Joji, directed by Dileesh Pothan and written by Syam Pushkaran, follows the titular character played by Fahadh Faasil, who is the youngest son of a rich plantation family who dreams of being super wealthy NRI. But tragedy strikes and he decides to restructure his plans with the help of lies, lots of them. The movie is essentially about Joji’s devolution where the audience is urged to question how far an over-privileged person can go to cover their flaws, with the help of meticulous cinematography, pitch-perfect editing, patient direction, moody music, and beautiful performances from the cast.
Knives Out is one of my favourite movies of all time and it was my favourite movie from 2019. It’s written beautifully, edited beautifully, acted beautifully, directed beautifully, scored beautifully, shot beautifully, I mean, it’s beautiful all over. But after watching it, let’s say for the sake of not sounding like an absolute nerd, 50 times, I was left with the feeling that this would’ve functioned so much better in an Indian setting. Why? It’s because I have seen this exact scenario play out so many times in my life up till now. I mean the property division part. The murder? Well, it’s a little metaphorical. When I saw the trailer for Joji, I thought that my prayers are finally going to be answered. Then I proceeded to watch it. And I have concluded that it’s the closest thing we’ll get to an Indian Knives Out.
Joji is directed by Dileesh Pothan and written by Syam Pushkaran. The music is by Justin Varghese, cinematography by Shyju Khalid, editing by Kiran Das, production design by Gokul Das, costume design by Mashar Hamsa, makeup by Ronex Xavier and Akhil Sivan, sound editing by Krishna Chandran, Ragesh Janardhanan, and Jineesh K.K., sound design by Ganesh Marar, assistant direction by Vinod Thomas and Thejas Pushkaran, associate editing by Jithin John, assistant editing by Joseph James, VFX by Mindstein Studios, Future Eyes, Arunlal S. Pillai, Bijitha V. Gopal, Vishakh Babu, and Andred D’Crus, chief associate direction by Prinish Prabhakaran, associate direction by Penjith Rajan and Tince Alex, and co-direction by Doy and Shaheed Arafath. It’s produced by Bhavana Studios, executive produced by Unnimaya Prasad, and line produced by Jayesh Thamban. And it features Fahadh Faasil, Unnimaya Prasad, Baburaj, Shammi Thilakan, Alex Alister, Joji Mundakayam, Basil Joseph, Pn Sunny. and more.
Like Knives Out, I cannot spoil anything about the plot apart from the things that I have already mentioned above. I mean, I can, but that’ll undoubtedly ruin your viewing experience. The slow unfolding of the details is where the fun lies. So, I will talk about how I felt while watching it. It took me back to the time when my paternal grandfather was on his deathbed and all my relatives had suddenly remembered that they are our relatives and populated the living room every day to act as if they cared. My brilliant mother was afraid that all that’s going to ruin my board exams took me to my maternal grandmother’s house. Unlike my house, that place was silent, surrounded by lots of flora, and a sense of calm. However, that was unfortunately contradicted by the storm going inside, which was merely circumstantial.
Usually, openness is associated with peace and freedom. But during that period in my maternal grandmother’s house, the chirping of the birds, the slow movement of the air, the stillness of the sunlight somehow felt scary. I kept questioning that how can things be so quiet when my life is being turned upside down dhoom dhadake se? It was sickening to the point that I felt that I was about puke. And Joji emulated that exact feeling. Ditto. Why? Because the events are happening in a vast rubber plantation, isolated from the hustle and bustle of modern life. While the family in there is being churned vigorously, the landscape fails to reflect that, thereby creating an atmosphere of uneasiness that genuinely shook me. I think if the ultimate pay-off was executed a little more smartly instead of the blunt route it takes, I would’ve liked the film even more than I do already.
The performances are so good. What can I say about Faasil that hasn’t been said already? Just like everyone else in the film, he completely becomes one with the environment of the movie. From the way they fit into their clothes to the way they interact with the utensils of the house, it seems like they have lived their character’s life. It accentuates the production design and the set design. And I think that’s more difficult than doing an author-backed role where you are meant to stand out. Here you have to show how good you are blending in and yet worthy of controlling the flow of the story. At one point in the movie, I noted that Faasil is the only other actor who can play Loki because he exudes that kind of elusiveness without giving it a maniacal coating. It’s truly educational to watch him, as well as his co-stars, act here.
FYI, please keep an eye out for the use of the Chekov’s Gun rule. It’s perfect and the rest of the writing around it, which encompasses topics like generational wealth, greed, casteism, and more, is immaculate. That’s all I should say about Joji because if I say more, I’ll spoil it for you.
Joji has been properly marketed. It’s a slow-burn crime drama. So, go in to watch exactly that. Don’t expect things to move at a dramatic pace. Calm your mind. And then and only then sit down with it. Because it’ll take its time to creep up on you and give you the chills. But do give it a watch. I liked the parallels with Knives Out and how it takes the route of showing what has happened instead of keeping that mystery in order to elicit a very different reaction even though their plots are almost similar. It’s quite possible that since my mind isn’t at peace due to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and many other personal and professional issues, I couldn’t allow myself to immerse in the movie and hence noticed its flaws too much. However, I hope that you don’t do the same and really chill the f*ck out before allowing Fahadh Faasil to grab your hand and take you into the depths of Indian familial politics.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India