Ahead of the digital premiere of 12th Man on Disney+ Hotstar today, director Jeethu Joseph addressed fans with a video statement about the film. Since expectations are naturally sky high post the success of his previous collaboration with Mohanlal, Drishyam 2, Jeethu cautioned viewers against comparing his new film to the Drishyam films. “Naturally, there will be a tendency to wonder whether 12th Man would be on par with or above those films, but it’s nothing like those films. It’s slightly different from my previous work. Besides, I believe Lalettan has not done something like this before,” he says.
The script, penned by Jeethu’s friend KR Krishnakumar, was brought to him a few years back. After Jeethu found it interesting, he proceeded to flesh it out through multiple sittings. Jeethu then came up with a premise after an outline took shape. 80-90 per cent of the film takes place in a single location, a resort. This meant the makers could pull it off in a contained atmosphere during the pandemic.
On pitching the idea to Mohanlal, Jeethu said that he first detailed the scene order. “Lalettan liked the concept, but he found it too confusing at first,” recalls Jeethu, adding that it’s hard to convince someone of it by simply narrating the story. “You have to either read the script or see the film. And it has a huge ensemble cast. I would say 12 characters are the protagonists in 12th Man. We can’t call it a single hero film. It’s the story of 12 individuals. It also features a few other major actors.”
As for the genre, Jeethu calls it a “mystery, not a thriller”. “It’s in the vein of an Agatha Christie or a Sherlock Holmes story —especially the former. Its suspense is the highlight. We had discussed it with several folks and accordingly made some changes as per the feedback we received. We did some strong background work on it, and the result is there for all to see. I believe Malayalam cinema hasn’t seen a film of this pattern before.”
12th Man has Jeethu reuniting with some of the major technicians from Drishyam 2, including cinematographer Satheesh Kurup and composer Anil Johnson. The team completed shooting in 25 days. Jeethu found the experience “so much fun”. “There were a lot of night shoots. We slept during the day and then got up during the evening for the shoot. As it was the COVID time, once people got inside the resort, neither could someone go out nor in.”
12th Man’s ensemble cast also comprises Unni Mukundan, Saiju Kurup, Rahul Madhav, Anu Sithara, Leona Lishoy, Shine Tom Chacko, Anu Mohan, Anusree, Chandunadh, Santhi Maya Devi, Aditi Ravi, Veena Nandakumar, Sshivada, and Priyanka Nair.