Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Dileesh Pothan, Unnimaya Prasad
Director: Dileesh Pothan
It takes great skill to take elements from Shakespeare’s extraordinary stories and weave an original plot around it with ordinary events like an overtly stern family patriarch, family politics, and greed. The resulting piece is a disturbing tragedy, that despite having some unsettling moments, manages to glue the viewers to the screen till the credits roll. After Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Joji is the third collaboration between director Dileesh Pothan and Fahadh Faasil, in which Faasil proved his calibre as an actor once again.
The plot is nothing unusual, neither does a lot happen on screen. More than half of the events take place in the lush abode of the Panachels, and the patriarch Kuttappan PK Panachel (Sunny PN) has fallen ill few minutes into the film. However, it is this modest treatment of the film that makes it so unsettling.
Joji, an engineering student, and also Panachel’s youngest son is not a typical Macbeth-esque brave character. Rather, he is timid and cowardly, living in the shadow of his elder siblings and considered to be the ‘second piece’ by his father. Once, the father is bedridden, and the entire family is figuring out ways to secure their future, Joji’s shell of cowardice starts to shed, and we are faced with a beast that the years of oppression and side-lining has given birth to.
However, he is neither directly aided by ‘Lady Macbeth’, nor is he tormented by guilt. Instead, this version of Lady Macbeth, Bincy (Unnimaya Prasad) is Joji’s sister in law, who is a silent bystander of his crime. Joji, apart from showing the occasional tension of getting caught only when he is questioned, is calm and composed most of the time and shows no remorse for taking the wrong turn, which makes his character more dreadful. Fahadh Faasil did an excellent job portraying the nuances of Joji’s character who quickly transformed from being the underdog to someone who his family is afraid of by the end.
The director-writer duo of Dileesh Pothan and Syam Pushkaran took a minimalist approach to the film, with a very slow pace of the narrative. However, the unhurried storytelling never turned dull for a moment. Faasil’s acting was complemented by Shyju Khalid’s cinematography, who presented the appropriate aesthetic visuals as a backdrop for all the turmoil. To top it, the auditory elements designed by Justin Varghese keeps the audience alert of the duplicity of the characters even though nothing much is happening on the screen.
The only set back of the film is its predictability but the supporting cast of Baburaj, Joji Mundakayam, Shammi Thilakan, and Alister Alex compensated for it. All in all, Joji is a dark family drama that brings William Shakespeare’s Macbeth into a Malayali Christian household and takes on the themes of crime and punishment in its own way.