Joji Review: Dileesh Pothan, Syam Pushkaran and Fahadh Faasil trio hits the bullseye yet again!
‘Joji’ begins with the title card reading ‘Inspired from Shakespeare’s Macbeth’. So those who are informed about the play should know that it’s a tragedy which explores the effects of greed and ambition. In ‘Joji’, director Dileesh Pothan and scenarist Syam Pushkaran have adapted the already familiar storyline to plant it in a central Travancore milieu.
We have Panachel Kuttappan, a wealthy patriarch who lives with his three sons, daughter-in-law and grandson in a huge house surrounded by acres of rubber plantations and pineapple farms. With the very first sequence itself, the audience is given a clear picture about the whole area, which is of great importance in the storyline.
Jomon, Kuttappan’s eldest son, is his most loyal one. He is a divorcee who is into alcohol but is good-at-heart. Jaison, the second son, handles most of the family’s business but is still dependent on his father. Joji, the protagonist, is a loafer who spends most of his time sleeping or roaming around the sprawling plantation while also taking an occasional drag. Bincy, Jaison’s wife, is the lone woman in the house and like in a typical patriarchal household, she does all the kitchen chores. From the outset, it might seem like that they’re living a secluded life, but they’re very much part of the society. And this same society, which includes the Church, ends up having a great impact on the family.
It is a familiar wealthy joint-Christian family setting but what how Syam Pushkaran makes things interesting is by not spilling all the information at one-go. It is only as the narrative progresses, that he keeps throwing in bits and pieces of information about each character and this technique works superbly. When you look back, there’s not a single scene that could have been chopped off from the film. Each scene and every action has a purpose.
Kuttappan is a towering figure who has a firm hold on his sons. Things take a turn when Joji decides to break free. After being suppressed for long, he retaliates and eventually breaks open a can of worms. ‘Joji’ constantly reminds one of KG George’s classic film ‘Irakal’. The whole family set up and locations are unmistakably similar. While Baby in ‘Irakal’ was someone who would dare to take on anyone with his creepy eyes alone, Fahadh Faasil’s Joji is a cunning guy who’s neither brave enough to confront the family’s elders nor is he smart enough to commit a foolproof crime. Fahadh does a great job in portraying a highly complex character but one can’t help but notice shades of Shammy and Kallan Prasad creeping in time and again.
Dileesh Pothan has proven his mettle as a director with his first two films itself. Both ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’ and ‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’ were marvelously crafted films that went on to win awards at the National level. With his third outing, Pothan has upped his game one level further. His amazing control over the craft is evident throughout the film as there are hardly any false notes. There is a seamless flow to the events as we gradually get acquainted with the family and each individual.
Pothan’s eye for detailing is popular by now and even in ‘Joji’ you get to see quite a few. When Unnimaya’s character Bincy is shown scrolling Facebook, the first thing that pops up on her news feed is an ad about an infertility clinic. It is only later that we learn about the couple trying to have a baby. And then there’s the foreshadowing scene where Joji tries to burn some evidence but it ends up into an uncontrollably huge fire. Clearly conveys what’s eventually going to happen with him.
Dileesh Pothan has this incredible ability to cast the right person and get the best out of his actors. Take for example the father character. PN Sunny as the towering patriarch is a case of brilliant casting as he manages to commands fear and respect even when he sits paralyzed on a wheelchair. In a normal scenario, the first choice for such a role would be someone like Lal but Dileesh Pothan has always preferred to break the familiarity and bring in freshness. The newcomer Jomon Mundakkayam and Unnimaya have also done their parts neatly. The latter has a creepily normal presence in the film as she is a witness to all that’s wrong in the family and still silently turns a blind eye. It was also great to see Shammy Thilakan in a solid role after a long while and the veteran, like always, does his part effortlessly. How his voice breaks when he laments about the passing away of someone dear to him is one of the most memorable moments in the film.
However, the show-stealer still has to be Baburaj, who delivers a knockout performance. Be it his undying loyalty towards his father and family, or his nerve to confront the priest and his questionable ways, or the intensity in his eyes when he catches his younger brother off-guard, Baburaj aced it all. It is not often that someone gets to walk away as the best performer in a Fahadh Faasil-starrer but Baburaj has managed to do that here.
Like in other Syam Pushkaran scripts, the conversations are crisp and delightfully real. There is even a deliberate commentary on the Sabarimala protests. The film does have some lazy writing like how a character gets some crucial information from a news report in a web portal. Shyju Khalid’s apt cinematography and Justin Varghese’s truly international score are another two major assets of ‘Joji’. Khalid creates a fascinating visual mood by which we get a understand the house and its surroundings, which is a charger in itself. Most of the scenes have been staged brilliantly with emphasis on capturing the right performances.
To put it simply, ‘Joji’ is one of those films where all aspects of filmmaking gel in beautifully to create an outstanding product.