Fahadh Faasil on Joji, his association with director Dileesh Pothan and penchant for unconventional roles
'More than the character, it’s the setting that intrigues me,' says Fahadh Faasil, whose film Joji will release on Amazon Prime Video tonight.
Fahadh Faasil has had two direct OTT Releases so far — CU Soon (Amazon Prime), a survival drama directed and written by Mahesh Narayanan, filmed during COVID, which uses all the devices we would naturally turn to during such restricted times. He played Kevin, a techie who practically lived in a virtual space. He is successful, cocky, insolent, has casual flings, and is an insomniac
Last week his film Irul, directed by debutant Naseef Yusuf Izuddin was released on Netflix. Fahad was a flamboyant thief who gets caught in a Bungalow with a young couple. The film was shrouded in mystery and thrills, leading to an unexpected closure. And tonight, his third direct OTT release, Joji, directed by Dileesh Pothan will be streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Loosely based on Macbeth, the film’s trailer has already garnered enough intrigue on social media, his fans eager to add it to the list of Fahadh’s best performances. Those who have followed the actor’s career graph will vouch for one thing—this isn’t merely a post-pandemic crisis choice deployed by most production companies, on the contrary, it’s a calculated move, this pronouncement to stream his movies directly on OTT and thereby affirming in no uncertain terms his growing popularity as a pan Indian actor.
None of the A-list actors in Malayalam cinema has had three direct releases on OTT so far. He has an audience outside Kerala, and it helps that his choice of films and roles always had a universal appeal. Fahadh Faasil, the actor is a brand name associated with quality films and inventive themes, constantly pushing the envelope, and rarely has he let the audience down.
Excerpts from the interview.
You seem to be the mainstay in Dileesh Pothan films (Maheshinte Prathikaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum). How would you recall your association with him?
It was during 22 Female Kottayam that I first met Dileesh Pothan, who was then the chief associate director of Ashiq Abu. We instantly hit it off. Films were always part of our conversations. Interestingly Maheshinte Prathikaram wasn’t the first film we were planning to do. He is special, someone I met on my journey in cinema and ever since it’s been a beautiful trip. We are still travelling together and not just cinema; he has helped me to reinvent life altogether.
Dileesh Pothan is known for extracting great performances from his actors. What’s the kind of unique space he creates for his actors?
I have never seen Dileesh force an actor to do anything he is not comfortable with. The first thing he will ask the actors is to play the way they want it to play. Then Dileesh starts working on it. It’s not like he spends time with his actors before the shoot. We just get there and improvise. He gives the actors the upper hand to run the scene. Besides he himself is a good actor, a trained stage actor. So the interactions are quite simple, he will tell you what to do and what not to do. And that’s simple enough for actors to follow.
Cherry-picking unconventional roles and rarely going wrong. How do you do it?
Cinema according to me should be as real as looking out of the window. Everything has to as real as how you experience it. And thankfully, in the last ten years, filmmakers from this part of the world have evidently tried to explore that. They have attempted to shoot in original locations, without filters. For me, personally, this has not been as difficult as performing in a setup backdrop. I am sure everyone will start picking up and exploring. As for the onus on “unconventional roles," more than the character, it’s the setting that intrigues me. It can be a normal story placed in an unconventional setting or an unconventional character in a conventional scenario. Even if it is a remake, I like to hear it in a different way. It’s the storytelling that catches my attention.
What excited you about Macbeth which is said to be the inspiration behind Joji?
I could associate with the greed in Macbeth and that’s a very universal theme. You can place it anywhere. I was fascinated by Macbeth’s avarice that led him to do whatever he did. That was the first thing I wanted to explore. Again, we are just inspired by Macbeth — it’s not even honest as the other versions. It’s our take on it. It’s ambiguous, the Macbeth reference. If you can see Macbeth in Joji, good, if not even better. And despite everything Joji is awfully familiar. He is not an alien. I have heard stories of Jojis and met a few. It was easy to interpret but difficult to play in the way it was narrated in the film.
OTT seems to have created a wider audience for regional cinema.
Yes. Cinema is travelling, breaking language barriers and that’s exciting. We have access to any kind of cinema sitting anywhere in the world and that has truly made all the difference. There is an audience for original films across India. Perhaps the shift from joint family to nuclear families can also be the reason why cinema is travelling all around.
What terrifies you as an actor? Is it the fear of failure or repeating yourself?
I keep telling everyone who cares to listen that I know only 6 reactions and there is a high probability that I will keep repeating my reactions. Besides, it’s the same actor doing it. But having said that I think when it comes Joji, we have tried to bring different variations to it and Dileesh seems to be happy with that. As for dealing with failure, I don’t handle it well. I tend to sulk, take some time, and get over it.
Which would you say is the toughest role you have done?
Joji has been the toughest to crack. I don’t know if I want to explain further or whether I was good or bad in that. It wasn’t as easy as my last outing with Dileesh. Am assuming it’s the same with Dileesh as well, the most difficult film he has shot as well. So in terms of the film, we have also done something we have not attempted earlier.
You have a significant pan-Indian following and yet bafflingly you have kept away from Hindi cinema.
Ironically though I did mention about cinema breaking language boundaries, it’s one thing that’s shying me from exploring Bollywood. I am not fluent in Hindi and once I am fluent, I am good to go.
Have you tried to objectively analyse what makes you click?
I don’t know. My wife calls me Lucky Ali. I think I am just at the right place at the right time. There is no magic or rocket science. And I really think there is no alternative career for me. For me, success is always a coin toss. I produce one film to make my next film. You need to be very honest with the art. Don’t dilute it, capture it at its purest form. I strive to be part of such films.
The author was part of a round table video zoom interview featuring Fahadh Faasil which was participated by over 20 media persons from various publications and online media.
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