The gold standard for crime thrillers in Malayalam Cinema is undoubtedly Oru CBI Diarykurippu which spawned an entire series that refuses to go away even today, though purists might argue the case of Yavanika which is absolutely justified too. That both featured Mammooty in unconventional cop avatars is more than a mere coincidence I’d say given the actors penchant for expirementation. Apart from rather lacklustre sequels which rode merely on the legacy of the first film, CBI Diarykurippu also set a rather pedestrian pattern for investigative thrillers in Malayalam to follow. As we have witnessed in Malayalam movies in the genre, the climax is almost always a witness parade where every plot twist until then is discussed in what’s nothing less than a lecture by the lead actor, be it any of the CBI sequels to Jeethu Joseph’s debut thriller to the many insignificant Sureshgopi crime thrillers.This was even seen in Ranjith Sankar’s Pretham. For an audience conditioned to such banality in the past couple of decades Joseph is novel in more ways than one.
The teaser of the film had set keen movie afficionados talking for a couple of reasons, Joju George’s look and the air he had about his self. Joesph scripted by a police officer is as much an emotional drama as the procedural it is at the core. Personally I felt that Joseph owed its pacing and narrative style to the Scandinavian and Spanish thrillers that we have come to love. In fact I almost had a sense of deja vu towards the end and I still havent shaken that feeling off, to be honest but I have gone ahead and written what I am writing becasue Joseph is exactly the kind of movie that deserves to be talked and written about. M. Padmakumar who dished out various versions of Devasuram at the start of his career has ventured into more or less unknown territory in terms of genre and has found sweet success. And the fact that the gamble with the lead actor also paid off must add to the high the Director deserves to be on. Joju George is the single most focal point of the film and there is hardly a frame without the man in it. M. Padmakumar deserves an award for just visualising Joju as Joseph. In the scene where he rides a Bajaj Chetak to a crime scene early on with one hand on the handlebar, smoking a beedi stub with the other sans a helmet on his head had the screen cluttered with all kinds of statuatory warnings and you still can’t miss the lazy elegance and the ease at which he stays in character in that simple sequence. Few minutes later there was random applause in the theatre when he delivered a salute to his former superior. He is an actor for the longer race and the USP of the film. That is not taking anything away from the brilliant screenplay and masterful direction.Giving Joju company are a bunch of actors from Dileesh Pothan to Irshad to Sudhi Koppa. Athmiya is the only actor who gets to make an impression amongst the female cast.
In an otherwise taut and watertight script the only time I winced was when, as is the custom in Malayalam, rather Indian Cinema the makers chose to carelessly throw in the term hacking. No, they dont resort to vappachi’s legacy here but they could have been a bit more careful given the detaling to most technical aspects of a modern day investigation the film depicts. All they need is a season of Mr.Robot, for perspectives’ sake when it comes to hacking. The film also tries to address a social menace that we are indeed aware of but has little exposure as general public to, in the mainstream newsmedia.The film has also explored the dynamics of relationships and the concept of a family in ways that are far removed from the conventional ones that we often come across in Malayalm Cinema. The greatest success of the film is that despite the disturbing central theme and the slow burn narration it’s the character rather the actor who remains in our psyche. You will cease to wonder why the film is named Joseph and start wondering why it isn’t called Joju.