Comparing Visithiran and Joseph, Film Companion

Transcript of Hariharan Krishnan’s Video 

Joseph is made by M Padmakumar in Malayalam, and Visithiran, a remake of Joseph, is directed by the same director in Tamil. Obviously, they have seen the earlier successful films such as Drishyam which was remade in Tamil as Papanasam and in other languages. So probably in that kind of outlook, they would’ve said let’s make a film that will be multilingual. So here you have Joseph made in Malayalam by the same director M Padmakumar who also made it as Visithiran in Tamil. They are absolute, shot-by-shot copies, but how different? 

M Padmakumar’s Joseph is a huge success in Malayalam in Kerala while Visithiran disappears without a trace. And I was intrigued — How did this happen, how can an exact copy disappear like this? The first rule for me when I see a film is who has done it. When a deep complicated murder mystery is happening there, the most important thing I have learned from other films is that the primary leading character has to be very endearing. For example, when you see a James Bond movie and you see Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig you see the actors as very endearing people. They are not relying on big armies trying to help them out, they do everything on their own. 

Similarly, when you see Sherlock Holmes, you know he does it on his own. Hercule Poirot, he does it on his own. So similarly, it is in that genre of a single person wanting to go and find out how his girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his daughter died in some kind of freak accidents. 

 

So, the primary character has to be very endearing. So, you have JoJu George in the Malayalam version and you have RK Suresh in the Tamil version. George as joseph comes through as so endearing, he is so warm. The song sequence, in the beginning, makes him sing a song and he’s laughing, he’s kind of taking himself on the charisma of Mohanlal. Whereas RK Suresh here has no precedent. He looks very grim, very dull, and completely unmotivated. So, when your primary narrator is so unmotivated how do you go through this. And then comes a rather complicated what I would say cultural area. The Kerala culture versus the Tamil culture. You can see there is a cultural shift here. M Padmakumar who has made a success in the Malayalam film is unable to somehow cater to the Tamil landscape. What are some of the serious differences? 

Representation and Relatability

The first thing is that in Malayalam you take it for granted, the audience takes it for granted that Christians are part of their community. So, it’s a film set in an entirely Christian community, everybody is Christian in the film.  The Malayalee audiences have kind of embraced them into their fold. Whereas Christians in Tamil cinema are not so easily adapted. You know very few films in Tamil cinema actually have Christian characters. They are all Hindu characters. That’s the first problem. 

Differing Views on Drinking

The second problem is that in the Kerala ethos when men sit down and drink it seems to be a very normal activity. A very healthy, normal activity. They keep drinking, talking, and guffawing. Whereas in Tamil cinema if men get to drink, they are always seen as crooked people, gangsters, and rowdies, why men should drink like this. Whereas in the Kerala cinema, it seems to be normal. 

Religious Worship

The next is there is a religious thing. So, there is a worship of Jesus Christ and the mother Mary seems to be very normal. But here M Padmakumar wants to somehow say that “hey he is part of this atmosphere” – a Tamil atmosphere. So, he has made RK Suresh, his primary character playing Mayan, worshipping both Christ and Murugan at the same time. Why would he do that? 

Comparing Visithiran and Joseph, Film Companion

Native Style

The next is the native styles. In the Malayalam film, you have a typical song that is sung at all these weddings and they wear this typical white saree with golden brown embroidery and then they go and dance. It looks very natural. On the other hand, in the Tamil film, a similar sequence has some kind of a Bollywood dance style, which is so out of place.

Women Characters

The Christian women characters in the Malayalam film seem to naturally blend into their atmosphere. Whereas the heroine of the Tamil film Visithiran stands out like a sore thumb. She’s so fair, so different from everybody on the screen. So, she simply doesn’t match into that film.

So, I find these as some of the problems when you do a cultural shift from Malayalam into Tamil. 

Framing

There are these serious problems with the framing and the way you light up. So, in the Malayalam film, for example, there is this hospital sequence. It is set so natural and looks like an old bungalow that has been converted into a hospital. It’s warm and you go in there without actually anticipating that there is going to be any problem here. You just feel, “okay this is a hospital” and you go with the characters, but actually, the hospital is holding a very deep mystery. They are trading body organs in very vicious ways which these poor characters have no clue about. 

But in the Tamil film, the hospital comes through as cold, blue, and almost making you suspect that there is some problem here. And the problem is amplified by this character called Peter played by Bagavathi Perumal in the Tamil film. In the Malayalam film, the character played by Peter does not come through as a possible murderer. But when you see Bagavathi on the screen you think, “Did this guy kill those women”. 

Comparing Visithiran and Joseph, Film Companion

Now, these are some of the problems that I think M Padmakumar has completely overlooked and he has shown to the audience but they simply could not take this film. So, it’s a great lesson, because the film is already announced for remake in Kannada and Hindi versions. These directors have to pull their socks and say let’s do a better job in the next language version.  

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