Petty quarrels among family members in one’s own home may seem a big deal until one sees the same happening in another home. And the last two years have seen many of those alongside the more serious ones. Director Arun D Jose has focussed on the former in his maiden feature, Jo and Jo.
One needn’t worry even when things get serious in his film. Although I found the trailer solid, I approached Jo and Jo with a minor feeling of trepidation. I expected it to be just another ‘friendship’ film recycling ideas we have seen numerous times in other films. Yes, the latter is indeed true of Jo and Jo, but it isn’t an unremarkable film.
The setting is a typical lower-middle-class household with characters that resemble your neighbours.
The key players: Johny Antony as the father; Sminu Sijo as the mother. Siblings: Nikhila Vimal, daughter; Mathew Thomas, son. The daughter, Jomol, takes tuition to occupy herself and to make a bit of income on the side. The son, Jomon, is slacking at home and occasionally goes out with his buddies (Naslen K Gafoor and Melvin G Babu). It’s the lockdown. Bored, these boys are looking for ways to maintain their sanity.
Anyone who had, on occasion, spent a major chunk of their adolescence with their parents and siblings will understand the frustration of being under their ‘surveillance’. It’s not easy. One is amazed at how Arun D Jose and co-writer Raveesh Nath extract multiple jokes (not always the laugh out loud variety) out of such mundane instances. Of course, I’m not going to ruin the gags that worked for me.
But Jo and Jo works even when you separate the jokes. One finds much delight in watching the laidback banter between such naturally gifted actors as Naslen, Mathew and Melvin. Humour also comes from having around an NRI ‘parishkari’ character (Sagar Surya). These actors don’t repeat what they did in Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, but Jo and Jo shares its vibe with that film.
I think the aptest comparison would be the 1995 film Friday, starring Chris Tucker and Ice Cube. In that film, Cube, after losing his job, lounges around in his parents’ home and engages in silly shenanigans with Tucker and an assortment of other amusingly quirky characters.
We also find Nikhila giving, in my book, not just the best of her career but also an incredibly witty, fierce, and mischievous performance. The ‘espionage’ activities of Jomol and her rival brother form some of the film’s finest moments. I particularly enjoyed the bit where Naslen claims to know how to hack WhatsApp and then goes on to do something that might make you spill your popcorn. Johny Antony and Sminu Sijo play the kind of parents you get angry with today and make up with tomorrow. Talk about a great time at the movies.
Film: Jo and Jo
Director: Arun D Jose
Cast: Nikhila Vimal, Mathew Thomas, Naslen K Gafoor, Melvin G Babu, Johny Antony, Sminu Sijo, Sagar Surya