Joju George on two decade-long journey in films: 'I take cinema very seriously, with utmost devotion'
Joju George will be seen next in Porinju Mariam Jose, alongside Chemban Jose and Nyla Usha.
He has been in the industry for more than two decades. We have all seen him, sometimes flitting across the screen, sometimes staying for longer, then staying for not long enough - but always staying memorable. And it has not been in vain. He has climbed the ladder all the way to a ‘Special Mention’ in the National Awards 2019 for his stellar performance in Joseph. Here's a short profile of actor Joju George.
Joju George’s journey in cinema is the classic narrative of a struggling actor. A hotel management graduate hailing from a small town in Central Kerala, Joju belongs to an orthodox Christian family. With only an irrepressible passion for cinema as his armour, he began making the rounds at offices of directors and producers. When that didn’t bear fruit, he served as an assistant director and also actively worked as a junior artiste.
“After a while, I figured that unless I learnt the workings of cinema, I won’t be able to reach anywhere. So, I got in as an AD. Mazhavilkoodaram (1995) was the first film in which I showed my face. In Dada Sahib (2000), I got some dialogues. Till then I had been a junior artiste in countless films where I would just be in the background,” the actor had admitted in an earlier interview.
Joju had to build himself brick by brick, slowly and steadily. He went from a junior artiste to playing brief yet interesting roles and eventually supporting characters.
He credits Lal Jose’s Pattalam (2003), headlined by Mammootty, as his first break. Though the film was a box office flop, his role as one of the army men stationed at a village, was noticed. This was followed by more interesting characters in Vasthavam (2006), Best Actor (2010), Run Baby Run (2012), and Neram (2013), among others. It helped that he was able to pull off both villainy and comedy with ease. Soon enough, he made the permanent switchover to comedy with favourable results — be it the stingy brother-in-law in Neram, the womanising cop in Hotel California, or the goofy and cowardly brother-in-law in the Mammooty-starrer Rajadhi Raja.
“It was Anoop Menon who suggested that I try a bit of comedy in Hotel California. That’s how I did CI Bharath Chandran, the goofy copy with a roving eye. I soon realised that comedy had an indelible connect with the audience. And then came Neram and Rajadhi Raja. The latter really helped a lot in my career,” he said.
Between 2012 and 2015, Joju kept himself busy by being part of big and small films. “Each film is like winning a lottery ticket. It’s like asking whether you are happy after winning a lottery ticket,” he says about the roles that came his way during this period of time.
Joju was terrific as a forgetful, lethargic cop Minimon in Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju—"Minimon was mostly spot improvisations and Abrid gave me exact briefings regarding the role. I belong to a tiny village near Mala, so I incorporated a lot of things I learnt from observing a police officer there. Since I had already done a cop in Oru Second Class Yathra, Abrid was adamant about doing something diametrically opposite to that.”
In Lukka Chuppi (2015), directed by Bash Muhammed, he was one of the four college friends who meet after decades for a reunion. Joju's Rafeek was a bit of a comedian in the group, petrified of his wife, wary of having fun with friends, an unfamiliar terrain for Joju, who aced it. But he credits this performance to the “camaraderie he picks on the sets between the actors.”
In the same year, he ventured into production “for his friends” with the Martin Prakatt-directed Charlie, starring Dulquer Salmaan, which was a super-hit. Though he doesn’t think production is his forte, he did produce two of his best films — Udaharanam Sujatha (2017), a remake of Nil Battey Sannata where he gave his own spin to Pankaj Tripathi’s role and Joseph, an investigative thriller in which he played a retired cop. It won him the Kerala State Award for best actor and recently a Special Mention at the National Awards.
His real breakthrough performance was in the Ranjith Sankar-directed Ramante Edanthottam (2017), where he played the female lead Malini’s chauvinist husband. “I was advised against casting him but somehow I knew he could handle the nuances of such a complex character,” director Ranjith Sankar had said in a TV interview. Joju slipped effortlessly into the character of this unpleasant sexist husband, who has his share of casual affairs but is enraged when his wife has one too.
He was equally good as a vindictive cop in Njan Marykutty, a loving dad in this year’s rom-com June, and as a hospital worker in the medical thriller Virus. Joju surprised many when he agreed to produce an off-beat filmmaker Sanal Kumar Shashidaran’s Chola, where he portrays a rapist. There is also Joshiy’s Porinju Mariam Jose, in which he will share equal billing with Chemban Vinod Jose and Nyla Usha.
“There is an obvious difference in my approach, in the way I view cinema today. Maybe, I would have gotten more films had I adopted this approach earlier. But yes, I don’t think I am still performing even 10 percent of what I have always aspired to do. Today I take cinema very seriously, with utmost devotion. Acting isn’t really the easiest job in the world.”
But dare we say Joju makes it look effortless.
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