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Exclusive! Basil Joseph on Jan-E-Man and Kurup: Audience now wants to watch commercial entertainers

The actor-director talks about his upcoming movie Jan-E-Man, which is set to hit theatres on November 19

Sanjith Sidhardhan
Nov 15, 2021
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Basil Joseph

It’s been a year where Basil Joseph not only got to exhibit his talent as an actor through films such as Joji, but also will see him showcase his craft as a director in the upcoming superhero film Minnal Murali that has Tovino Thomas in the lead. While both the movies opted for direct-to-OTT release, the actor-director will get his first taste of theatrical release this year through the upcoming entertainer Jan-E-Man, which is directed by Chidambaram and has a slew of actors including Arjun Ashokan, Ganapathy, Siddharth Menon and Lal in pivotal roles.

In a candid chat with OTTplay, Basil talks about his role in the film, why entertainers are what audience want right now and the reception that Minnal Murali’s promos have got.

From the first teaser of Jan-E-Man, your character appears downcast and lost in the melancholy setting. What can you tell us about the role and the film?

My character Joymon is a nurse who is living alone in the middle of nowhere in Canada. His friends aren’t picking his calls because of the time difference and he is depressed. So, the film is about him coming to Kerala to celebrate his birthday with his friends, who aren’t too keen to accommodate him. But to make him happy, Ganapathy’s character, who is a dermatologist, organise a small cake-cutting ceremony that leads to absolute chaos later on. A lot of other characters come into the mix in the film, which is a dark comedy. Even though Joymon is going through a grim phase, it makes for a lot of laughs for the audience.

In the past few years, the Malayalam audience have been treated to several thrillers and dramas including Joji, in which you played a pivotal role. As a filmmaker, what sort of movies do you think work well with the audience?

I think the audience definitely wants entertainers right now. The type of response that Kurup – which is considered a ‘mass’ commercial entertainer – is getting in theatres is great. It’s heartening to see a situation where like in the past, now if you want to book tickets, you have to call up friends to check if they are available first. So, those will be the kind of projects that the audience is expecting and most of the upcoming films that have been greenlit fall into this category.

Jan-E-Man was shot right after the first lockdown. The makers’ thought process was to do an entertaining film and so it was a relief to be part of such a movie amid the pandemic. It’s a film that is happening out of a friends’ circle with Chidambaram and Ganapathy being part of this.

Did filmmaking during the pandemic also take you back to the short-film days where everything was made on tighter budgets and controlled scales? In that way, did you have any inputs while doing Jan-E-Man?

I wasn’t involved in the direction; I had only given a few suggestions in the screenplay. All movies that were made during the lockdown were conceived in that manner with limited locations. To say an entertaining story of two hours and 15 minutes in this contained space is a huge challenge. It’s not enough that you do a movie in a restrictive environment. Only few such films have been successful like Joji and C U Soon. In that regard, I think Chidambaram and team have easily pulled that off and I think in a commercial entertainer genre, this movie could be a success.

Tell us about what led to your casting in a serious role as a priest in Fahadh Faasil’s Joji, and what was the feedback?

It was an interesting casting from Dileesh (Pothan) chettan and Syam (Pushkaran) chettan’s side. They wanted to break stereotypes; Pothettan could have played the priest but instead they placed someone that nobody expected in that role and I think that’s 80% of the job done. I only then had to just perform.

Basil as a priest in Joji

As far as the character goes, my background helped. My father is a Jacobite priest and his friends, who are also priests, had given me a lot of input in terms of Syrian prayers. Those helped a lot. They were also the ones who first watched the movie and praised me. They said that I should have become a priest.

You had said last year that you used most of the time during lockdown to update yourself as a filmmaker. How much did those lessons help while shooting the portions of Minnal Murali after the lockdown?

In the case of Minnal Murali, we had completed it as we had planned earlier. We didn’t change much. But during that break, I could live happily because I didn’t have anything to do or was busy with anything else; so, I could completely dedicate myself to the process of updating myself. I am hoping it would help me in my future projects because our audience too have updated themselves. The current generation is consuming content on OTTs and so upskilling is crucial in any profession now. Earlier, the changes that used to happen in 10-15 years are now occurring every 2-3 years. So, it’s important for us to change accordingly.

How has the reception been after Minnal Murali’s trailer release a few weeks ago? Did many want it to be screened in theatres?

Yes, most of the feedback was to release it in theatres. There were people who had mailed me, messaged me on online platforms and some who had called me. I have also heard many talking about it to other people. So, I am glad that people welcome the theatre release but there’s also some disappointment. I believe the entire crew deserves it because they have worked hard for the past two years. This movie has faced a lot of crises but all of us fought all of that as a team and that was the only way we could finish the film. People didn’t take up other projects during this time and we completed the movie in 4-5 schedules. So, whatever positive feedback that the teaser and trailer are belongs to the team.

Have you already started planning your next film and will it be a theatrical release?

We are discussing a couple of projects and if possible, we will be releasing it in theatres.

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