Revisiting Fahadh Faasil’s Joji: Chilling and numbing, one of his finest performances yet

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The abusive patriarch of a Kottayam-based family suffers a stroke one day and is suddenly bedridden, even as his family, beaten down by years of insults and rage, struggle with their demons. It’s a rather delicate situation that the sons of the house face — the man who has caused them such trauma is now helpless and paralysed. There is not much sympathy, but there’s panic — has he left a will, how the family business should be run. While no one in this family is a paragon of virtue, it’s ’s wayward , an engineering drop-out, who quickly, yet quietly, walks down a dark path. Fahadh has a history of fine and powerful portrayals, but this was one of his most spine-chilling performances in a film that can only be defined as a silent scream.

In the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to Joji, a man who is able to assert a little authority over his nephew for using a toy gun, but quivers in fear front of his abusive father, who taunts him and accuses him of swindling money. As soon as his father leaves, an angry Joji throws a small and silent fit, giving us a view of all the bottled resentment brewing inside him. However, the demons tear him apart from within after his father is bed-ridden. Outwardly, Joji, for the most part, is not aggressive or violent and doesn’t adhere to the common stereotypes etched for antagonists. The most unsettling part about Joji is that he seems like just another ordinary man, even as he walks down the dark path, with no intention of turning back.

After years of cowering before his father, Joji is gleeful that he has the upper hand and embraces the darkness within him. Yet like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, on which the film is based, one horrifying event leads to another, and the attempt to conceal crimes only exposes the ugliness further. Joji revels in this newfound strength, as he tells his bleeding brother before he kills him, “This is what happens when you mess with me.” He sounds drunk with power, and Fahadh brings forth the sickening exultation of a man who developed a taste for blood.

Later, you are convinced by his lies even though you have just seen him attack his brother. He constructs elaborate lies and feigns the right amount of moroseness that you almost feel a deep sense of discomfort. Fahadh Faasil slowly brings you unwillingly into his distorted world of crime, and his actions feel numbing, like a poison that slowly seeps into you, because that’s the power of his acting.

The suppressed tensions finally explode in the climax of the film after his family discovers his activities. It’s one of Fahadh’s most brilliant scenes—he keeps talking, struggling to maintain the façade and keep up with his lies, while everyone else watches him in disgust. Fumbling, he resorts to guilt, collapsing on the chair and mutters that he doesn’t deserve this. In one final attempt, he tries to bring his other brother to his side and reveals what he has done and also drags his eerily silent sister-in-law Bincey, who is aware of his true nature. Yet, none of it works, his world is tumbling and the only way is out is death. But the universe is cruel and unforgiving, you cannot escape from yourself that easily—-and Joji ends up paralysed in the hospital. In the last minute, the police officer asks him to confess to his crimes by blinking–but Joji does not blink. He has the last word, and the film ends.

Joji is one of Fahadh Faasil’s most profound films, because it follows perfectly the old motto, ‘less is more’. He embodied the role of a man simmering with rage with such rawness, and yet fleshes out his character out with the most minute details, from hiding under the covers to his casual stride, and mocking giggles.

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