After Dileesh Pothan’s ‘Joji’ got released, the film’s music got as much appreciation as its making.

Black and white image of Justin Varghese's side profile wearing a cap, a beard and looking up
Flix Interview Saturday, April 24, 2021 - 18:58
Written by  Cris

It had been a frustrating few months till October. Justin Varghese was upset that all the work he had got was on the shelf – music for movies that came to him after his lovely compositions for Thanneer Mathan Dinangal. The coronavirus pandemic had pushed everything away. But in October, he got a call. Dileesh Pothan and Syam Pushkaran – that delectable pair of director and writer – were making another film, Joji. Would Justin come have a chat with them? Justin sure did. In a few months, the movie came out and along with it came Justin’s marvellous piece of background music (BGM), in the beginning, middle and end, and scattered across the film.

“None of us expected to get the reach it did. All I thought of was that it should not be usual, but I think that for all my works. And when I watched the film, I thought it was great even without the music, and feared if people would feel the music was unnecessary!” says Justin, days after the live orchestra from Bulgaria for Joji was shared on YouTube.

Watch: Live Orchestra for Joji

On that October day last year, Dileesh and Syam told Justin that the film was going to be an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They made him hear certain tracks for reference, to suggest the kind of music they were looking for. “Dileesh ettan took me aside and said it should have class, it should feel international. It was going to be an OTT release and it should appeal to all kinds of audience. I said I could do it if we have a recording outside the country but it would be expensive. He said let’s see,” Justin says.

Dileesh also wanted a theatrical, opera effect. When they found a team in Bulgaria that they could afford, Justin sent them the pieces he composed and they played it with a 40-piece live orchestra, which he monitored distantly – that’s the video on YouTube. The part done in Kerala was led by violinist Carol – Carol chettan to Justin – and it was so equal to the western performance that Justin had it included in parts of the film.

Carol and Justin

Dileesh and Syam had chosen a very Malayalee setting for their Macbeth adaptation – full of the green expanses of central Kerala and a rich and frustrated family bang in the middle of it. Justin’s music fell on the screen when the place got introduced before the people – a motorcyclist riding the narrow road across hill after hill to reach the remote house. “I composed the score before the shooting began. Every scene was told to me in detail. The main theme was to come in three parts. When they shot and edited the film, they used the piece I made and it just blended in. Perhaps because of that, I felt it was just a perfect fit and the western music didn’t look odd in the Kerala setting,” Justin says.

Read: 'Joji' review: Fahadh and Dileesh Pothan deliver a brilliant adaptation of 'Macbeth'

He enjoyed working in the film so much that he missed making songs for it – there was just the BGM. Earlier, Justin preferred working on the BGM more than songs. “I am afraid of making songs which will release on YouTube and which people will hear directly, unlike the BGM. Making songs is like performing on a stage with a live audience in front of you,” says Justin.

But when everything else falls into place, like it did for Njandukalude Naattil Oru Idavela – his first independent work – and Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, Justin loves to make songs as much as the BGM. “Thanneer Mathan came two years after Njandukalude. I couldn’t take on films I don’t enjoy working in. Then there was the BGM for Thottappan.”

Along with Joji, he also began work for Lal Jose’s Meow. Another work in the making is the music for Super Sharanya, the second film by the director of Thanneer Mathan, Girish AD. BGM for the film Ajagajantharam is yet another work in progress for Justin. 

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