Review: Fahadh Faasil’s ‘Joji’ Is a Brilliant and Intense Watch
Fahadh Faasil’s Joji is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Fahadh Faasil’s ‘Joji’ Is a Brilliant and Intense Watch
Joji, is a crime romp that's ridiculously entertaining in all the best ways. It’s actually a more thrilling and satisfying experience than most of the pandemic offerings this year. The languorous narration and unusual shot compositions, the old school Malayalam native roots in a modern day milieu, distinctive musical interludes underscoring key emotional moments - all those recognisably Dileesh Pothan signatures are there, and we have Fahadh Faasil infusing them with his unique brand of unhinged normalcy.
It’s a dark comedy set in the beautiful estate of an influential patriarch, Kuttappan PK, who lives there with his three sons and their assorted family. As soon as we are introduced to the family, we get a good sense of the toxic masculinity that rules this large prosperous household. Kuttappan is a buff, push-ups and biceps driven old man who is deeply disgusted with all less powerful than him. Which is just about everyone else in the film. His family fears his draconian hold over them. And then… he falls almost fatally. That’s when the movie turns dark. I won’t give any spoilers, but the ride gets interesting.
Joji irrepressibly played by Fahadh Faasil, brings an insane likability to the character. He deeply invests in all his roles and in this one he proves beyond doubt how he’s the most exciting actor of his generation. His Joji is a scared loser who prefers his bed and blanket to any real work or purpose in life. Invoking the derision of all, especially his father. But as the film progresses, you see him transform subtly, but viscerally. His gaunt, non-threatening nervous energy is at once unsettling yet charming.
But, that’s not saying Joji is a solo surge by him… the rest of the cast are more than adequate. Jomon, the hot headed first born is thunderously played by Baburaj. Unnimaya Prasad is another standout performance as the disgruntled daughter-in-law Bincy. In fact, she is almost an ally of Joji, many times acting as a catalyst in his changes. A very understated nuanced essaying.
The other characters all bear the mark of realistic relatability that is a hallmark of Pothan’s films. Father Kevin the sardonic priest, the technology obsessed Popy - the kid of the household, Jaison, the responsible middle son, eternally feeling ignored and overlooked.
The locales are brilliantly shot and quirkily composed. The interiors tell a unique story too, like it’s frozen since the time that the family was smaller. Clearly, a man’s den. You can feel the oppression of Bincy and her utter irrelevance in any of the family’s decisions. No feminine touch seems allowed. The house is large, but almost sterile… so complete is Kuttappan’s control over his world. Hence, the verdant greenery around offers a relief to its characters, and us as well. An escape.
Dollops of realism are served with a side of really surprising lead-ins to scenes… like the ethereal, very ‘naadan’ countryside is jagged with the arrival of a gun that turns out be an air gun which turns out to be just a toy which turns out to be… so much more. Or the firecrackers blasting alongside a funeral procession. Or the mention of a mask in the most startling of places. The micro level nuances are all in place.
But underlying the comic one-liners and wry humour is the issue of death and how families can sometimes approach it. The cold bloodedness and practicalities that force even grief to be set aside. There’s always just one or two people who are actually affected by the loss enough to have real tears of mourning. The rest play their parts. The effortless way in which this is woven into Joji is really evocative. It takes apart funerals one wry smile at a time. And we might squirm uncomfortably within, while having a guilty smile as we watch the screen.
Writer Syam Pushkaran, who has written Pothan’s previous success - Maheshinthe Prathikaram has done a brilliant job again.
Joji immerses you in its languid intensity from the very beginning and it only accelerates from there. Even though the pace of storytelling doesn’t necessarily speed up, the story does. And Joji in his paradise, along with all its people, hurtles towards unbelievable twists and turns that leave us chuckling and strangely affected.
The film is probably a tad too long, but it's great to hang out with these people, and Pothan creates such an infectiously zany vibe around them that chances are even if you notice, you won’t mind. Ultimately, Joji is a character study at its core - an exploration of dissatisfaction and drive, and the lengths to which humans will go for that elusive thing known as a better life.
Rating: 4 Quints out of 5
(Sangita is a writer, active theatre person and deep sea diving enthusiast you can connect with on Twitter at @Sanginamby)
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