Movies

Jeethu Joseph on 'Thambi', the Chinese remake of 'Drishyam' and Mohanlal's 'Ram'

Jeethu Joseph on the sets of 'Thambi'

Jeethu Joseph on the sets of 'Thambi'  

The filmmaker, who shot to fame with the Malayalam film 'Drishyam, discusses his love for writing mystery-thrillers

Jeethu Joseph is a busy man. He has been working tirelessly ever since Drishyam became what it is: a sensation. His first straight Bollywood movie, The Body, starring Emraan Hashmi and Rishi Kapoor, released last week. And this Friday, he returns to Tamil cinema with Thambi.

I call him on a day before the announcement of his next movie with Mohanlal titled Ram. “I’m not in a position to give myself a break,” he says, over the phone from Hyderabad, about working round the clock. “After Drishyam, I have been flooded with offers. In the last two months, I’ve been looking after the post-production work of two movies and the pre-production of Mohanlal’s movie. It was very stressful and I hope no filmmaker goes through this.”

It has been four years since Jeethu made Papanasam, the Tamil remake of Drishyam, and he says he was waiting for the “right subject” to make a comeback. He was occupied with the pre-production work of The Body when he was offered Thambi over a year ago.

Jeethu came much later into the picture since the premise and the primary cast were decided by the production house. “When I was told about Thambi, I thought I shouldn’t miss this project because it has an interesting script and a good combination in Jyothika and Karthi,” he says, adding, “Unlike The Body, which was a remake and there was no creativity in it, I had scope to create something new here.”

The write approach

For Jeethu, the basic construct of the movie comes first before the characters. He explains this by quoting Drishyam as an example. The idea for the Mohanlal-starrer originated in his mind sometime in 2002. It was germinating all the while and he eventually nurtured it in 2013.

“I was discussing the story with my friend and he said, ‘In such a situation, I don’t know whom to support.’ That gave a spark in me. What if such a complicated situation arrives in a family... who will the audience root for? That’s how I started writing Drishyam,” he says.

Jeethu Joseph on 'Thambi', the Chinese remake of 'Drishyam' and Mohanlal's 'Ram'

The process for Thambi was a new experience since he collaborated with other writers. Rensil D’Silva (of Rang De Basanti and Student of the Year fame) came up with the core premise. Jeethu says he worked on the screenplay with D’Silva and approached K Manikandan to “understand the sensibilities of Tamil audience” and help him with dialogues.

The process, Jeethu says, was a learning experience. “I enjoyed it because there was no ego clash. Everyone was open to suggestions and worked with an intention to write a good script,” says Jeethu.

At the surface level, what creates interest in Thambi is its casting, featuring names like Sathyaraj, Seetha, Sowcar Janaki (who returns to Tamil cinema after a brief hiatus), among others. Jeethu may not have had a say on the principal cast, but he was involved in finalising the rest of the actors. “Sathyaraj was a unanimous choice,” he tells me, “I know Sowcar Janaki amma and that she hasn’t done movies lately. We did brainstorm for Thambi and I can safely say that we pulled off a casting coup.”

Myriad emotions

The trailer for Thambi seems to suggest that it is a classic case of mistaken identity — wherein you have Karthi playing an imposter. Going by the looks of the trailer, the movie appears to be yet another mystery-thriller from Jeethu.

When asked about his obsession with thrillers, he says, “See, my main problem is the definition of ‘thriller’. I have done only one movie in that genre which is Memories.” There is a pregnant pause, after which he adds, “Okay, maybe Drishyam too. But Oozham and Aadhi were action movies. But somehow people think that these movies were also of the thriller genre.”

So, is it safe to assume that Thambi is an emotional drama? “Yes. It’s about a brother-sister relationship and has myriad emotions. You can say that it’s a family entertainer,” he says. Then quickly corrects himself: “There’s a bit of thriller element in it.”

A still from Thambi

A still from Thambi   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

 

I ask how he builds tension in his movies with regard to a specific scene in Drishyam, where a police officer comes to Mohanlal’s house for an enquiry. “You’re asking for my professional secret, which I won’t reveal,” he says with a laugh, “Honestly, every director is good at something, right? I have also done family dramas and comedies. It’s just that I gravitate more towards investigative thrillers because I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes.”

Crossing borders

This Friday is extra special for Jeethu Joseph. Not only because of Thambi hitting screens, but also because the Chinese version of Drishyam titled Sheep Without A Shepherd is releasing in China.

Drishyam is perhaps the first Indian movie to be officially remade in China, and Jeethu Joseph, is delighted. He says that the makers of Sheep Without A Shepherd watched the Hindi version and contacted its producers for remake rights, only to realise that it was a Malayalam movie. “We had a formal meeting and finalised the deal. I have been in touch with them ever since,” he adds.

Even after all these years, it is tempting to ask what it is about Drishyam that makes it tick at the ticket widow: “I think it’s the universality of the subject. At the end of the day, it all boils down to human emotions.”

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 9:58:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/jeethu-joseph-on-thambi-the-chinese-remake-of-drishyam-and-mohanlals-ram/article30329800.ece

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