June 02 2020
Lijo Jose Pellissery, bleeding raw brilliance
17 December 2018

One more superb film, three best director awards: Lijo Jose Pellissery is on a roll

Sorry guys, no plans to change, no plans to impress,” posted Lijo Jose Pellissery when Double Barrel, his star-studded spoof, tanked at the box office. The film came after the phenomenal Amen, when the world was expecting another rich-and-textured visual treat from him. Then came Angamaly Diaries, a crime drama bleeding raw brilliance, followed by Ee.Ma.Yau, which marked him out as a master of stylistic elegance. “Like all others, this too is a highly subjective exercise,” says Lijo about Ee.Ma.Yau, which won him Best Director at the 49th International Film Festival of India, and earlier at the 48th Kerala State Film Awards. And now three top awards at the International Film Festival of Kerala.

He has made only six films so far, but they all revel in humour and originality, exuding a kind of crazy energy that’s equally engaging and understated. Lijo calls cinema a very weird space where an entire crew marches towards its mission from various points. “The director designs cinema,everyone else follows his vision,” he says. Lijo doesn’t believe in the mainstream/ art-house divide and says he just wants his works to reach the most number of people. “For me, there are only two kinds of cinema — good and bad.”

Screen idioms

Lijo’s films are packed with allusions and tributes. His references, like the card players in Ee.Ma.Yau, often resonate with his characters’ inner turbulence. He agrees that exposure to a string of screen idioms has been crucial in shaping his craft. “There was a time when we had no access to world cinema, but now the space is much more elaborate. Now you are exposed to a spectrum of cinematic imagination from all parts of the globe. A lot of people are experimenting with the possibilities of visual language now.”

Flawed heroes

From his very first Nayakan, Lijo has taken on the best talents in the industry, eking out incredible performances from his cast. He always makes sure his flawed heroes have an actor that suits them best. In Angamaly Diaries, he launched 86 new actors. Lijo says he offered the lead role in Ee.Ma.Yau. to Chemban Vinod, as he could easily imagine him as Eesi, the desperate and grief-stricken son in the film.

The way he dabbles in dark humour, especially when dealing with faith, is impressive. “Christian archetypes and motifs have been a part of my growing up years and it’s only natural for them to find a place in my films. Sarcasm is my favourite form of humour and my films reflect my position on things like religion or church. How can I bring in an element I don’t believe in?” There’s a strong streak of aggression in his films, a sense of gloom that permeates the narrative, including the soundscape and framing. But Lijo says he simply documents the world around him. “I portray society as I see it.”

Territorial nuances

Kumarankari, Angamaly and Chellanam — all three locales throb with territorial nuances and subtle detailing. “There are so many stories, and I go for those I can connect with and recreate on screen. You cannot fill your frames with that slice-of-life flavour without long hours of observation. Your raw material can come from a variety of sources and the challenge lies in piecing them together. I am a lazy reader and I usually get my fill from observing people,” he says.

Every single one of his stories is different and now the director is busy filming his latest titled Jallikattu. Lijo never divulges the details about upcoming projects, safeguarding the storyline till the day it hits the theatres. Ask him about Jallikattu and all he says is, “It’s a man-and-animal themed film and there is nothing more to say about it.”



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