Dileesh Pothan's Joji, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, was released on Amazon Prime Video on April 7. The film, starring Fahadh Faasil, Unnimaya Prasad, Baburaj and others, has opened to rave reviews. Before Joji, Dileesh had made just two films — Maheshinte Prathikaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. But with both of them winning critical acclaim and setting the box-office on fire, his Joji was a highly anticipated release.
'In an online interaction with journalists, Dileesh spoke about the writing and direction choices in 'Joji'.
Dileesh is known for realism in his films. But, the director says that he wants to explore different kinds of cinema, including commercial films.
Among the most interesting interpretations in Joji is the character of Bincy, played by Unnimaya Prasad. While the role is inspired by Lady Macbeth, in the script written by Syam Pushkaran, Bincy gets a far more empathetic portrayal. Her actions are driven by the frustrations of being voiceless in a household rather than greed as in the original play.
Speaking about this, Dileesh says that at first, he did not even want a Lady Macbeth in his film, but that when they decided to include her, they wanted to do it differently.
"The only woman character, Bincy, represents many women in Kerala who live with frustration. They are struggling and in such a mental state that they can have an outburst anytime. Syam and I tried to interpret Lady Macbeth differently through Bincy," he says.
"In our present social situation, if we created a woman character who is close to the original Lady Macbeth, it would become a stereotype. A woman who injects hatred in a man. That is why we took a different approach," he adds.
When the trailer of Joji came out, several film enthusiasts drew comparisons to the 1985 classic Irakal, which was directed by KG George. Like Joji, Irakal too is about a Syrian Christian dysfunctional family with one of the sons exhibiting murderous tendencies. Dileesh acknowledges that there are similarities.
"Some plot lines and the foundations of a few characters that were there in Irakal can be seen in Joji too. Some of the situations are indeed similar. I'm happy that the film has been compared to a masterpiece like Irakal. But I'm not sure if Joji has reached that level of filmmaking," he says.
While the film opens with the declaration that it is inspired by Macbeth, Dileesh says that he was not keen to match every aspect of the film with the play.
"I was inspired by Macbeth. We were influenced by the ideologies in the play. We arrived at Joji because we felt these ideologies are present in Kerala today, too. It was an attempt to explore the possibilities of these ideologies in the current social scenario. The excitement of reading Macbeth took us to this plot, and we followed and developed it sincerely. But we were not adamant that Joji should match Macbeth in every way," he explains.
Dileesh did his Theatre Studies at Kalady University in 2009-2010, and that's when he began reading Macbeth and Shakespeare's other plays more closely.
"Though I had read Shakspeare earlier, that is when I started reading more of his work. I have also acted in Macbeth as part of my studies. Actor Surabhi played the role of Lady Macbeth in that play. In Shakespearean plays, the characters who cannot control their minds have always fascinated me," he says.
Dileesh Pothan's films are also known for their perfect casting, and Joji is no different. Apart from the star Fahadh, supporting actors like Baburaj, Joji Mundakayam and Unnimaya, have also received praise from the audience.
"After we decided on the characters, we spent a lot of time on the casting. It is through several attempts that we find the right actors. Even after the casting is completed, the writing work will continue. The script will be written again keeping in mind the actor who is playing the role. Writing after casting helps the role become more believable," he reveals.
But for the lead role of Macbeth, there was nobody else but Fahadh in Dileesh's mind. This is the third time that they are collaborating.
"For the character of Joji, we wanted the actor to be lean. We had told Fahadh about this and he worked on the requirement," says the director.
"The film is the result of good team work. Everyone associated with it, including the actors, made their own contributions."