After giving yet another layered and brilliant performance in ‘Joji’, Fahadh discusses his preoccupations as an actor in this interview with TNM.

Fahadh Faasil in a scene from Malayalam film Joji
Flix Interview Sunday, April 18, 2021 - 15:57
Written by  Subhash K Jha

Congratulations, one more incredibly unfathomable portrait in Joji.

(Laughs) Thank you. It’s been a turbulent last few months for me. After the accident my stitches have recently come out. I basically fractured my nasal bone. That requires some more time to mend fully.

You lost a lot of time because of the accident?

No, I don’t function on timelines. I feel sorry for the people who’re waiting for me to work. I’m ready to work when I’m ready. I like my time off doing nothing. I take a lot of time off from shooting.

How were you able to work in so many movies through the pandemic?

Well, C U Soon was shot during the initial phase of the lockdown. But Irul and Joji were shot last year, much later after a bit of a normalcy was restored. I decided it was time to get back to work. There was no point in waiting for the pandemic to be over. I decided to work on more modest-budgeted smaller projects that did not require much commuting. Both Irul and Joji happen in one given space.

Can you call Joji a smaller film?

Smaller in the sense that it was easier to shoot but very difficult to capture on camera. In fact, Joji is by far the most difficult role I’ve ever played. It was very stressful to shoot. Not just the actors, I could see even those who were out of camera range getting stressed. I normally like to get feedback from the technicians off-camera, specially the light men, because they’re able to observe the minutest of details from where they are. When I spoke to them, I could see how stressed they were. Everybody on the sets was completely tuned into the drama.

How stressed were you during the making of Joji?

I didn’t realise how stressed I was until after the shooting. That’s the way it is normally. When I recently had time off after my accident, I realised how stressful the shooting of Joji was for me personally. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tense playing any character.

The mask always played an important part in Shakespeare’s plays. Now in Joji (a Macbeth adaptation), the mask acquires a renewed relevance because of what is going on in the world?

Yes, these were nuances that were worked into the script. We wanted to make Joji relevant to our times.

After two back-to-back films, are you exhausted or are you one of those workaholic actors who is already going into his next project?

Even if I was – and I’m not – a film project cannot start when I want it to. It depends on the readiness of a lot of people. This is one of the reasons why I’m more comfortable producing my own films. If I’d gone to another producer to do Joji, it’d have been very difficult to convince him. Producing my own films gives me more freedom. I’m responsible not for others’ money but my own.

Do the producer’s responsibilities play at the back of your mind while shooting?

Not really. When we’re shooting, we don’t think about these things. We shoot a film the way we want to.

How do you manage to immerse yourself so completely in all the characters you play?

To be very honest, I don’t think it happens in all the films I do. Yes, it has happened occasionally. It has happened in Dileesh’s (Dileesh Pothan, the Joji director) three films. I believe it’s the ambience he creates for me. He has a unique way of approaching his subject and characters. Also, Dileesh shoots his film chronologically. That really helps an actor to develop his character. I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant directors. But Dileesh is one of the few who shoots the sequences chronologically.

So, is this a marriage for life?

You mean Dileesh and me? No, no. The next film that we’re collaborating on, we’re producing together but someone else is directing. Dileesh is discussing projects with some other actors. But we’ve a formed a production company together.

How important is it for you to keep scaling new heights as an actor?

I don’t think about it. After Joji my audience is not thinking about my other works. But yes, after Irul people went back to my earlier works.

Would you agree with when I say Irul was a disappointment?

Yes, yes, absolutely. It was made with a lot of limitations.

Tell me about your film with Kamal Haasan.

It’s a very interesting narrative. And my character takes on the narrative. I’m really looking forward it. I’m hoping to join the shooting in August 2021. In May, I’ve the Maalik release, in which we take on the coastal politics of Kerala. It’s a fictionalised version of reality. I don’t want it discussed for its controversial aspects. I’d like it to be discussed not for its politics but its cinematic merits. The first 12 minutes of Maalik is one single shot.

Tell me about your future projects.

I’m doing a film called Malayankunju that my dad (filmmaker Fazil) is producing. He had produced the film that launched me as an actor. I’m collaborating with him after 18 years. It’s again a subject I haven’t done, very interesting. It’s based on a real-life incident. It will be completed in July. We’re looking at a theatrical release in August-September 2021.

When we spoke the last time, you were very emphatic about keeping the theatrical and digital releases apart?

I still believe that the two platforms are separate. I don’t think Joji would have worked if it released in theatres.

I disagree.

I don’t think Joji would have appealed to audiences who look for commercial aspects in their cinema. Everything in Joji – from the sound to the pace – is designed for home viewing. In fact, I plan to do a theatrical version of my digital film C U Soon.

How satisfying is it for you as an actor to have such a large pan-India, in fact global, audience watching your films on the digital platform?

 It’s an honour. It’s an amazing feeling. But I don’t think too far ahead. I don’t plan my films for posterity.

Do you intend to be an actor all your life?

(Sighs) I really don’t know. I keep wondering how people do the same job for 20-30 years. I’d be an actor, yes. But I could explore the stage later in my life.

Finally, would you like to be in Hindi cinema?

I crave to be in cinema. I crave to get to know more about the technical side of filmmaking. If I’m in a flight with a superstar and a screenwriter, I’d rather sit next to the writer.

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