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The Brilliant Joji Confirms Fahadh Faasil To Be Indian Cinema’s Greatest Actor



Joji(Malayalam, Amazon Prime)

Starring  Fahadh Faasil ,Unnimaya Prasad,Baburaj ,JojiMundakayam ,Sunny PN

Directed  by Dileesh  Pothan

Rating: ****

Is  Fahadh Faasil  India’s greatest living actor? In film  after film he proves himself a fearless peerless seamless actor who merges into his characters  like water in a  stream. And  better still, flows  down that stream where  the human condition merges with the  very bedrock  of existence .

And look at where  Fahadh has arrived in Joji! Shakespeare’s Macbeth gets the treatment  which I am sure would make Shakespeare  himself envious.Joji is a dark brooding  translocation of the Shakspearean  tragedy with unexpected   bursts  of warmth  and humour which  Shakespeare  could have never imagined.

 Magically  the  characters in Syam Pushkaran’s  screenplay are  relocated from their Shakespearean bleakness  to a Malayali verdancy. The  overpowering greenery  of  rural Kerala has always served  as a compelling counterpoint to  the dramatic tensions so  organically generated  in Malayalam  films. The tension has never been  more palpable as  it is  in Joji. You  can cut it  with knife  and all you  will see are  bloodless wounds in the family of  Kuttappan P K Panachel(Sunny PN) , a tyrannical  patriarch who runs the family  business with a tight fist  and  an immovable grip over his   three sons. While  one of them , a drunken   divorced bully named  Jomon(Baburaj)  loves his mean-spirited  father unconditionally , the quieter Jaison(played brilliantly by  Joji Mundakayam) has Daddy issues that he  has long suppressed within himself.

 It is  the  youngest son, a wastrel  named Joji who is the focus of the  radiantly  inky plot. Joji is  of course  played by the great Fahad Faasil who  brings to the character a kind of patriarchal bitterness that  manifests  itself in not-expected  burst  of  devastating violence. This is director Dileesh Pothan’s third  directorial with Fahadh(after  Maheshinte Prathikaaram and  ThondimuthalumDriksakshiyum) and  by far the most reflective, moody, sinister , subtle  and sublime.

Though Macbeth is  an inherently violent tale  of patricide and  Oedipal guilt,  Pothan’s film does away with the  vileness  of  the protgonist’s deeds  by  introducing a  kind  a dithering  juvenilia   into  Jijo’s character. His chosen weapon of  violence is an airgun and his selected hideaway is a half-dug well. Fahadh’s Jijo is an  unlikely  villain and hence all the more devastating. He  is  also  an unlikely Shakespearean hero who has  in all probability never  heard of Shakespeare.  

How unlike  Vishal Bhardwaj’s  Macbeth(Maqbool) where all the  main characters behaved as if they had  graduated in Shakepearean  literature.

Joji  is  a  remarkably artless tragedy  filled with a  looming respect for  the spaces  that divide individuals within  the same   family.Cinematographer  Shyju Khalid  creates  a sense  of distance and  isolation by capturing characters who often  sit physically  distanced  from  one another   in the family  mansion. In one  striking  shot we see Joji and his  Bhabhi  in  two different adjacent rooms  in the same frame. Clearly  the frames are designed  for the  big screen. But what to do? If wishes were horses, Joji  would be riding them ,not  selling them without his  father’s knowledge.

  The relationship between Joji  and his sister-in-law(Unnimaya Prasad) seems  so ambiguous precisely because it doesn’t  try to be  complicated.Familial  complications, says  Dileesh Pothan are  alibis  we generate  to  justify and rationalize  our  greed and covetousness. Replete  with a wondrous images of everyday poetry(see Joji examining his father’s medical pills  of different colours) , Joji is  a film that  we all will go back to in the coming years wondering, How did we miss this and that?!  For now don’t miss this great film with one of India’s greatest actors giving one of his  greatest  performances  in a film that doesn’t aspire to greatness. It just gets  there without straining to do so.

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