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“Joji Is By far The Most Difficult Role I’ve Played”

  One  Of  India’s Finest  Actors, the Malayali Maverick  Fahadh Faasil, a Modern-Day Dilip Kumar Is  Back Again Giving Yet Another  Layered  & Luminous Performance  In Joji. He  Discusses His Preoccupations As  An Actor With Subhash  K Jha

Congratulations, one  more incredibly unfathomable  portrait in  Joji.Who are  you????!!!

(Laughs)Thank you. It’s been  a turbulent last few months for me. After the accident my stitches have recently come  out.

Are you fully healed?

I basically fractured  my nasal bone.That requires  some more time to mend fully .

You do realize that no  role is  worth risking your life  and bones over?

Now I realize it . I spoke to  Mr Kamal Haasan  who has a history of  innumerable  broken bones and injuries.

You must guard yourself . You are national treasure?

(laughs uncomfortably)  I  don’t know  about that . But I do know life and health are  precious.I realize  as  an actor  I need to be responsible to  Fahadh Faazil the human being.And  also it was not dangerous shot. So it could  happen any time.But there has  to be a bridge between the character and  the  actor.

You lost  a lot of time  because of the accident?

No, I don’t function on   timelines. I feel sorry for the people who are waiting for me to work. I am ready to work when I am ready. I  like my time off doing nothing. I take time  a lot  of time  off from shooting.

Tell me, how were  you able to work through the Covid in so many movies?

Well, C U Soon was  shot during the initial  phase of  the  lockdown. But  Irul and Joji were shot  last year much later  after  a bit of a normalcy was  restored. I  decided it was  time to get back to work. There was no point in waiting for  the  Covid to be over. I decided to work on more modest-budgeted smaller projects which  did not require much commuting. Both Irul and Joji happen in one  given space.

 I  resent you calling Joji  a  smaller film?

Smaller in the sense   that it was easier to  shoot but very difficult to capture  on camera. In fact  Joji is  by far the most difficult role I’ve  ever played.  It was  very stressful to shoot. Not just the actors shooting,  I could see even those  who were  out of camera range  getting stressed. I normally  like to get  feedback from the technicians  off-camera specially the lightmen because they’re able to observe the minutest  of  details from where they are.When I spoke to them  I could see  how stressed they were. Everybody  on the set of Joji was  completely logged  in  to the  drama.

How stressed were  you during the making of Joji?

I didn’t realize  how stressed I was  until after the shooting. That’s the way  it is normally.When I  recently had  time  off  after my accident I realized how  stressful the shooting of Joji was  for me  personally. I don’t think I’ve ever been  more tense playing any character.

The mask always  played an important part  in Shakespeare’s plays. Now in  Joji(which is a Macbeth adaptation) the  mask acquires  a renewed relevance  because of what is going in the world?

Yes, these were nuances that were  worked  into the script. We wanted to make Joji  relevant to  our times.

After two back-to-back films  are you exhausted , or are you one of those workaholic actors who is already going into his next project?

Even if I was  –and I am  not—a film project cannot start when I want it to. It depends on the readiness of  a lot of people. This is  one  of  the  reasons  why I am  more comfortable producing my own  films. If I had gone to  another producer  to do Joji  it would have been very difficult to  convince  him.Producing my  own  films gives me more freedom. I am responsible  not for others’ money but  my own.

Is the producer’s responsibilities at the  back of your mind while shooting?

Not really.When we are shooting we  don’t think about these things. We shoot a  film the way we want  to.

One   generic question. How  do you manage to immerse yourself so completely  in  all the characters  you play?

To be  very honest, I don’t think  it happens in all the films I do. Yes it has happened occasionally , It has  happened in Dileesh’s three  film(Dileesh Pothan, the Joji director). I believe it’s  the  ambience he creates for me.Dileesh has a unique  way of approaching his subject and  characters . Also, Dileesh shoots his film chronologically. That really helps an   actor to  develop his character. I’ve worked with a  lot  of brilliant directors. But Dileesh is one  of  the  few who shoots  the  sequences  chronologically.

So is  this  a marriage  for  life?

You mean Dileesh and me?No no.The next film that we are collaborating on , we are  producing together  but someone else is  directing. Dileesh is discussing projects with some other actors. But we’ve a  formed a production company  together  .

How important is  it for you to keep scaling new heights  as  an actor?

I don’t think about it. After Joji  my audience is  not thinking about  my other works. But yes  after Irul  people went  back to my earlier works.

Would  you agree with when  I say Irul  was  a disappointment?

Yes yes absolutely. It was made with a lot  of   limitations.

Tell me  about your film with  Kamal Haasan?

It’s a very interesting narrative. And  my character  takes on  the narrative.I am really looking forward  it.I am hoping to  join the  shooting in August 2021. In May I’ve Maalik on release in which we take on the coastal politics of Kerala. It’s  a fictionalized  version of reality. I don’t want  it discussed  for  its controversial  aspects. I’d like it to be  discussed not for its  politics but its cinematic merits. The  first 12 minutes of  Maalik is one single  shot.

Wow! How? That’s a world record.

(laughs) Is  it?We  just shot  it like that.I don’t think it’s  a world record. I think there have been entire films that have been done in a single shot. I believe Mr Ram Gopal Varma has also done something like that.

Tell me about your future projects?

I am doing a  film called  Malayankunu which my dad(filmmaker Fazil) is producing. He had produced the  film that had launched me  as an actor.I am collaborating  with him  after  18  years. It’s  again a subject something I haven’t done. Its  a very interesting subject. It’s  based  on  a real-life incident. It will be completed  in July. We are looking at a theatrical release  on August-September 2021.

When we spoke the last time you were very emphatic on keeping the theatrical and digital release apart?

I still believe  that the two platforms  are  separate.I don’t think Joji would have worked   if released in theatres.

I disagree?

I don’t think Joji would have  appealed to audiences who look for commercial aspects  in their cinema. Everything in Joji from the sound to the pace is designed for home  viewing. In fact I plan to  do a theatrical version of  my digital  film C U Soon.

How satisfying it it for  you as an actor to  have such a large  pan-India, in fact global, audience watching your films  on the  digital platform?

 It’s an  honour  .It’s  an amazing feeling.But I don’t think too far ahead .I don’t plan my films for posterity.

Do you intend  to be  an actor all your life?

(Sighs) I really don’t know. I keep wondering how people do the same job for 20-30 years. I would be an actor , yes. But I could explore the stage  later  in my life.

Finally do you crave to be in Hindi cinema?

I  crave  to be in cinema.I  crave to get to know  more about the technical side of filmmaking. If am in a plane  with a  superstar  and  a screenwriter  I would rather sit next to the writer.

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