Filmmaker Jeethu Joseph, who shot to national fame with the Malayalam film Drishyam in 2013, is back with new mind games in the sequel Drishyam 2: The Resumption. In both versions of the film, the ‘all-revealing’ sequence of events is narrated by another character — not by Georgekutty. So, is that another ruse by Jeethu and his protagonist to befuddle us? When do we really get to know Georgekutty’s version? We speak to the filmmaker who has all the answers, and even throws hints about a possible third part.
Amid a humongous response to the film, especially outside of Kerala, Jeethu displays Georgekutty-level calmness in our conversation while he is busy working on the Telugu remake of Drishyam 2, starring Venkatesh.
By the time Amazon Prime released the Malayalam sequel late in the night on February 19, Jeethu had already hit the sack. Nervous? Certainly not. That’s how he is, and what he is. The day after the release, amid a torrent of calls and messages, Jeethu’s daughter wrote an emotional yet celebratory post on Facebook. The final line of the post was: this too shall pass.
Like father, like daughter. Happy families are all alike.
Over to Jeethu Joseph himself.
Low expectations, big returns - you seem to have adopted the same strategy of the first Drishyam before the release of Drishyam 2.
Jeethu Joseph: (Laughs) Not exactly. It is true that we have not gone overboard, hyping up the film as a hardcore thriller before the release and that’s mostly because I believe Drishyam 2 is a family film. For me, it is a film that captures the tale of two families caught in a vortex of emotions, interwoven with a crime plot. As a filmmaker, I approached the film as a family drama. Also, as a creator, I don’t believe in promoting a film beyond a certain point.
When we spoke last time, you said technically Memories is the only thriller you have made, so even Drishyam 2 is not a thriller per se?
Jeethu Joseph: Drishyam 2 could be a family-mystery-drama and my next Ram is an action-drama. Drishyam 2 is a family-mystery-drama at best. I am working on a pure thriller, the official announcement will be made soon, which is likely to roll out this year itself.
Drishyam, despite its cult status, drew flak from many quarters, with many saying that you chose to glorify Georgekutty despite his morally reprehensible act. Going by some of the lines and sequences you have written in the sequel, were you trying to nullify some of the criticism? An element of guilt, perhaps?
Jeethu Joseph: Not at all. All I have done is just turn a mirror to our society; it’s basically a reflection of what’s happening all around us. In reality, worse things happen and many criminals walk out after having committed horrific crimes and there is no debate around it, but when you show that in a film, how does it become problematic? At least in Drishyam, it’s a crime by happenstance. What else could they have done when someone intruded into their private space and threatened to wreak havoc? Since it’s a crime which was done as an act of self-defence, there is no question of being guilty. Recently, I met a former Supreme Court judge and when this subject came up for discussion, he said what the family did was right and there was no point in going by the law, particularly in a film. No regrets at all.
Jeethu is not guilty, but Georgekutty in Drishyam 2 is.
Jeethu Joseph: Obviously, he has to be because it was he who executed the crime or had it hidden. For me, it was just an act of imagination, but for the character, it was a real act. If Georgekutty is still guilty, it shows how good a human being he is – and that’s very important from the characterisation and narrative point of view. Let me tell you Georgekutty is a good man.
Drishyam 2 has opened to a terrific response, it has become a talking point, have he reactions exceeded even your expectations.
Jeethu Joseph: It has, and the response has been unbelievable. Frankly, all I expected was most people would say it’s a good film, but no match for Drishyam 1. To my disbelief, most of them now say Drishyam 2 is a step ahead of the first part, something which none of us expected.
At any stage, were you worried about a logical mismatch or loopholes? Some say there are.
Jeethu Joseph: I firmly believe you can’t make a perfect cinema whatever extent you try and that’s why we take what’s being described as cinematic liberty. That certainly does not mean you can throw all the logic out of the film and start shooting what you want and I try to make it as authentic as possible. Having said that, it’s futile, in my opinion, to keep looking for perfection in films. If a film keeps you fully engaged while watching, that’s where the success is.
As far as Drishyam 2 is concerned, I have had several discussions with lawyers, police officers and forensic experts before extrapolating some of the crucial sequences. For example, the DNA sample is being carried in a cardboard and it’s taken to a place where there are no CCTV cameras. For the larger public, it could be tough to imagine or even comprehend, but in most cases, it’s being done in the same way. Or in some cases, things are even worse. In many places (I am not saying everywhere it’s the same), there are no security personnel to keep these samples safe. Some of the conversations I had with a police surgeon were a revelation even to me, and trust me, I have not shown half of what he told me. Sometimes, the samples are not even properly sealed. Can you believe it? It’s a different world of which we know very little.
