Director: Dileesh Pothan
Forged: Fahadh Faasil, Unnimaya Prasad, Baburaj, Shammi Thilakan, Sunny PN, Joji Mundakayam
Score: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Shakespeare isn’t as starkly bare-bones as it’s in Joji, which reworks Macbeth in an admirably authentic no-frills type. The sinewy construction bestows on Dileesh Pothan’s Malayalam movie, streaming on Amazon Prime, a level of finesse that enhances its exploration of the banality of greed and self-serving violence. In a magnificently tempered lead act, Fahadh Faasil augments the heft of the storytelling.
In his third collaboration with Faasil (after Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum), Pothan crafts a low-intensity drama concerning the wages of unabashed covetousness. Three sons of a rich plantation proprietor are in a tearing hurry to inherit their respective share of the property. The fallout of their errant ideas and deeds is not immediate, however when it does hit dwelling it takes an inevitably heavy toll.
The examination of human frailty in Joji is something however Shakespearean within the typical sense. The dimensions and scope of the unique play are intentionally whittled down and coiled throughout the confines of the psyche of 1 man who’s satisfied that he deserves higher. He takes issues into his arms unmindful of issues of morality or filial fealty.
Prison intent and its repercussions play out within the dwelling of a patriarch whose demise triggers fissures that rapidly gnaw into the vitals of the household. The taut screenplay favours the granular over the grand, the exact over the spectacular. Stealth, subterfuge and stowed-away secrets and techniques overrun the family. The result’s deceit, conspiracy, homicide and a brood torn asunder.
The writing by Syam Pushkaran (who additionally scripted Pothan’s 2016 directorial debut, Maheshinte Prathikaaram) mines the dramatic bandwidth of the fabric to perfection – it yields an austere probe into the crooked thoughts of a wily wastrel who’s pushed by vaulting private ambition to resort to damaging acts.
Joji revolves round Faasil. He’s the eponymous anti-hero who, as he admits in a scene to his near-comatose father, has did not be the son that he ought to have been. The efficiency dazzles with its effortlessness and effectivity. The portrait that Faasil, markedly leaner than typical, conjures up presents fascinating behavioural asymmetries. It combines the couldn’t-care-less air of a person who has nothing to lose with the ingrained self-preservation instincts of a loose-limbed layabout responding impulsively to a consistently ticking thoughts.
The character of Joji – his domineering father sees him as a complete loser and cuts him no slack it doesn’t matter what – is an epitome of desperation who will go to any size to wrest what he believes he’s being unfairly disadvantaged of. He’s a university dropout. He doesn’t have a lot time to place his life again on monitor. He has all of it underneath management till his elder siblings, no much less avaricious than him, start to suspect that one thing is amiss.
Joji is not clearly the one one within the household whose intentions aren’t; above board. He lives in a bungalow on a sprawling plantation along with his septuagenarian father Kuttappan (P.N. Sunny), two elder brothers Jamon (Baburaj) and Jaison (Joji Mundakayam), sister-in-law Bincy (Unnimaya Prasad) and nephew Popy (Alex Alister).
It’s a dwelling that’s actually within the woods. It’s surrounded by an inquisitive group, represented in the principle by a younger, opinionated priest, that more and more encroaches upon the goings-on on this household as issues flip increasingly messy. The one lady within the family – Bincy – is, most of the time, within the kitchen. She’s a seemingly unsullied determine who goes concerning the enterprise of preserving the house and fireside collectively. However is she?
The primary indications that that is something however a contented household are supplied by Joji’s nephew. He, too, has one thing to cover. On the first obtainable alternative, Joji, means too artful, places the boy in a spot. The teen is now putty in his uncle’s arms.
Everybody out right here dons a masks, actually and figuratively. The story in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. A state of affairs that the actual world has been dealing with for greater than a yr now could be given a portentous ring in a story the place concealment is a necessary a part of the video games, large and small, that the characters play.
The top of the household – after we first see him, he’s exercising on power coaching rings whereas the grandson who has one thing up his sleeves tries to evade his consideration as a supply boy arrives on the gates with a packet whose content material is, like a lot else on this home, is shrouded in thriller – trusts no person. No person trusts him both. The sons are ready for him to die and he himself is conscious about that.
In a single scene, the daddy shouts from the balcony: Who’s there? Joji, out within the compound, replies: One of many topics of your kingdom. His phrases drip sarcasm. Joji has had sufficient of the humiliating state of servitude. He has the smallest bed room in the home, typically eats on a slab within the kitchen and is content material to potter round aimlessly within the hope of putting it wealthy sooner or later.
Elder son Jamon, divorced and temperamental – is alcoholic. Jaison is extra straightlaced however is equally keen to put his arms on his inheritance. However even after their father suffers a extreme stroke, finally ends up on a wheelchair and is barely in a position to communicate, the sons are unable to interrupt the outdated, ailing man’s resolve to not loosen his grip on his cash. Joji steps in along with his nefarious strategies.
He doesn’t have a Woman Macbeth by his aspect. Sis-in-law Bincy assumes the position of an confederate. The plot that they hatch is simply partly by design – it’s completely Joji’s brainwave. Bincy stumbles upon it. She sees worth in taking part in together with Joji’s plan.
Director of images Shyju Khalid’s fluid camerawork frames the motion in means that’s each distant and intimate. When the digicam forays into the Joji’s private areas, it turns into one with the person’s interior world; in any respect different instances, it’s extra an goal, if considerably alarmed, observer. Editor Kiran Das lends the narrative an edgy rhythm that enhances the stress inherent within the story of a person’s descent into indiscretions that tear his life aside.
Joji, constantly riveting, is as achieved a Shakespeare spinoff as any ever tried in India. What stands out above all else on this remarkably composed and fantastically acted drama is the stamp of a director on the highest of his recreation.