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Exclusive! Basil Joseph on Palthu Janwar: I’ve the same feeling as I did before Kunjiramayanam’s Onam release

The actor-director, who plays the lead in Sangeeth P Rajan’s Palthu Janwar, talks about his role in the film, what appealed the most to him and his transition into a dependable actor

Exclusive! Basil Joseph on Palthu Janwar: I’ve the same feeling as I did before Kunjiramayanam’s Onam release
Basil Joseph in a still from Palthu Janwar
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 12.54 AM, Sep 02, 2022

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Not a lot of filmmakers can claim that they were part of two much-talked about movies last year - as an actor in one and as a director in another. Basil Joseph, who played the lead in last year’s surprise theatrical hit Janeman and helmed the Netflix superhero film Minnal Murali, is now gearing up for another movie that has him in a lead role - Palthu Janwar. And like the previous films too, the actor’s film is somewhat for a dark horse in this Onam race, which will see the release on some big movies such as Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Gold, Siju Wilson’s Pathonpathaam Noottandu and Biju Menon’s Oru Thekkan Thallu Case. But that’s an aspect Basil has enjoyed time and again as he has managed to defy the odds.

In an exclusive interview ahead of Palthu Janwar’s release, the actor tells us about what attracted him the most about the movie, his transition from a director to an actor and more.


You have worked with a lot of animals in the film, in which you play a livestock inspector. How was that experience?

There have been movies with animals such as Aadu and Ringmaster, but this isn’t that kind of film. It’s about the character’s journey – of how he comes from a town to a village setting and begins working as a livestock inspector. It deals with the people he meets, the animals he encounters and the adventures that ensue. It would belong to a coming-of-age genre where the character also deals with his frustrations of not being able to chase his passion.

On dealing with animals, I am not really an animal person. I like them but at a safe distance. While growing up, when we used to go to our parents’ homes, there were cows, goats and buffaloes, and we used to feed them and watch people go to cut grass, milk them et al. We used to have poultry at home and I have grown a rabbit once. But that’s about the interaction I have had with animals. That’s said I have seen how domestic animals are reared. So, it was like going back to those old times for me, where you milk a cow and can feel the warmth of an egg. Now, we live in this instant era – where you get milk and eggs in a carton. Just like the character, I too had that nostalgic feeling and I am hoping the audience too can relive those days through the film.

A still from Palthu Janwar
A still from Palthu Janwar

The movie is an Onam release and has you playing the lead actor. What sort of pressure does that accompany?

Onam has always been special because it’s the time when big films with superstars and massive banners would release. It’s a holiday season so when we were in school as well as college, it was the time when we used to go together in groups to watch movies in theatres. In fact, my first directorial, Kunjiramayanam, released during the Onam of 2015. I had this same feeling – a mix of excitement as well as tension. Back then too a lot of big films released along with our movie. So, seven years later, there’s a shift of roles – as in I am playing a lead role – but the pressure remains the same. Maybe it’s a bit more because we have to promote the movie as it relies entirely on our shoulders and we have to be on the forefront. That’s an added responsibility. But these are things that we don’t expect and when they happen, they become milestones and something that is unforgettable.

You had worked with Palthu Janwar’s producers Bhavana Studios last year in Joji. How was it working with them again?

As an actor, it’s a big recognition that they even thought of me. I have admired all of their films – from Maheshinte Prathikaaram to Joji – and they are people who have defined new-age cinema in Malayalam through their ventures. A lot of filmmakers have followed the trend that they have set. So, they have played a pivotal role in how the industry has evolved. That’s why I consider it a big bonus for me to play a role in their film.

As an actor, I used to mostly get humour-oriented roles. But they called for Joji and offered me a totally different character and that consequently led to several other directors offering me better parts in their films. So, filmmakers began thinking about the various roles that I can do after Joji released. All of that benefited me a lot and so when they offered me a lead role, I didn’t have to think twice. I never planned to play a central character but when they approached me, I knew I didn’t have to worry because they along with an accomplished team of writers – Vinoy Thomas and Aneesh Anjali – were working on the film. It’s a huge learning experience.

Their films have this rooted-to-reality flavour that a lot of your directorials too have. Was that what instantly appealed to you about Palthu Janwar as well?

The treatment of my films would be different, as in it would have more humour and I would have conceived it in a more commercial way. But yes, the flavour is what I could relate to. Iritty is right below my hometown of Wayanad and so the area has a similar setting and culture. I could connect to all that.

You had another superhit as an actor with Janeman last year. Are the stocks of ‘Basil, the actor’ rising now?

When I started, I only looked at acting as an alternate career. The priority was always direction because I needed time to discuss scripts and plan projects. Acting enabled me to be active in the industry as well as take my due time and apply diligence before selecting a project to direct. So, I was happy doing supporting roles for some time but after that you reach a saturation point because the roles tend to be similar. At such a point is when I got movies like Joji and Janeman. It was not planned, but when they happened, I started getting characters that played pivotal roles in carrying the plot and this meant there was more scope for performance. Consequently, acting became more exciting and I started putting in more effort. It’s stressful to manage both acting and directing now, but I have to do it smartly.

Aju Varghese, Tovino Thomas and Basil Joseph on the sets of Minnal Murali
Aju Varghese, Tovino Thomas and Basil Joseph on the sets of Minnal Murali

What is the update on Minnal Murali’s sequel?

We have had discussions. But I am also doing another film next. Minnal Murali 2 will only happen after that. It will be a theatrical release; that’s all I can confirm, right now.