Producing a movie gives me more freedom, says Jeethu Joseph

The director speaks about the emergence of ‘crore clubs’ in Malayalam cinema and his upcoming projects

It was Jeethu Joseph’s Drishyam that changed the economics of Malayalam cinema. The film set the cash registers ringing by crossing the ₹50 crore collection mark for the first time. The box-office hit went on to be remade in several Indian languages and even in Sinhalese.

The director of films such as Detective, Mummy & Me, My Boss, Memories, Drishyam, Papanasam, Life of Josutty, Oozham and Aadhi, Jeethu is now busy with the final stages of his Bollywood début. Meanwhile, his Mr & Ms Rowdy, with Kalidas Jayaram in the lead, is ready for release later this month.

Edited excerpts from an interview with FridayReview:

Is life tougher after a blockbuster like Drishyam, considering the expectations that come with success?

It’s always there. When a film becomes a success on that level, the next few projects will be subject to constant comparisons. That did bother me for a while but not any more. Now, I don’t think about beating those figures when I start a new film. Actually, I am not comfortable with this number business, be it about budgets or collections. I want to make good films that earn a decent profit. Anything else is a bonus.

As the focus shifts to ‘crore clubs’, do you feel that merits of a film might get ignored?

Definitely. But those discussions are not important as far as audiences are concerned. Such hyped numbers are often a pretext by some to enhance their remuneration. Then there are naïve newbies who enter the business to become producers, believing that all these projected earnings go into the pocket of the producers only, which is far from reality.

You have a reputation for thrillers. What excites you about the genre?

I do hear this often and though it’s exciting to make thrillers, I don’t want to be branded as a maker of any particular genre. I was shocked when I heard that there were people who expected a twist in the tale even in a comedy like Life of Josutty. Then there is a problem about perceptions as well. Among my movies, Detective is more about solving a mystery. Memories can be called a full-fledged thriller. Drishyam is more of a family drama with elements of a thriller. Oozham and Aadhi are essentially action movies.

How was it like to work with Kalidas Jayaram and the group of youngsters in Mr & Ms Rowdy?

I loved the experience. Kannan (Kalidas) is an actor with great potential. We had a fabulous time on the set as these youngsters have so much energy and passion. I would call Mr & Ms Rowdy a comedy drama. There was so much enthusiasm in contributing to the scenes and improvisations, which usually is not possible while working in thrillers.

And as a producer?

Though I was one of the producers of Lakshyam, it was not executed by my company. In Mr & Ms Rowdy, I was more involved as a co-producer. Of course, producing a movie gives me more freedom to experiment.

A scene from ‘Mr & Ms Rowdy’

A scene from ‘Mr & Ms Rowdy’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

What is the status of your Bollywood film, in which you are teaming up with Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi?

The post-production work is going on. Rishi Kapoor, currently undergoing treatment in the US, has to return to India for the dubbing.

How was the Bollywood experience?

Honestly, I didn’t feel the difference. I loved the professionalism of Emraan Hashmi. I was a bit nervous after hearing stories about Rishi Kapoor’s short temper. But it was an absolute delight to work with him. There were some late-nights and he told me that he had agreed to do it just for me.

Most directors hesitate to re-make their own movies but you did Papanasam in Tamil. Do you enjoy working on remakes?

It is true that there is not much creativity in a remake. Even then, the excitement in Papanasam was the presence of a legend like Kamal Haasan.

After working with Mohanlal in Drishyam, you launched his son, Pranav, as a hero in Aadhi.

That was a big responsibility. I had to live up to so many expectations as I was launching Mohanlal’s son. I was not so tense while doing my first film. Even then, it was a great opportunity for me.

Pranav, who has assisted me in direction, stood by me. After the preview, I was confident. I usually skip watching the opening show of my film. But I had no apprehensions while going for Aadhi.

Life of Josutty, Oozham and Lakshyam didn’t fare as well as expected. What went wrong?

I have heard criticism that the second half of Life of Josutty was too serious and that some of the jokes were sexist. I don’t agree to that opinion though. Also, I had narrated the story from the perspective of an angel and a devil through aerial shots. But that didn’t communicate well. With Oozham, I realised the importance of emotions. I was excited about its making pattern and didn’t give enough space for emotions. In the case of Lakshyam, the criticism was that the suspense was revealed too early. But that was intentional and I had to take the story ahead using the fear factor.

I believe that it was the time of release of the film, which was close to the release of Baahubali, that mainly worked against Lakshyam.

Are you starting your Tamil film with Karthi as the hero next?

At present, I am working on the script with Rensil D’Silva and Manikandan. A formal announcement has not been made on that project yet. Then there is a Malayalam project with Mohanlal. There are some offers from Bollywood too.

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