their friends. They decided watch the movie through trailer.

1. Calling to the area headset library and telling them to come and set up the movie. Giving them address.
2. The delivery people cleaning the headset with uv light and sanitiser.
3. Delivering to the home and giving them instructions.
4. Them watching the movie and they are directly starting from the lobby, with the headsets connected to each other.
5. Interval and having some water.
6. After the movie, they call the library and return the headset

Though his innovative solution, which he has devised after brainstorming with some of the best creative minds in the country such as AR Rahman and Anurag Kashyap, Lijo hopes to start a conversation with fellow artists that can help pave the way for the future.

A shorter version of this story first appeared in The Daily Guardian

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