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Maximum risk

Deepa Gauri / 26 September 2013

Director Jeethu Joseph believes in taking risks, and it pays off as the success of Memories, his newest film, proves, Deepa Gauri writes

Prithviraj in Memories

JEETHU JOSEPH, THE director of Memories, now playing at UAE theatres, still remembers vividly that one conversation he watched on TV between two of India’s noted directors, Mahesh Bhatt and Shekhar Kapoor. Towards the close of the interview, Bhatt asked Kapoor what he would advise budding directors.

Jeethu says that Kapoor’s answer – to find one’s own identity and to never go by prevailing trends – continues to be his mantra.

Having worked as assistant director on just one movie earlier, the young hit-maker says he learnt the art of movies by watching them and reading extensively. So when he makes a movie, he tries to consciously move away from the genres he has worked on, and even try to challenge the prevailing trends.

In many ways, Memories, starring Prithviraj, goes against what many others in his position would have done.

The first was to opt for a deliberately different approach to the film’s poster designs. Going against the popular appeal of Prithviraj as an action-star, Jeethu infused a certain old world romantic charm to the designs.

The second was to present Prithviraj not as the brash police officer he has so effortlessly played before. In Memories, Prithviraj is rather vulnerable, battling his own demons, almost suicidal. “That was against what audiences would have expected. His character bonds with the audience; they empathise with his plight,” says Jeethu.

Releasing at a time when there were a number of biggies to compete against, Memories has emerged as the biggest Eid film, still going strong in theatres.

“Several people had advised us against releasing the film then. The only factor riding for us was that everyone associated with the film was convinced it was good. The producer stood by us, and decided that we did not have to scale back our release out of fear of its box-office prospects,” says Jeethu.

The film’s success, he says, has enhanced his respect for the audience. “They love and give due recognition for a good film.”

The story of a cop who must overcome the traumatic loss of his family, Memories is a character-driven movie, explains Jeethu. “Unlike my first film Detective, which was an investigative movie than a thriller per se, Memories has its share of gripping moments. But at the heart of it, is a family story.”

His emphasis on “family” is deliberate. “Today, attracting family audiences to movie halls is a challenge. Only films with comedy and slapstick seem to work effortlessly.”

Written by Jeethu, the film’s script was ready much before his second film Mummy & Me was made. “I had also discussed the project with Raju (Prithviraj). Since then, I did two more movies, and I was watching the other cop films he was doing. Raju too assured me that none of the police officer roles he was doing was anything like Memories.”

From an investigative thriller (Detective) to a family drama (Mummy & Me) to an out and out comedy (My Boss) and now Memories, what Jeethu has particularly focused on in every movie  is the pre and post-production aspects.

“Shooting is just executing the idea, so I make sure we fine-tune the script in pre-production stage itself,” says Jeethu, who is now directing Mohanlal for his next venture, a family drama titled Drishyam.

He also focuses on all aspects of post-production - the poster design concepts and trailers for Mummy & Me and Memories, being the best examples.

On Memories, he went an extra step. “We brought the concept of sound script, which means, the background score for every scene in the movie is pre-scripted and finalised. The composer knows exactly where there must be silence, and where a particular strain of music must be used.”

He is repeating the same concept for Drishyam too, and has sound-scripted nearly 50 per cent of the movie already.

Jeethu’s own policy towards filmmaking is to make sure that audiences don’t pan his works, and that the producer must not bear a loss. “I am not even looking for audiences to go over the top with compliments but I would never want to disappoint them.”

With Memories, he can be proud that he has ticked both the boxes, and also established his credentials as a hit-maker, a clean hat-trick to his credit.

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