What Motivates This Macbeth?
Warning: Extreme Spoilers Ahead.
Yes, we all know Fahadh Faasil’s eyes speak volumes. Even in a state of paralysis he acts with nothing but his eyes. Joji, interestingly, is more about Joji, the character, and not just yet another feather in Fahad Faasil’s acting cap.
What immediately grasps you when watching director Dileesh Pothan’s Joji is the sense of space, place, time, and environment. Put precisely, the mise-en-scène or the placement and composition of every shot, scene, body language, lighting et al.
Take the opening scene, for instance. Joji starts with somber music in the background (an eerie score by Justin Varghese), foreshadowing that something ominous is waiting to happen; a delivery boy driving through the woods; the camera zooms out and we get an aerial view of a sprawling rubber plantation, with a beautiful house nestled deep in the heart of this plantation. The opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, anyone?
Who are the inhabitants of this house? What are their characteristics, their intentions, their motivations? All of this is communicated with little or no dialogue but with the sheer brilliance of Pothan’s cinematic mise-en-scène narrative.The head of the family, a 70-something Kuttappan P K is introduced doing pull-ups, while his teenage grandson Popy (up to some mischief) furtively watches him from a distance, and then without any fanfare Joji (Fahadh Faasil) is introduced.
In comparison to his overpowering and extremely fit father (Kuttappan), Joji is a meek douche bag, trotting around like a rabbit, slouching while sitting, and always seems disinterested.
What then motivates Joji to kill his father?
This movie is inspired by Macbeth, but unlike Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Pothan’s Joji is neither ambitious nor greedy, neither brave nor power-hungry. At least not initially. On the contrary, left to himself, Joji comes across as a lazy, good-for-nothing fellow.
So, what then motivates Joji to kill his father?
Joji feels oppressed in a house where his father, Kuttappan, is both literally and metaphorically larger than Joji or any of the other family members (or subjects) in Kuttappan’s plantation kingdom. In a different time, a different place, given his due share, maybe Joji wouldn’t have done what he does. Maybe if Joji’s father was a more reasonable and generous man, or if he had just died a natural death, Joji might have been happy to have his share in the estate and continue to lead an idle existence?
But … that was not to be.
When Joji’s father starts recovering, it shatters Joji’s dream of breaking free from his father’s dominance, his iron grip (again, a literal scene in the movie that works brilliantly as a metaphor). At this point, prodded by his sister-in-law, Bincy (a subtler version of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth), and his own insecurities, Joji metamorphoses into the Shakespearean Macbeth we are all familiar with—greed, ambition, and desire consume Joji and we know what’s coming next.
Mostly set in the beautiful environs of the rubber plantation, Joji introduces each character and their true motivations, slowly but surely. The savage plantation, the somber music, the mysterious point-of-views, all hint at the larger displeasure of the family members and the simmering doom that it will lead to.
And lead us it does. Leaving us with more questions than answers. And again, unlike Macbeth, Joji is not guilt-ridden; in-fact he even tries one last trick up his sleeve to slip out of the mess he’s got into. When nothing else works, he decides to end his life but not before texting a Marana Mozhi, or dying declaration, blaming society for his acts.
Why would a dying man lie?
So, pardon me for asking this again.
What motivates Joji to kill his father?