tv & movies

It feels good that now I can be choosy about my roles: Joju George

The actor, who has had a dream run in Malayalam cinema, on playing a cop yet again in upcoming release, ‘Nayattu’ and cementing his position in the industry


If there is one artiste in Malayalam cinema inspiring aspiring actors, it would be Joju George. His journey from a junior artiste (Mazhavilkoodaaram, 1995) to one of the bankable stars in the industry has been nothing short of a dream run. Having emerged as a versatile actor, Joju is elated that he has some interesting films lined up for release. Ready to hit screens on April 8 is Nayattu, directed by Martin Prakkat.

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Joju will be seen in yet another police role in Nayattu. “I might have played over 40 police characters till date. But this is a cut above the rest. He is a hefty character, literally and figuratively. I was at my heaviest, 132 kilogram, when I did the role!” laughs Joju, adding that he is now trying to get back to shape.

Joju George, Kunchacko Boban and Nimisha Sajayan in a still from ‘Nayattu’ | Photo Credit: Anup Chacko

Without revealing much about the plot, Joju says that Nayattu is a “survival movie”, revolving around three police personnel, SI Maniyan (Joju), Praveen Michael (Kunchacko Boban) and Sunitha (Nimisha Sajayan) who are on the run. “The film also looks at the lives of policemen, up close and personal, an aspect that has been rarely explored in our cinema,” he adds.

Nayattu is scripted by real-life cop, Shahi Kabir, who wrote the thriller, Joseph, which took Joju’s career to new heights. He towered as the titular character, a retired police officer, who goes all out to unearth a crime. “I was the first one to hear the story of Nayattu, when we were working on Joseph. I love Shahi’s stories as I can easily connect with the emotions that he puts across. His characters are real and rooted… and their journey is phenomenal,” says Joju.

The actor points out that Nayattu will be a project that Malayalam cinema will be proud about. “A lot of effort has gone into the script, designing the plot, shooting location, choosing the cast…There are many new faces who have given vibrant performances. Camera, editing, soundscape, music…every department shines through,” he says. This is his first work with Martin as an actor, although they have jointly produced films such as Charlie and Udaharanam Sujatha. “When I asked him for a role in his directorial debut, ABCD, he said I was not ready! (laughs) I don’t know whether I was in his mind when he heard the story of Nayattu. Since the film has been shot in sync sound, I haven’t seen the film as a whole. But I am sure this will be a prestigious project in Martin’s career; you can see his growth as a director,” he adds.

Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan in a still from ‘Nayattu’ | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Joju admits that he still has not come to terms with the fact that he is getting to share the screen with big names in Malayalam cinema. “I’m excited when I meet them. I often wonder if it was difficult for them to accommodate an artiste like me who came into cinema playing blink-and-you-miss kind of roles,” he says.

He makes note of his recent release One, a political thriller, in which he plays Babychan, secretary of the ruling party and a classmate and close friend of Chief Minister Kadakkal Chandran, played by Mammootty. “When I used to go from one film location to another looking for roles or as a junior artiste, I would watch Mammookka [Mammootty], Lalettan [Mohanlal] and other actors from a distance. I wouldn’t dare to go near them. My friends used to come with me then. Many years later, after watching One, one of those friends told me that he had goosebumps when he heard me address Mammookka as ‘eda’ (Hey you) in a scene. Chackochan [Kunchacko Boban] was already a star when I met him the first time; he has always supported me.”

Joju’s upcoming releases are Malik, Thuramukham, Pada, Star and Oru Thathwika Avalokanam. “Besides intense characters, there are a couple of feel-good roles as well. There is Madhuram an out-an-out romantic tale directed by Ahammed Khabeer, director of June. It shows how love blooms in the lives of people of different age groups. In Peace, I play this carefree dad, who can’t wait to get married again!”

Joju George and Kunchacko Boban in a still from ‘Nayattu’ | Photo Credit: Anup Chacko

Joju is thrilled about his Tamil début in Dhanush-starrer Jagame Thanthiram, directed by Karthik Subbaraj and scheduled for an OTT release. “It is a larger-than-life character. The film happened because of Joseph and Chola (Alli in Tamil),” says Joju. He is also part of Buffoon, also from Karthik’s production house.

Meanwhile, he keeps mum about his entry into Telugu industry. “Let it be a surprise. It is a big budget project,” he chuckles.

He is a two-time winner of Kerala State film awards — in 2015 he won special jury mention for Oru Second Class Yathra and Lukka Chuppi and in 2018 for best character actor for Chola and Joseph. “It feels good that now I can be choosy about my roles instead of doing every film that comes my way. I want to keep improving myself. I feel I ought to concentrate more and look further into nuances of the characters,” he says.

Before signing off, Joju has advice for aspiring actors. “I get messages saying they have been struggling for two or three years. It took years for me to get my first dialogue and nearly two decades to get a break. It is important that you learn from the struggles, rejections and each film. If you have the right kind of approach and work hard, this is the best industry to work, for both men and women. There are enough opportunities out there…”

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