Joji: Malayalam’s Macbeth

Over the years the works of William Shakespeare have influenced many directors. It started with Romeo and Juliet which has been made multiple times across languages.  A popular desi version is the Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla starrer Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. You also have Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela which placed the story in a town that resembled Varanasi. Apart from Romeo and Juliet other works like Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth have also been adopted into movies. For example there is Vishal Bhardwaj’s critically acclaimed Maqbool which took the story of Macbeth and placed it in the setting of a Bombay underworld. Dileesh Pothan draws inspiration from the same source and makes a thriller which haunts you.

The setting of this story is an estate of an influential patriarch PK Kuttapan played by the terrific Sunny PN. Kuttapan lives with his three sons, daughter-in-law and others. From the very first scene we see how powerful Kuttapan is both physically and mentally. He has an iron grip on his family and as a result all the members fear him. Things take a turn when he falls and has a serious injury. Revealing anything more wouldn’t be appropriate given that it would spoil the fun of watching it.

The best thing about the film is the equation shared between Fahadh  Fassil’s  character Joji and the sister-in-law Bincy played by Unnimaya Prasad. Bincy is a character which is stuck in the daily routine of taking care of men around her. The kitchen is the only place where you will find her. In this woman Joji finds his Lady Macbeth. What brings them together is the circumstances and the oppression that they have gone through.

The strength of the writing can be seen in the dynamics that these two characters share. She knows how Joji is turning all the things in his favor, but both of them have a silent agreement which will benefit them. What they want most is freedom. However there is a minor issue which I have and that is the character could have used more given its potential.

The writing of Syam Pushkaran deserves a special mention as well. He skillfully builds up the tension and the dread which is very important for a story of this genre.

Each character has been well etched. The director also shows the aspect of alcoholism, a serious problem in Kerala through the character of joji’s brother. Almost all the characters are flawed and everyone becomes a catalyst for the tragedies that follow.

The film is also rich in atmospherics as the locales have been brilliantly shot. The interiors of the house also tell a story of its own. You can feel the oppression of the character Bincy and she being non relevant in the family decisions.

The house is large but almost sterile. Due to this reason the greenery outside the house offers a big relief to both the characters and also us as audiences.

Fahadh Faasil has created a niche for himself as one of the most exciting actors of this generation and with Joji he continues his brilliance. Unnimya Prasad also delivers a standout act as the oppressed daughter- in- law. Baburaj is terrific as the elder brother.

In totality Joji works as a fascinating study of human beings while exploring the lengths to which humans can go for a thing known as better living.

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