Joji – A Brilliant Peek Across the Kerala Village Lives


Spending too much money on big-budget productions is not advisable when the film industry, by and large, sleeps as an after-effect of the present pandemic. As a result, micro-budget movies have been conceived, shot and released worldwide in different genres. That’s how the films like SEE YOU SOON, THE GREAT INDIAN KITCHEN, IRUL, WOLF etc came out in Malayalam through various OTT streamings. JOJI, a film that could be included in that category, has indeed something new to tell us about what we kept seeing but not given much social importance. That’s about the long-living patriarchy and the male high-handedness still holding the fort in Indian households.

JOJI, directed by Dileesh Pothen and scripted by Syam Pushkaran had its worldwide release on Amazon Prime, in the first week of April 2021. No sooner had it reached the households than the critics raised their heads with different allegations like it did not do justice to the play ‘Macbeth’ as credited by the makers. A good number of viewers and critics have come up with its desultory connection with IRAKAL (The Victims), a 1985 film by veteran film maker K G George. On the other hand, a majority have enjoyed the movie without any complaints, as they sadly lived a story like this or witnessed one in their neighbourhood. If we have a close look at IRAKAL, the connection they want to establish does not seem to hold water at all. There may be a slight similarity in certain characters and that wouldn’t mark enough to plagiarize a movie.  The characters created by Dileesh Pothen and Syam Pushkaran stand on top and living in the current world with their own peculiarities. They are with flesh and blood in their creation. It shows many in-house stories that had been going on either suppressed or stamped as social stigma. Cinema has branched out as political weapons against the hidden realities hitherto. It could boldly call a spade a spade and stand against the discrimination and injustice worldwide. Pothen and Pushkaran are not the Johnnies-come-lately with wide scarves worn about their shoulders. They had already proved their mettle in movies like MAHESHINTE PRAATHIKARAM and THONDIMUTHALUM DRIKSAKSHIYUM with wonderful stories to show afresh.

As I mentioned above, the makers unnecessarily admit that JOJI has been inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was not needed at all, since it doesn’t come near to the play in any way. There are no enough events that remind Macbeth except a few feeble lookalike moments. Maybe that declaration had prompted dignitary poets like Satchidanandan to come up and say that there’s no justification for the film to claim a courtesy to the story of Macbeth. He might have been under the impression that who would be there more than him to have an authorized say on the matter, he being a retired professor of English literature.

The next allegation was its similarity to the film IRAKAL, directed by KG George. One of the main proponents of this allegation was Radhakrishnan MG, one of the top brasses of the Asianet TV channel. He bluntly alleges that JOJI is a replica of IRAKAL and Dileesh Pothen should have acknowledged the plagiarism from that film through its titles.

IRAKAL and JOJI are two different stories except for the slight similarity of the lone bungalows situated in the large rubber estates that appear in both and the number of children the guardians have. What wonders me is the inability of this school of critics in studying both movies. Both are telling two different stories. IRAKAL is a story that goes back to three decades and JOJI happens yesterday and today-like in its time. Maybe, both the characters played by Ganesh Kumar (Irakal) and Fahad Fazil (Joji) are frustrated and fumes for freedom; another similarity to point out, but a part of the Kerala life still.

I can point out a minimum of five families similar to that of Panachel PK Kuttappan’s (Joji) in a distance of about five kilometres in between the homes of Dileesh Pothen’s and mine. When JOJI says such a common story, how can it be termed as a failed adaptation of IRAKAL? IRAKAL is available on Youtube and those who want to compare could watch that and form their own opinions on that matter.

When the male highhandedness and patriarchy dominate many of the families in India, each one can contribute to a film script in its own unique way. Fahad Fazil, as the youngest of the sons who doesn’t seem to fit in with the others, has done an exceptional performance in the film. Unni Maya lived very well as the less spoken Bincy on the edge. Baburaj, Joji Mundakkayam, PN Sunny, Basil Joseph, Shammi Thilakan etc have all performed very well under the close watch of the director  Dileesh Pothen. Kiran Das, an adroit editor has turned the lumps into an object of great beauty. The aesthetically pleasing music by Justin Varghese has added to the richness. And last but not least is the inimitable cinematography of Shyju Khalid.

Suresh Nellikode is a writer from Canada



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