After the gentle Mahesh and the ‘psycho’ Shammi, screen writer Syam Pushakaran has gifted actor Fahadh Faasil the twisted character of Joji. The audience, meanwhile, is already impressed by Joji, directed by Dileesh Pothen. This movie is nothing like the previous ones that came from the fabulous team of Syam, Dileesh and Fahadh. As the crime drama is receiving both laurels and brickbats, Syam Pushkaran gets candid to Onmanorama about his latest movie.
You cannot know the direct response of the audience as the movie had an OTT release. What is the general response?
Everyone says great things about the movie. We made this movie when we were stressed after the president of the WHO announced that we wouldn’t be able to go back to the old times anytime soon. Don’t we all need some cash for our survival? The story was developed swiftly. This wasn’t organically developed after multiple discussions.
Was it intentional to make a movie in a genre that you haven’t done earlier?
Yes, it was intentional. People are very interested in crime. Honestly, I found this genre extremely easy. As time passes, I feel everything is not limited to just black and white. That transition could be perceived in writing and film making too. An actor feels easier to emote when he is in the grey area. I am close friends with Dileesh and Fahadh and we share the same ideology towards life. It is really difficult not to repeat the same kind of characters. We worked really hard to make sure that this movie is different from our usual genres.
How did Macbeth become an inspiration?
You could say that this is a lighter version of Macbeth. Pothen did his post graduation in theater arts. Macbeth is one of his favorite plays. I am yet to read Macbeth. But, I have watched the movie Maqbool. Vishal sir had done a fabulous job. That movie is a Macbeth pro max. We tried to adapt it to our local set up without having the stress of Macbeth. It truly made things easier for us. However, Shakespeare indeed has given us the crux of the story.
Some find similarities with the movie Irakal?
If people are saying that, then I take it as a compliment. It is a great honor that our movie is being compared to Irakal. But, apart from the similar mood, our movie has got nothing to do with it. Maybe the terrain and the rubber estates remind the audience of Irakal. I would say that those who find similarities haven’t really understood both Joji and Irakal. Joji has a few elements that you see in Baby too. However, Joji is greedy while Baby is a rebel. The former is someone who can trick the society and use it for his own needs.
Do you insist to see the location before writing the script?
I have heard Bharathan sir and Padmarajan sir did that. I would prefer seeing the location as I could write better that way.
Fahadh looks really thin in the movie. Did he lose weight for this film?
No, we didn’t make him lose weight. Fahadh was already acting in a film called Malik when he joined the cast. He is doing a few get ups in that movie and he had lost weight for that. He gave the dates for our movie while he was shooting for Malik. So, he couldn’t put on weight. But, it actually helped this character. It perfectly showed the age difference between Kuttappan chettayis sons.
Why was Baburaj chosen for the role?
Baburaj was decided for the role of Jomon in the beginning itself. He works out at the same gym where I and Unnimaya go. He encourages us to take weight training. Earlier, we did Salt n Pepper together. That movie was a break for him. He used to jokingly ask us to give him another break. When I and Pothen were discussing about the casting, Baburaj’s name came up in the first place. Moreover, Pothen had successfully molded Baburaj into the character.
Did you imagine Unnimaya for the role of Bincy while writing?
I had no plans to cast Unnimaya for that role. I wanted Jyotirmayi or some other actress to play it. However, Pothen said Unnimaya would perfectly fit the role. He asked me to write by imagining her. I cannot judge Unnimaya as she is with me. I haven’t given any feedback to her. Everything was done by Pothen. The credit for Unnimaya’s character goes to Pothen.
Why did you go for an OTT release?
We chose an OTT release obviously due to the pandemic situation. When we try to entertain, all that matters is whether you belong in that world. I had given up my dream to make the audience laugh in every scene, some time ago. We thought the theaters wouldn’t get back to normal anytime soon. However, all of us desired some financial stability too. We did this movie just to survive financially.
We run a company where we have hired employees. So, we had to do this. When people take the risk to go to the theaters to watch a movie, there should be a smashing climax. As we did this movie for the OTT, we didn’t have the pressure for a scintillating climax. That is the reason why we feel Joji as one of our better works. For a film maker, making the perfect climax is a difficult job. We didn’t take that stress here.
There is an opinion that expletives are used ‘liberally’ in the movie?
I think it is easy to convey something using a single expletive instead of saying long dialogues.
There is no need to write too much either. Sometimes, it is difficult to find expletives that are okay with the sensor board. That is why I had to make some of the expletives sound milder.
Everyone says the movie demands one more watch to understand it deeply. Baburaj had asked me whether Poppy would look like his son. I told him that the audiences are intelligent and they would understand it. The job of portraying characters has been avoided in this movie. Instead, the characters just perform their jobs. The audience would understand everything within the two hour duration of the film.