With Joji, Dileesh Pothan’s third directorial venture, he has cemented his position as a modern-day auteur director in the Malayalam film industry.
Set in present-day Kerala, Joji is based on William Shakespeare’s renowned play, Macbeth.
The film follows the youngest son of the Panachel family, Joji (Fahadh Faasil). He is the black sheep of the family which consists of the dominating patriarch, Kuttappan P K (P N Sunny), the eldest son Jomon (Baburaj) and his son, Poppy (Alister Alex), the middle son, Jaison (Joji Mundakayam) and his wife, Bincy (Unnimaya Prasad).
Joji resents his father who regularly demeans and physically assaults him. Joji is not given an ounce of respect by anyone, least of all his brothers and his father. He whiles his days trying to scam his father for money and bossing around Poppy.
When Kuttappan suffers from a stroke, things start to change in the Panachel family as greed, anger and discontentment simmers beneath the surface.
Joji relies on fantastic layered performances by its entire cast.
Fahadh Faasil plays Joji, the titular protagonist. Once again Faasil delivers a performance with such nuance and finesse. Within a span of five days, two films have been released starring him, Irul, last week and now, Joji. The characters that Faasil plays in them could not be more different. In Joji, Faasil’s character, who is essentially Macbeth, is lazy, opportunistic and dimwitted. He progresses from being the deadbeat joke in the family to something much more sinister. The change is brought about effortlessly by Faasil.
PN Sunny plays the family patriarch, Kuttappan P K. Sunny is excellent in his role and makes even a bedridden Kuttappan appear intimidating and powerful. Fahadh and Sunny have great chemistry on screen due to which their scenes are especially tense.
Unnimaya Prasad plays Binny, Jaison’s overworked wife. Her place in the family is lower than that of Joji. She is constantly working around the house, thanklessly. She is the only character who does not completely dismiss Joji. Her performance is calm, calculated, realistic and believable. She is essentially Lady Macbeth in this adaptation, albeit with a lot of changes and a lot less overt ambition.
Baburaj’s Jomon is the eldest son of the family and the one closest to their father. His struggles with almost losing his father and his addiction to alcohol while being the stoic towering masculine figure supposed to lead the family during times of such crisis are essayed magnificently by Baburaj.
Apart from this, Shammi Thilakan as Dr. Felix, Kuttappan’s friend and Basil Joseph as Father Kevin are also superb additions to the cast.
Joji is director Dileesh Pothan and Fahadh Faasil’s third project together. Together, they continue to make excellent cinema that pushes the boundaries of Indian films.
Joji is the third Indian adaptation of Macbeth, the first being Maqbool and the second Veeram. Though the tragedy remains essentially the same, the characters, setting and tone vastly vary from everything else.
The writing by Syam Pushkaran is exceptional. By focusing only on the characters and their motivations, Pushkaran has written something that is technically perfect. The exposition is hidden between the lines. The dialogue and character interactions are natural and flow well.
Joji has been shot during the pandemic so the story is also set in the pandemic itself. Decisions like these brought the film closer to reality. The pandemic and the use of masks has also been brilliantly used as a motif.
Joji is a stunning looking film. The cinematographer, Shyju Khalid uses the ancestral home the film is shot in, to its full potential. Even though most events take place indoors, the camerawork is distinctive and unique. The extra-wide shots and frames within a frame shots, that are prevalent in the film, break away from any monotony that such a deliberately paced film might have.
To add to the excellent technicals, the hauntingly beautiful score of Joji made by Justin Varghese sets the mood for the tragedy that is to come. Primarily violin and piano-based, the use of the score in the film in specific scenes elevates those moments.
Joji is a slow burn that gradually builds up to the tragic climax. The film’s focus on the characters, sometimes, comes at the cost of a more engaging story. The first hour of the film could have benefitted from some more thrilling events.
Despite being the nth adaptation of Macbeth on-screen, Joji feels fresh and captivates the audience. It is a technically brilliant film with equally excellent performances. This is another Fahadh Faasil film that cannot be missed.