Georgekutty had to be extraordinary even in ‘Drishyam 2’: The Jeethu Joseph interview

Jeethu added that an OTT release for 'Drishyam 2' ended up being the perfect decision.
Mohanlal, Meena and two kids of Drishyam with director Jeethu Joseph
Mohanlal, Meena and two kids of Drishyam with director Jeethu Joseph

Jeethu Joseph is currently riding high on the success of Drishyam 2, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video on February 18. TNM caught up with the director to discuss the film, which has received stellar reviews. 

Q: What made you decide on a sequel?

A: I was never planning on making a sequel. In 2013 after Drishyam released, I was convinced that the story had ended, and that there could be no part 2. But everyone including Mohanlal asked me to consider a sequel. I was also getting calls from random studios saying that people were bringing scripts to them for Drishyam 2, which I had no idea about. This is when producer Antony Perumbavoor (who bankrolled both films) asked me to try and work on a sequel. He told me, “You’re not even trying. If you try and don’t get it, we can leave it. But just try once”. So, from 2015 I started seriously thinking about ideas for a sequel. 

Q: What do you feel was the biggest challenge to writing the script?

A: From the start, I knew that Drishyam 2 would only make sense if Georgekutty did Georgekutty-type things. I mean, we are talking about a character who studied only until class four, but is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary mind. And he would do anything to protect his family. We had to maintain these characteristics of his in the new film too. Therefore, it had to be a continuation of the same crime. It could not be a totally different story about the family. But to bring a twist to a seven-year-old crime, to throw a challenge to Georgekutty – that, I think, had to be the toughest part of writing the film.

Q: How did you construct the plot in your mind? 

A: So when I decided to try and write a sequel, I started asking myself a few questions. What should be the focus of my story? Here’s a family that has committed a crime, even if accidental. I am sure there is some amount of trauma and fear they are experiencing years later, because the police probe into Varun’s death will continue until the case is closed for good.  So, I chose to focus on their trauma and fear of being found. 

But it is not just the police that can cause trouble. Naturally, in a close-knit society where Georgekutty and his family stays; people start talking. In Drishyam, the entire neighborhood believed that Georgekutty and family had been framed by Sahadevan (the police officer), and that they were actually innocent. But seven years have passed since, and now Georgekutty has improved financially. He has bought a theatre, he has sold parts of his land, his girls have grown up. There is this concept called neighborhood envy which happens. People start talking and spreading stories. I wanted to look at how this would affect the family. 

Q: To make an airtight plot on the same crime is tough, as you said. How did you think of these elements to make it gripping? 

A: I had some ideas in my mind which I discussed with police officers, forensic scientists and other experts. I asked them bluntly, “If you go and watch this in a theatre, would you think what Georgekutty does is stupid and unbelievable?” Most of them said that if these scenes had happened overnight, it would not have been convincing, as nobody can pull off such a thing one fine day. But since Georgekutty is shown researching hard, taking a lot of time to prepare for his plan of action, it is not entirely unbelievable. 

Besides, whatever I have shown in the film is real. This is exactly how police officials send the mortal remains for forensic examination. It is stored in sealed cardboard boxes with markings. I have also visited medical colleges where none of them have CCTV cameras. Even the hospital where the film’s scenes were shot did not have CCTV cameras, perhaps because nobody would in their wildest dreams think of doing such things. 

That being said, cinema is not life and there is an element of mystery and fantasy in this film too. But I would say that 78% of it is grounded in reality. 

Q: Nobody expected Georgekutty’s crime to have an eye-witness. Did you always have this element in mind?

A: It came to me when I started writing the screenplay. To start the film with an eye-witness, I thought, would set the tension in the story right from scene one. But I didn’t stop here, I developed this Jose - the eye-witness’s character. His story too is part of Drishyam 2. Jose’s story in a way is similar to Georgekutty’s story - both of them are fighting for their families with one trying to win back his family, and the other trying to protect his family. 

Q: How long did it take you to finish the script?

A: Once I thought up these ideas, I narrated the rough storyline to Mohanlal when we were shooting for Ram. He liked it and gave a go ahead. I then worked on the order of scenes. It was March 2020 and we were in a lockdown. I took this time to write the full script with the dialogues. It took me exactly 25 days to develop the whole script. 

Q: How was the experience of an OTT release? Was it hard to not be able to experience audience response on FDSS (first day first show)?

A: Our first choice was theatrical release. In fact, we shot the film for a theatre audience, thinking that by September or October 2020, COVID-19 cases should settle down. Even prior to this, Amazon Prime had approached us to buy the rights of the film, and we turned it down thinking we will release it in theatres. 

But 2020 ended and new virus strains were being discovered. We heard of fresh lockdowns being imposed in other countries. This is when Producer Antony Perumbavoor asked me if it was okay if I was open to an OTT release. Amazon was offering us a good price, and Antony had another big budget film Marakkar: Arabi Kadalinte Simham, postponed for theatre release. So, we took up Amazon’s offer. 

Now I think this was a perfect decision, because a theatre release in Kerala would not have given us the kind of launch that an OTT release did. Amazon released it in 250 countries and this led to the kind of social media response and praise for the film. On the day of the release, I was in Hyderabad and I woke up to 615 messages from people across the world. I got texts from people in the UK, USA, UAE, Singapore and from so many people in India as well. 

Q: What really made the film real was that you got most actors from Drishyam to play the same roles in the sequel. Was it difficult to get everyone’s dates?

A: Not at all (laughs). The pandemic ensured that everyone, including actor Mohanlal, was sitting at home. All of them readily agreed to work on the sequel and it was easy to get them back together and start shooting. 

Q: Some people have said that Drishyam was inspired by Devotion of Suspect X, a novel made into a Chinese mystery-thriller. Was Drishyam 2 inspired by any books or movies?

A: I had written the plot for Drishyam way before the Chinese film was made, and have fought a court case on this too. I usually cannot watch Chinese and Korean films as I get distracted by subtitles. So I frankly don’t care if people think I was inspired. 

Even now with Drishyam 2, Chinese and Korean studios are approaching me for remake rights. Three months ago, a Korean production house approached us for film and web series remake rights for Drishyam 2.

Q: Finally, can we expect a Drishyam 3?

A: (Grins). It may or may not happen. If I find a good plot which connects the films, I will work on it. Honestly, it is all about getting an idea. If an idea strikes me, I am open to writing Drishyam 3

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