After thrilling audiences with twist-laden films like Drishyam, Memories and Aadhi, director Jeethu Joseph is back with Mr and Ms Rowdy, a relatively light-hearted film starring Kalidas Jayaram and Aparna Balamurali in lead roles. Jeethu’s wife Linta is making her screenwriting debut with the film. The promos and teasers promise a fun-filled caper that Jeethu hopes everyone will enjoy when it hits theatres tomorrow.
“It’s a clean family entertainer accessible for all age groups. Because of the ‘Rowdy’ in the title, I hope people won’t go in expecting fights, killings, or twists. It’s in the vein of some of my earlier films like My Boss or Mummy & Me — a hilarious subject with an underlying social message. So far, I hadn’t done a film with youngsters and when the opportunity arrived, I thought of doing something in the comedy genre. The intention is to keep the audience entertained for two hours,” says Jeethu.
You’re one of the fastest directors in Indian cinema. In 2018, you shot two films back-to-back — Mr and Ms Rowdy and The Body (Hindi debut). You did something similar six years ago — Memories and Drishyam came out in the same year. How do you do this?
I actually spend a lot of time on pre-production. Shooting is nothing but the execution of the pre-production process, and if the pre-production is done well, then filming goes smoothly.
Once I have the ideas or one line ready, it’s not that difficult for me to write the script. Back in my college days, I used to jot down some of my thoughts on paper, even though I had no expectation of becoming a director some day. For all the films I’d done till Drishyam — excluding My Boss — I had a one-liner ready.
Besides, I always have my team living close to my residence. So all the processes — post-production, pre-production, meetings, chartings, location hunting, etc. — happen systematically on the side. That’s why we always finish everything on time; and once I’m done shooting one film, I have the time to go over other scripts simultaneously. But I’m trying to slow down from now on as I hope to spend more time with my family. Sometimes it’s when you wish to take a break that an actor gives the date for your next project and then you have no option but to do it.
Do you find it more comforting to direct your own script?
Yes, because if it’s something I wrote, I have the scene order and shots in my mind when I go to the set. I don’t even have to look at the script. But it’s more difficult to bring your vision to someone else’s script. I’m not against that idea though, because if I write the script all the time, all my films may start to look the same. With others’ work, you see things from a different perspective.
There is an occasional clash of ideas, definitely, but it’s not an issue when you’re working with someone of the same wavelength. For example, I’ve had a few disagreements with my wife on Rowdy, but then you sit down, discuss things and turn it into a form acceptable for both parties.
Have you had instances where a producer interfered with your script?
Fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me so far, even with my debut film. Naturally, producers come up with their suggestions, and if they make sense, I’ll accept them. I usually send my scripts to some of my trusted friends who give me genuine feedback.
That way I can know if something is working or not. Thankfully, none of the producers I’ve worked with so far have imposed their ideas on me. While doing Drishyam, Antony Perumbavoor asked me, “Do we have to include the scene where Lalettan gets hit? Can we not have him hit back?” I told him, “Georgekutty is a nice guy, but he does one wrong thing and since he feels guilty about it, his conscience doesn’t allow him to hit Sahadevan back. And once Antony grasped it, he agreed with me. In most instances, producers are likely to interfere when the writer and director have no clear idea about their material.
You’ve made a lot of thrillers. Does it bother you when someone points out a logical flaw in your films?
A logical flaw is not a sin, and I try not to worry about it. I try my best to comply with the rules of logic as much as I can, but one can’t be careful all the time. Sometimes you miss certain things. Recently, I realised that I had committed a few blunders in Drishyam which only one or two people noticed. I or none of my team members thought of it in spite of reading the script and watching the film multiple times. No film is completely foolproof.
Even some of the most critically acclaimed thrillers will have at least one flaw. Take, for example, The Shawshank Redemption. In the climax, how is Tim Robbins able to put that poster back on the wall so perfectly after he got inside that hole? We are oblivious to that little detail because we are stunned by what happened in that scene. In the end, all that matters is holding the audience on the edge of their seats. It’s about the overall effect.
Most of your films are quite fast-paced. Is it a challenge to write a slow-paced film today?
If Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum has proved anything, it’s that there is an audience for slow-paced films too. I enjoyed that film a lot. It couldn’t be told in any other way. Its pace is perfect for it. Someone who enjoys a mass entertainer like Pulimurugan may not appreciate it. I’ve come across a few who told me they prefer Memories over Drishyam.
Some women feel that Mummy & Me is my best work. Different people consume their films differently. But I think the taste of audiences is slowly changing. I’m considering doing something more slow-placed in the near future. I was getting bored of doing the same thing over and over again, and I did Mr and Ms Rowdy to break that pattern. But before doing something really offbeat, I need to finish some projects I’ve already committed to, some of which are thrillers.