Things go awry when you want it too much. Icarus, in Greek mythology, flew too close to the sun and ended up burning himself. Joji is a story about one such Icarus.
Joji, the character the film names itself on, is weak. He lives with his father, smokes by a canal and introspects near a pond his family owns. There is a visible hierarchy among the members of the family and Joji, who’s somewhere near the bottom, is not too happy about it. He is the youngest of three sons and comes across as very small when near them. One can only see glimpses of his dominance when he’s with servants or his eldest brother, Jomon’s son.
The film opens with a breathtaking shot of lavish green fields and a delivery man driving through them. After seeing the plot and the villa at the centre of it, it becomes abundantly clear that we’re dealing with very wealthy people here.
The cinematography stands out in Joji. Shyju Khalid, the cinematographer, has done a fantastic job. There are many shots of nature in the film that are hypnotic to look at. It almost feels like Mr Khalid is painting his visual poetry within the plot of the movie. The film is well directed and the script is believable. Fahadh Faasil, who plays Joji, walks on steady ground and doesn’t attempt to levitate even once. This realist approach to the character of Macbeth is a wise decision since he would have stuck out like a sore thumb if he went even a little Shakespearean with it. The film uses the pandemic to establish reliability with the audience. People talk about quarantining, they wear masks and do online classes with their video turned off.
Pn Sunny who plays Kuttapan Pk, the head of the family, comes across as an intimidating man. He, a man in his mid-70s, is seen working out in his introductory scene in the film. It gives off the impression that he is a man of discipline and not someone to be messed around with. His family tends to agree with this sentiment. He doesn’t talk much and no one talks to him for longer than a minute. Pn Sunny acts mostly through his eyes. Glares that can shake one to their core and with the build of a man who should be much younger than he is on paper.
The film subtly saves room for social commentary as well. Tensions between the clergy and the not, between religion and rationality, are shown. Caste tensions between the family members and the people who work in the fields are depicted as well. There are things to read in between the scenes, besides Mr Khalid’s camera work.
The film is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. But unlike many adaptations of Macbeth, it deals with very regular people. The characters aren’t Shakespearean per se. Macbeth isn’t a duke. Duncan isn’t a king. Lady Macbeth isn’t conniving. They are normal people who find themselves in a situation beyond their capabilities to control. All they have in common is greed – and that is why they fall. The film takes a very grounded approach to the tale. It doesn’t dabble with melodrama and rarely takes a surrealist approach, something Macbeth is quite known for.
Joji can also be a story about the life cycle of one’s conscience. Jomon mentions in the film that he’s a man who is a slave to his conscience. Joji is someone who walks on paper-thin ice as he watches his conscience die a slow death.
Streaming on Amazon Prime, watch it here!