• Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • Release Date: 07/04/2021
  • Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Baburaj, Unnimaya Prasad, Shammi Thilakan, Basil Joseph
  • Director: Dileesh Pothan

Rating 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Joji (Fahadh Faasil) is the son of a wealthy rubber plantation owner somewhere in Kerala. He is physically puny in front of his towering father and brother, Jomon (Baburaj). He is also a great underachiever in his father’s eyes who hates his indecision and believes that he is good for nothing. Contrary to his father’s belief, Joji is inquisitive, has a keen sense of judgment, is structured, and knows how to manipulate individuals based on his understanding of the person. He uses all these abilities to rip some benefits out of a family tragedy that allows him to set into motion a chain of events that not only destroys the fabric of relationships and kills the human in him but also brings down tragedy on his family in ways that he never imagined would.

Joji is a slow burn and the first hour or so of it may feel a little slow but once the story kicks into gear it becomes and thrilling and riveting film that is impossible to ignore. It is a character-driven drama and every actor in the film does a phenomenal job with their respective characters. Fahadh Faasil leads from the front. His rendition of Joji that is based on the character of Macbeth is so wholesome and different from what we have come to expect from renditions of Macbeth that I didn’t even take notice of the fact that his character was actually a rendition of Macbeth. He felt like a guy next door from start to finish and that I believe was one of the most haunting aspects of his character.

Joji starts as someone trying to sneak into an opportune position to reap some benefits out of his father’s predicament but is continually thwarted by his father who is not only a towering persona in the household but also despises Joji’s ways. What Joji hates the most about his father is evidently his overwhelming physical superiority over him. He often gets the better of Joji physically and shows no remorse after having tortured his weak son. In one of the very first moments of the film, we see Joji’s father incapacitate him over some lost money. Once the old man leaves, Joji closes the door of his room and vents out his frustration in a sad and yet comic display of anger. This is just a glimpse into the building frustration and anger of Joji against his father that later leads him on a dark path.

Faasil’s rendering of the sly and foxy Joji is sublime and affecting. He approaches different individuals in different avatars and holds character irrespective of the situation. In the company of his brothers, he tries to put forward his point but is often sidelined. In the presence of his sister-in-law, Bincy (Unnimaya Prasad), he tries to portray the alpha male that he isn’t but successfully manipulates her to keep mum to the things that she catches him doing. He is also an actor who reacts and gels into different circumstances effortlessly. It’s like Faasil is enacting the character acting in a way that he is not. It is a kind of performance that has to be experienced firsthand to understand how great it is.

The director, Dileesh Pothan who previously collaborated with Fahadh Faasil on Thondi Muthalum Driksakshiyum and Maheshinte Prathikaaram, knows exactly how to utilize the man and his expressive eyes. It was surprising to note that a story like Macbeth that is so dialogue-heavy has been rendered into a film that doesn’t have its central character speak all that much. Fahadh Faasil speaks through his eyes and the director utilizes that to the advantage of the story, the presentation, and also to make the experience even more haunting.

Baburaj plays Jomon, Joji’s elder brother who is recently divorced and is at the mercy of alcohol to cope with his pains. He is someone who wants the world around him to be as he wishes. He is also someone who doesn’t care about rituals and societal norms and believes in doing what is logically correct. He doesn’t despise Joji but is also someone who is the first to realize that he might be up to something sinister. It is almost heartbreaking to see how his story ends and the impact that it has on Joji’s psyche and existence.

Unnimaya Prasad plays Bincy, Joji’s sister-in-law. She is in many ways the only person with whom Joji can have a normal conversation. He to her is someone who promises to take care of all her problems. Bincy and her husband have been incapacitated by her father-in-law for years and she believes that if the man died, it wouldn’t be too bad for them. This feeling is picked up by Joji and he uses it to get the better of her. In Unnimaya Prasad’s performance, we can see that she is gradually beginning to hate all that Joji is doing. She also starts seeing through his charade and calls him out for it. All this leads to some compelling drama that is potent and affecting.

Joji is an exceptionally well-shot film that made me feel that I should have been able to watch this film on the big screen. That would be royal treatment. There are a lot of sequences that are so sweeping and soothing to the senses that it indeed called for the big-screen treatment. The director also makes it a point to use wide angles in the shots of the interiors to compound the effects of scenes by giving the audiences a window into how two different characters are reacting to a similar situation in their own ways. The editing does complete justice to the vision of the director and the cinematographer by keeping the sequence-to-sequence and scene-to-scene pacing of the film at a pace that neither drags the narrative nor gives us too little time to stop and appreciate the beauty and the drama unfolding on screen.

Joji is the kind of film that gradually builds on you. I watched it twice already and I enjoyed it a lot more on the second viewing. It is the kind of film that you have to appreciate for the performances and also for the execution. There isn’t much novelty here as the opening credits of the film establishes it as inspired by William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This should have practically drained the film out of any surprises or thrills. However, I have to add that while it might not have too many surprises, the film is still not devoid of thrills. We don’t know what path the screenplay will take to arrive at the point that we already know.

Dileesh Pothan tweaks the story just enough to keep an element of surprise and a sense of thrill in all that is unfolding on screen. Add to that, one of the best Fahadh Faasil performances to date and you have a film that is as engrossing as the immortal play by Shakespeare.

Also read: Pagglait and the recurring theme of grief that resonates

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