But you seem to know more about the crime world. In an interview, you said you read the newspaper looking for crime stories.
Jeethu Joseph: It’s not that I look for all the crime stories that happen around us, but what fascinates me is human behaviour. It’s how people respond to certain situations. Some of the recent high-profile crimes that happened in Kerala and elsewhere were so terrifying, which makes me repeat the point I tried to convey earlier - What happens in real life is way stranger and scarier than what is being shown on the screen.
Some say you are a better writer than a director. What is your assessment?
Jeethu Joseph: Are there any prescribed rules, and who decides these? I still remember those lines from director Shekhar Kapur: “If you want to be a successful director, go against the rules of the industry.” I heard this even before I joined the industry and keep this in my mind every time I shoot a film. So when somebody says *this* is good or *that* is bad, I really don’t understand who has the final say in such sweeping statements. Even a critic’s remark is ultimately his own opinion. It’s an ever-rolling process. It all depends what sort of film you make, or what shots you need (indoor or outdoor) or how you take the story forward. Everything else is irrelevant.
What process do you enjoy the most – writing or direction?
Jeethu Joseph: Both. In fact, when I start writing, I am also visualising it, thereby virtually directing the film. It all depends on what sort of film you make and how you make it.
What about the casting? Does that too happen at the writing stage?
Jeethu Joseph: Not all the characters, but the lead characters are mostly decided at the writing stage itself. Sometimes, the faces of actors walk in when I develop the script.
When did Murali Gopy (one of the best roles in Drishyam 2) walk in?
Jeethu Joseph: (Laughs) In fact, much, much later. We were toying with multiple options. Finally, we picked Murali considering the “freshness” he brings in and yes, he aced it like no other.
If there were no lockdown restrictions, would you have made Drishyam 2 differently?
Jeethu Joseph: Hmmm... structurally, no. Maybe we could have had a few more crowd sequences added, with some more characters. That’s why you see the same bunch of auto-drivers gossiping always. I would have loved to have more villagers becoming part of the narrative.
Were you sure that you wanted the sequence (of the only witness) right there in the beginning? Was it from that thread that the whole sequel was built?
Yeah, introducing a witness was one of the first thoughts that came into my mind and it had to be the opening sequence. That aside, I was curious about the life of Georgekutty and his family: Are they happy or are they leading a miserable life? How did other characters move on? If you watch it closely, the film is about the desperation of all the characters involved. Even the witness character was desperate, so was IG Geetha Prabhakar. What is life after crime even if there is no legal punishment? That’s the crux.
You have left enough cues for another sequel. Will Drishyam 3 happen?
Not now, but if I get a thread good enough to explore, I will start developing it. It will be a crime if I don’t. Seven years ago, I ruled out the possibility of Drishyam 2, but that happened now. One thing is sure: Georgekutty needs to be alert always; he can’t afford to take any risk.
Of all the Drishyam remakes, which one did you like?
I have not seen all of them, but I heard the Chinese version is really good with a tweaked climax which I found really interesting and am curious. I have asked for a link and they should be sending it soon.
With Drishyam 2 releasing on Amazon Prime, is it still relevant to go for remakes?
Of course, yes. We are starting the Telugu version in a couple of weeks and it will be released in theatres. In Andhra and Telangana, I hear, the box-office has opened well, and that’s why we are starting the film right away. Obviously, the theatre reach is humongous. No decision has been taken yet on Hindi and Tamil versions.
And finally, we saw Mohanlal (the actor) in scintillating form (after years?).
What can I say about Lalettan? Subtlety at its best.
(Spoiler Alert!) Can you pick your favourite Mohanlal moment?
Many. That scene where Georgekutty comes to know that the boy’s body had been retrieved. For a second, Georgekutty, otherwise calm and composed, crumbles, the only place where he is seen shocked. And then when Meena approaches him, Georgekutty finally could not hide his emotions. That one-minute sequence is sheer magic. To have it captured and seen it first-hand is something else.
. Read more on Indian Cinema by The Quint.Exclusive: Jeethu Joseph On Making ‘Drishyam 3’ With MohanlalBCCI Asks Limited Overs Squad to Report in Ahmedabad on 1 March . Read more on Indian Cinema by The Quint.