Jeethu Joseph has carved out a niche for himself as a thriller director, thanks to the huge success of his 2013 thriller Drishyam, which was not only remade in all major Indian languages, but also inspired a new Chinese version. Jeethu, however, now wants to get away from all the crime, deception, and cover-up and do something fun, light, and offer healthy entertainment to the family audience.
But producers seek him more for his ability to create a compelling thriller. It is now awaiting the release of Drushyam 2, which is the remake of Drishyam 2, the sequel to its 2013 hit. The film will premiere on Amazon Prime Video this Thursday.
In this exclusive interview with Indianexpress.com, Jeethu talks about his inspirations, his future projects and why he is not happy to be known only as a ‘director of suspense’.
Excerpts from the conversation:
The original Malayalam sequel and the Telugu remake of that sequel followed in rapid succession. We can say almost immediately. Had you planned the remake in Telugu while doing it in Malayalam?
When we finished filming the Malayalam sequel, Suresh (Babu) sir called me and asked for the script for the film. I had sent him an English translation. He told me that he liked the script and that he wanted to see the movie. After the dubbing was completed, I arranged a pre-screening for him with no background music or score. He also liked the movie. And in parallel, we started working on the Telugu remake.
How did you develop your taste for thrillers?
When I was young, I read many stories from Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and other novels. Basically, I love thrillers. But I also love other genres. My first movie was an investigative movie (Detective) and my second movie was a family movie (Mummy & Me). The next was a comedy movie (My Boss). So I really want to make movies of all genres. But, after doing Memories and Drishyam consecutively, people have labeled me a director of suspense. Today, I ask my producers, ‘Why don’t you make comedy movies with me?’ I have done comedy movies in the past. Everyone asks for thrillers.
But, you are not unhappy with that kind of reputation, are you?
I’m a little sad. I am a storyteller and I want to tell different types of stories. But right now I’m planning a family movie and a children’s movie. Look, I want to change. But, it just so happens that my next two or three movies are thrillers.
What films / filmmakers played an influential role in shaping your storytelling techniques?
My favorite director is Padmarajan. He has made films of different genres. I always consider him my guru. His films traveled between reality and fantasy. They were natural and at the same time entertaining.
Is it difficult to imagine another actor in the role of Mohanlal?
In the beginning, I approached Mammootty with this movie. It was busy at the time and I had to wait over a year for it to be released. So, it was Mammootty who asked me to approach Mohanlal for Drishyam. If Mammootty had made this movie, I know he would have played his character very well. So people would have said that they can’t think of any actor other than Mammootty in this role. It is so. Even Mr. Kamal Haasan played the character in his own way. Each actor brings his own style to the character and makes it his own.
How different is Venkatesh’s Rambabu from Mohanlal’s Georgekutty?
The characterization of the protagonist is almost similar between Malayalam and Telugu. The characterization of the protagonist is very different between Papanasam and Drishyam. In Malayalam and Telugu, the protagonist keeps everything to himself. He never shows his emotions. In Papanasam, Suyambulingam is very emotional. In more than one scene, you can see Suyambulingam crying. In Telugu and Malayalam, you won’t find that difference. The presentation, however, depends on the actor. Mohanlal has a different style and Venkatesh’s presentation style is slightly different.
Do you regret Drishyam 2, which you have to improve in the Telugu remake?
In fact, I missed one main thing. While editing Drishyam 2, I realized something I could have done, but couldn’t add that in the movie at the time. So I have included it when making the Telugu remake. And we made some changes, but nothing major since all the scenes are connected. You cannot remove a part or add another new part. And we should also change the film to suit the cultural taste of the Telugu audience.
Are you planning to remake this sequel also in Tamil?
Some discussions are taking place. Mr. Kamal is still thinking about it. If you say yes, I’m always ready. My bags are already packed and ready.