Fahadh Faasil: 'Joji' is not an adaptation of Macbeth
The actor tells us about his latest OTT crime drama
A glance through Malayalam actor Fahadh Faasil’s filmography is a masterclass in the evolution of the ordinary man into a super hero. When at the age of 19 he burst on to the cinema screen in a romantic film Kaiyethum Doorath (2002), helmed by ace filmmaker Fazil (who probably needs to be introduced to new gen audiences as Fahadh Faasil’s father!) it should have by law of probabilities been the biggest hit of the time. Not only was it an indisputed flop, the young actor went off the grid for 7 years only to emerge back into the spotlight with a role in Mrityunjayam, one among the short films in the 2009 anthology Kerala Cafe. Then followed one hit after the other - be it Chaappa Kurishu (2011), 22 Female Kottayam, Diamond Necklace (2012), or Annayum Rasoolum (2012).
Whether it was the coming-of-age film Bangalore Days in 2014 or the period drama Iyobinte Pusthakam that he also produced in the same year, Fahadh had a knack for picking characters that even while in the fringes had a certain intensity that made them stand out for the audience. In 2017’s Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum for instance he played a common thief, a role, which won him a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.
During the onset of the pandemic in 2020 when cinemas across India and the world were forced shut, the actor who had brought a maniacal energy to the screen as an evangelist in Trance early that year, was not content to sit still. C U Soon, an experimental movie that played out to OTT audiences through computer and phone screens saw the actor take on the role of an angst-ridden techie who embarks on a mission to investigate the disappearance of his cousin’s fiancée.
His last thriller Irul that debuted on Netflix again saw Fahadh shine in a role he seems to excel in - a quirky, heavily stylised character whose mysterious presence in the movie remains unresolved till the end. Now he is back with Joji, a crime drama, directed by Dileesh Pothan, which the actor is keen to tell us is “not an adaptation of Macbeth” but nevertheless gives a twisted interpretation of the Shakespearean play.
Set in contemporary Kerala, the story follows engineering dropout Joji (played by Fahadh), the youngest scion of a rich plantation family, who driven by greed and ambition embarks on a dangerous plan. We caught up with Fahadh to find out what makes him such a fascinating actor in today’s time.
What attracted you towards a movie based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth - it’s a theme that has been played out on screens for a while now. What makes Joji different?
This is not an adaptation of Macbeth. We are deeply influenced by Macbeth. Joji is the result of that inspiration. The story is filled with varied emotions. I could associate with the element of greed that is ever-present throughout Macbeth. I think it’s a universal feeling and one aspect that you can place anywhere. Having said that, Joji is a movie that evokes a very fresh feeling. You will realise the difference once you watch it. The director Dileesh Pothan and writer Syam Pushkaran have made a brilliant film and it’s a fascinating story that instantly caught my attention.
The story of Joji in many ways seems representational of what’s happening within Malayali society. A young scion of a rich family who wants to take the easy route out - is this based on any real incident?
I wouldn’t say so since it’s a completely fictional story. This is a Macbeth-inspired family drama set in the times of a pandemic. If you watch the film, you will know the intricacies and the drama that fits perfectly. Nothing seems out of place plus what you see is very new and fresh for it's something that viewers’ have never seen before.
You seem to be on a crime thriller mode of late. Irul, Kumbalangi Nights, Trance - all saw you playing shades of grey. Is that what attracts you rather than just black and white characters?
It’s not the genre of the film that you actually have fun with; it’s the entire process. Regardless of whether it’s a comedy, action film or political drama, the fun is in the film’s journey, right from the start to the end. With there being new genres and formats of storytelling being explored every single day, I believe that I haven’t explored the vast diversity of emotions and films to the best of my abilities. I believe there is more to explore and enjoy making it.
You have become an instinctive actor as far as unconventional characters and plot lines go. What attracts you to them as opposed to doing regular roles? Is it the thrill of getting under the skin of a new subject, the challenge of playing someone unlike you or the joy of presenting a new face of yourself for your fans?
More than the character, it is the platform and the entire setting that I find very unconventional. While the roles and films that I choose may seem extremely normal, it’s the manner of the narrative style that seems out-of-the-box, fresh and innovative. My choices have always been a combination of these things.
With so many movies choosing to release on OTT platforms, how do you view the global audience your work is now attracting? Unlike before when theatres would have a limited number of audiences today the whole world is your window - does that put more pressure on you?
OTT has changed the way we watch and consume content today. Cinema and storytelling have transcended all language and geographical barriers giving film fans across the world a vast array of stories. I see OTT platforms as one more opportunity to explore films, especially regional films getting such pan Indian and global attention. I see it as sign of a very positive future. You have the platform to experiment something that you don’t get the opportunity to try anywhere else. Especially for an artist like me, I get one more platform. It’s a blessing.
Actors are known to be extremely sensitive to the extent of being protective about their ‘image’, so what makes Fahadh Faasil so fearless in taking on roles that many mainstream actors might not be comfortable with. In Pushpa, for instance, you play a villain opposite Allu Arjun.
I consciously try to want cinema to be as real as looking out of the window. Everything needs to be as real and transparent while shooting. I have always opted for the simple stories, which I can portray in the best way possible. I see the audience praising me for the work I deliver to them and not for the image I have set or will be setting in future.
With more mainstream movies opting to go the OTT way, do you believe you should be concentrating on that platform rather than big screen theatrical releases now? What do you foresee for the Malayalam film industry post Covid?
I have always given importance to the characters more than the platforms and looking at the current scenario who wouldn't want to opt for a role in a web series on an OTT platform. The kind of characters and stories being written makes every actor want to be a part of such narratives and reach out to a global audience who’s eager and excited to watch such films and shows.
Joji is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video
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