In an interview with TNM, Unnimaya speaks about her interpretation of the character and reveals what it was like to be on the sets of 'Joji'.

Unnimaya in a blue-green kurthi and red bottom walk among the woodsUnnimaya in 'Joji'
Flix Interview Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 18:08
Written by  Cris

The first time you see Bincy in that large household of the Panachel family in Joji, she is in the kitchen, carrying a loaded gas cylinder. If you are attentive and have always dreaded taking the heavy cylinder across the house, you might be in awe of this strong woman who is merely in the background. The man in the foreground is Joji, her brother-in-law, very much in odds with Kuttappan, the tough patriarch of the family. Bincy’s face is barely visible and she goes about the household chores, walking between the kitchen, the fridge and the slab where Joji has his meals. It is only when she begins to talk – very few lines scattered here and there – that you take notice. Bincy, a woman of few words and lots of action, cannot be taken lightly.

When Joji premiered on Amazon Prime Video last week, viewers took note of Fahadh Faasil, the titular character, Dileesh Pothan, the director who can’t seem to go wrong, and Unnimaya Prasad, who played Bincy, Joji’s partner-in-crime and sister-in-law. The Lady Macbeth of Pothan and writer Syam Pushkaran’s Macbeth.

Women critics especially analysed every side of Bincy, from her silences to her punchy one-liners.

“Joji, wear the mask when you come down,” Bincy says, when she calls him to join a funeral in the house. The sentence comes with many meanings and the clever Syam Pushkaran has intelligently used COVID-19 in the script. 

Unnimaya and Fahadh in Joji

“The script was written with COVID-19 in mind, not for it but as something that can’t be kept away. We didn’t have to change anything in the script. I am someone who was with the film from the scratch,” says Unnimaya in an interview with TNM.

She has seen Bincy take shape from the time her character was first written. She has seen her grow from the script to the film and then the effect she’s created among the audience. Her own analysis of Bincy, Unnimaya says, is that she is a very composed woman. “She can easily identify the idiosyncrasies of Joji (when no one else in the house does) and she reacts to it in the same manner. But those subtle reactions create a ripple in Joji. The only reason that Bincy is not (outwardly) independent is because she is trapped in a patriarchal family. But in her thoughts, she is independent," she explains.

'I am the best choice for Bincy'

She was the perfect choice for Bincy, the actor says in all candour. “It is not because I played Bincy that I say this. But the audience should not be able to guess how important the character is immediately. When it is me – an actor who has done mostly minor roles before – no one can guess what my role would be. There will be no clarity until the film proceeds. Another reason I am apt for the role is that Bincy is the wife of Joji’s elder brother. So a younger woman can’t do it. I am a person who could represent someone in their early 30s, with no great looks or society-accepted standards of beauty. I can easily be a homely chechi and I don’t see any other option for Bincy," she says.

Watch: Trailer of Joji

It is interesting that Unnimaya says this, having been a casting director in Dileesh Pothan’s earlier film Maheshinte Prathikaram – in which she plays a minor role. But Unnimaya says if she had been Joji’s casting director, she would still have been the first choice for Bincy.

Not that she would, as an actor, shy away from doing roles of other ages or looks. “I played a 58-year-old woman in a movie called French Viplavam. I doubt if it became a little bit of a fancy dress,” she says laughing, and adds hastily, “It is not to insult the makers. I hope they too will take it in the right spirit.”

Fahadh Faasil and the gas cylinder

She shares another little anecdote, probably hoping that Fahadh – who features in it, will also take it in the right spirit. It was during the rehearsal of a scene in Joji, where Fahadh brings the new gas cylinder and tries to open it. “From the way he was handling it and asking me if it was new technology, I realised this man really doesn’t know how to open the cylinder. I have worked in the kitchen for so long that it came quite easily to me. When I showed him, he seemed shocked and told Pothan ‘We should let Unni open it (in the scene), it is very interesting to watch her do it’. It was nothing of the sort, it was only because he didn’t know it before,” Unnimaya says, laughing.

In the set

It must have been a bit of a mood-lifter in the days when all of the cast and crew lived in a bio bubble, away from everything else, because of COVID-19. “There were 75 to 80 of us and we never went out [because of the pandemic]. Everyone was also in this ‘dark’ mood because the film was dark. For Pothan movies, it is like that. He would somehow maintain the same mood of the movie off screen as well!” she says.

Enjoy all jobs in cinema

It is evident that Unnimaya is enjoying all of this – the work, the transition from role to role. It was last year that she played another prominent role in a film – as senior police officer Catherine Maria in a much-appreciated thriller Anjaam Pathiraa.

She is happy with whatever work that comes her way –  the small and big roles, the various jobs behind the camera including that of casting director and assistant director, Unnimaya says.

“I have always wanted to become an actor from childhood days. I don’t force my way into something, so I take time. I am soft. But I also multitask and do different jobs at the same time. My first priority is working in cinema and making use of whatever opportunity I may get. Acting gives me great pleasure and some day, I’d like to direct too,” Unnimaya says.

Listen to Unnimaya's interview


Also read: What 'Joji' and 'The Great Indian Kitchen' have in common: Women against patriarchy

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