nobody movie_Jana Gana Mana is a thriller through and through: Dijo Jose Antony

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Four years after the release of the campus film Queen, director Dijo Jose Antony is back with another film called Jana Gana Mana. Unlike his first film, Dijo’s second directorial film is set on a wider screen, starring established actors such as Prithviraj, Suraj Venjaramoodu and Mamta Mohandas. In the trailer, Prithviraj asks a government official: “Here they will ban notes and can even ban voices, nobody is there to ask.” As Prithviraj leaves the official’s room, there is an explosion in the office. The trailer has sparked discussions with many saying the film will make a strong political statement on the country’s current political climate. However, Dijo has refuted such claims, saying that Jana Gana Mana is an entertainer through and through. In this interview with indianexpress.comDijo talks about his new film Jana Gana Mana, the politics of the film and his plans for the future.

How did Jana Gana Mana come about?

After Queen we had discussed many projects with different artists but then Covid happened. That’s when Sharis Mohammed, one of the co-writers of Queen, approached me with the plot of this film. After he explained the plot in five minutes, I was excited. Then we worked on it and made a detailed story out of it. After that we met the actors we wanted to cast and Jana Gana Mana took off.

What can you tell us about Jana Gana Mana?

Jana Gana Mana is a genuine thriller that offers entertainment without wearing down the viewer at any point. The film is set in Karnataka, with many characters speaking in Tamil and some characters speaking in Hindi. Therefore, Jana Gana Mana cannot be called a regional film. We planned the film in two parts, but we haven’t shot the second part yet. We only shot a few sequences of the second part because it was essential for the first part.

Her first film was full of newcomers. As for the second film, you’ve established the cast and crew. What difference did you feel in the two projects?

Everyone says the second film is more important than the first film. Every film is important to me. In my first film, all the newcomers, including me, were cinematographers, producers and actors. We had different kinds of challenges back then. When we came to Jana Gana Mana, we had experienced artists and the challenges were different. Jana Gana Mana is a bigger film in terms of budget, screen and the way it is told. The most difficult challenge was undoubtedly Covid. There were crowded sequences and it was difficult to manage such situations under Covid restrictions. We initially had a shoot for 12 days. After that many of us including Prithviraj got Covid and the shoot was delayed. Then we shot for 3 days and again there was a gap. We shot again for 28 days. We shot for a total of 80 days with breaks of 3 to 4 months in between. So artist availability was a pain point. But because of those gaps and delays, we didn’t compromise on any aspect of the film. We released the film’s teaser in 2021 and expect the film to be released in the same year. But the project was delayed. We didn’t rush the project to finish it on time. My motto is – if we make a film, then to your satisfaction. Of course there was pressure from the artists and producers, but I was sure of how my film was supposed to be and I’m confident that it turned out the way I envisioned it.

Although Queen was a campus film, the climax sequences raised some questions about gender equality. After watching the trailer for Jana Gana Mana, one gets the feeling that the film is trying to make a political statement. Do you agree?

I won’t say that. We didn’t market Queen as a film that talked about gender politics. We projected this film as a campus film. In the climax, in the courtroom scenes, a lawyer, played by Salim Kumar, asks these gender equality questions. We didn’t place it intentionally; it’s a character asking those questions. Similarly, in this film too, there are many characters who have gone through many painful situations, and these characters have their politics. I will not make a film to sell my political point of view. Of course I have my politics. However, my films do not represent my political stance, they only aim to entertain the viewers.

After the dialogue said by Prithviraj’s character in the trailer, it feels like a specific political party is being targeted. Also, we all know who banned the currency. Does Jana Gana Mana plan to make a political statement?

This is a dialogue that reflects the times we live in. It’s nothing that didn’t happen, right? We have experienced these situations ourselves. After watching the trailer, one of my friends said he felt something similar when trying to get his son into a school. They made him work a lot for a recording and in the end my friend felt like bombing the school building. That was the emotion he went through and similarly Prithviraj’s character went through some painful emotions before saying that dialogue. If you, the viewer, feel that the dialogue is aimed at anyone, there might be some truth to that. Apart from that, we do not intend to attack any particular political party or ideology.

Do you fear controversy after the film’s release?

There will be no controversy.

Her leading actor Prithviraj is the producer of the film. He’s also a director. Did he interfere in your work?

Prithviraj has not interfered in anything, but he has certainly made valuable contributions. You see, he’s someone who has a very busy schedule. We are lucky to have him as an actor in this film. He just comes, plays his part and goes. He doesn’t have the time to analyze every shot we take. But as we told him the story, he shared two observations. They were very valid points that we included in the film. He didn’t interfere in dialogues or anything like that. This is not a Prithviraj film through and through like you would expect.

The Prithviraj-Suraj Venjaramoodu combination worked well on the driver’s license. Did you cast her because of the previous success of this combo?

No, that’s not why we cast Prithviraj and Suraj Venjaramoodu. You’ll know why we cast her after you see the film. The character that Suraj plays in this film doesn’t work when played by another actor. The same goes for Prithviraj’s character. There’s a reason I cast her for these particular roles, and you’ll know it once you watch the film. In fact, there’s a chance there won’t even be a scene where these actors are together.

How was working as a director with Prithviraj and Suraj Venjaramoodu?

Both have distinctive styles. Suraj Venjaramoodu will accompany me during the shoot. He will keep asking how to do a certain scene. Even after a shot he will be with me and often crack jokes. I enjoy this aspect of Surajettan. Meanwhile, Prithviraj comes to the location, finishes his shot and goes back to his trailer. Both are willing to take multiple shots if I ask for it. Both are brilliant professionals, but their approach is different. That explosion scene in the trailer was one shot and we were all so excited that it went so perfectly, but Prithvi says, “Everything went well, didn’t it? Can I go now?”

It is your second film with screenwriter Sharis Mohammed. How does your chemistry work?

Sharis Mohammed is someone special to me because he was the one I started my cinematic journey with. After Queen he wrote Adya Ratri and Elam Sheriyavum. Jana Gana Mana is his fourth film. He knows me very well and what kind of story excites me.

Do you see cinema as a business or as an art form?

I’m still a beginner. I still can’t imagine going to the cinema in business. But I’m learning from people like Prithviraj who see cinema as a business. Cinema only succeeds because of people like you. This film will not be possible without Prithviraj or Listin Stephen. So I respect them and learn from them. At the moment cinema is still a dreamland for me. My films are like a dream come true. When I watch my film in the cinema, I realize that my dream has come true.

When I think about the business aspect, I will try to compromise on many other aspects. There will be no difference between what I do and the production houses. I like to wear the director’s hat where I can visualize things and request what is needed for my film.

Prithviraj has announced that Jana Gana Mana will have a second part. When can we expect the second part?

If Jana Gana Mana becomes a super hit upon its release, there will surely be a part two. So the second part depends on the success of the first part. I have already announced a film with Tovino Thomas called Pallichattambi. There is a film with Kunhacko Boban and a project with mammoth is in the discussion phase.

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