From hauling heavy script boxes through the rough terrains of Pollachi to now effortlessly lifting the box office with his debut film as director, Jude Anthany Joseph stands out in the Malayalam film industry as one of its most promising talents.
But then, a good cinema, as Om Shanthi Oshaana has been feted by critics, can come only from an inherent goodness. After all, here is a youngster who changed his first name to that of his patron saint not because of usual filmy superstitions but as an offering to providence, after his close friend went through a brain tumour threat and miraculously came out of it unscathed.
A former employee of Infosys, Jude’s tryst with cinema is defined by two pillars: Passion and friendship. With no film background of any sorts, he took a break from work, feigning illness, to work as an assistant director of Dileep’s movie, Crazy Gopalan.
Jude was fully aware of the inherent risks associated with the film industry but he says he enjoyed the process even if it meant having to trudge along with the massive script boxes. “Even when I was doing physical labour for the film, what I felt was a deep liking for the industry.”
Doing what he loved to do than be stuck in air-conditioned cabins performing a job half-heartedly, his decision to take the plunge into movies was further shaped by the camaraderie he shared with actors Nivin Pauly and Aju Varghese, actor-singer-writer-director Vineeth Sreenivasan and composer Shaan Rahman. All three of his friends, not surprisingly, also act in Om Shaanthi Oshaana, while Shaan composes the music.
“I instantly liked the story when Mithun Manuel (who also co-scripts the movie with Jude) narrated it to me. So did Nivin to whom I told it first. However, I suggested that we make it an inter-caste romance, not that it matters in today’s age and time, but to give the film a different sort of aura,” says Jude.
That was a master-stroke of marketing. For audiences, who perhaps expected the usual struggles and challenges in an interfaith marriage, Om Shaanthi Oshaana came as a totally novel experience because it essentially is a love story narrated from the perspective of the girl (played by Nazriya Nazim.)
Jude says he took inspiration from the diaries that his former girlfriend used to give him to read when they were deeply in love. Although they parted, Jude doesn’t forget to thank the girl with a wisecrack of a tribute at the start of the movie, “to the girl who left me at the right time!”
To further fine-tune the script and dialogues, he gave it to many female friends to read, “to ensure that the thought process and dialogues are indeed from a girl’s perspective.”
At best, Jude was confident that the film will not flounder at the box office. But the overwhelming response and the superhit status have come as a pleasant surprise, which he is relishing.
“I think the job of a director is the best,” says Jude. “You are totally occupied with the project while you are working on it and then you get this free time when you have absolutely nothing to do.”
Jude is enjoying that phase now, although he listens to a lot of stories for his next project, which he says will invariably have his favourite team – Nivin, Aju and Vineeth.
Jude says the film, despite its success, has achieved on-screen only 40 per cent of what he had conceived. “We wanted to film it in two colour tones in addition to bringing severa l other improvements. But there were a few issues relating to production that we had to pay extra attention, which was unexpected.”
As part of introducing novel elements to the film, Jude also roped in directors Lal Jose and Renji Panicker to play important roles. “Fortunately both of them agreed to do the roles readily,” says Jude.
Om Shaanthi Oshaana comes across as a clean movie, even alerting against smoking and alcohol with youthful hilarity. “There is a perception that all newcomers endorse these and that the so-called ‘new generation’ films are vulgar. We took it as a challenge ensuring that it will be a ‘clean’ movie,” says Jude.
The young man from Athani, near Aluva, has indeed defined his credentials with his directorial debut. Down-to-earth and with no airs, Jude could also be the face of Malayalam cinema’s new generation – passionate, dedicated and celebrating the joy of friendship both at work and in life.