Jeethu Joseph makes his entry into Bollywood with The Body , which releases next week. A week later, his Tamil movie Thambi , starring Karthi, Jyotika and Sathyaraj, will hit screens. During the same week, his new Malayalam project with Mohanlal and Trisha in the lead, will start rolling.
For the director of Drishyam , which was the first Malayalam film to cross the ₹50 crore mark, exploring new territory seems to have become a way of life. Even in the midst of three projects in various stages of production and release, Jeethu remains composed as he shares his experience of working with some of the biggest names in Indian cinema. Excerpts from the interview:
Aren’t you working overtime with so many projects at the same time?
It’s pretty hectic. The release of The Body was delayed as we had some remaining patchwork to be done although the movie’s shoot was completed last year.
Tell us about the experience of working with Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi.
Honestly, in the beginning, I was a little nervous as I was working in a new environment. Once I started interacting with Rishi sir and Emraan Hashmi, I found them to be totally professional and that made me comfortable. I feel Rishi Kapoor is a bit like Lal ettan (Mohanlal). Rishi sir too enjoys narrating interesting stories from his past. He also asks the director’s opinion while performing.
The Bodyis the official remake of the 2012 Spanish thriller El Cuerpo . What are the challenges while adapting a celebrated movie into a different language and culture?
The obvious challenge is to avoid comparisons. When deviating from the original, it is our responsibility to ensure that it is better than that. I had stated while making Papanasam (the Tamil remake of Drishyam) that remakes are boring as there isn’t any creativity involved. Even if the film does well, the credit will go to the original filmmaker. I don’t want to do remakes any more.
You also directed Thambi ...
When the producers first came to me with the story idea, I was too busy to sit back and develop it. I became a part of the project only after it took shape. I joined the writing team and moulded the script.
Was it a deliberate decision to cast Karthi and Jyotika (who happens to be Karthi’s sister- in law) in Thambi?
The casting was decided by the time I came into the picture. I had no involvement in it.
You are teaming up with Mohanlal again after Drishyam .
It is definitely not another Drishyam. I am planning to make it a mass movie, though not in the so-called conventional style. It will be an action thriller with a realistic touch. The story is set in several countries, which makes it a big budget movie. Trisha plays Mohanlal’s wife.
Do you feel Drishyam redefined the standards of the industry?
I have never been bothered about numbers. But I did notice the reach of the film while interacting with those in other industries. The movie had remakes in several languages. The movie has even been remade in Sri Lanka. The adaptation in Chinese is currently in the post-production stage.
What are the challenges you face as a director?
I think living up to expectations is a big challenge, especially after Memories and Drishyam. What keeps me strong is a piece of advice that director Jayaraj gave me while I was assisting him in movies. He told me to make films without being worried about the result.
Did you, at any point, feel insecure about your career?
Never. I am happy with whatever I have achieved. I never dreamt that I would direct a legend like Kamal Haasan or do a Hindi movie with Rishi Kapoor. I feel fortunate and consider the ups and downs in my career as a part of life.
Any plans of trying your hand at the OTT platforms?
Not right now. I have a few projects, including a Hindi movie with a female-oriented plot. However, at this point, I am not sure about the order in which I will take up all that.
You are often seen doing brief cameos in your own movies and was seen in a short film recently. Do you enjoy acting?
(Laughs) I was happy when I got a positive response for my act in a short film. I show my face at times in my movies, just for the heck of it. I have done that in Thambi too. During a song shoot, I took a chair and sat there. It’s fun.