This year, Joju George has appeared in Malayalam films like Nayattu and One, with Malik and Thuramukham being notable upcoming projects. He plays a London-based Sri Lankan Tamil gangster in Karthik Subbaraj's Jagame Thandhiram, his first film in Tamil. He talks about the constant barrage of messages he's been getting on social media appreciating his performance as Sivadoss and memories of the earliest Tamil films he saw, in this interview with Vishal Menon. Edited Excerpts…
It's been a week since the release of Jagame Thanthiram and everyone is talking about the performance of Jogu George. What's the response that you're receiving, especially from Tamil Nadu?
The response I am receiving is huge from cities like Chennai and Madurai in Tamil Nadu. In fact, most of the messages I get are from outside India, like Sri Lanka and Malaysia. I try to read almost every message I get and the response is huge. Many artists and technicians from the industry contacted me. It was very special when Karthik Subbaraj told me that thalaivar [Rajinikanth] watched the film and was talking about it. When I had a desire to act in films and was searching for a chance, all these people were already wonders in cinema. Of course, cinema itself is a wonder to me. Cannot really count the messages I'm receiving on social media.
Your first dialogue was in a film with Mammootty. Twenty years down, how does it feel? This kind of a turnaround of a struggling actor happens only in movies, people typically say.
It's my big luck; what else can I say? Even now when I meet these people, I feel the same excitement as before. I told Karthik Subbaraj that when I come to chennai, I want to take a photo with Thalaivar Rajinikanth. I've never met him and such people are wonders. When I work with big stars like Mammookka and Dhanush sir, I go into the sets just as a fanboy and not as a co-star. The way they talk makes us comfortable. It's heartwarming and keeps us chill throughout. The assistant directors in Jagame Thandhiram treated me like a baby when helping me deliver dialogues in Tamil. I feel lucky to be a part of all this.
Let's take a flashback: when you finished a hotel management course, what did you tell your people at home? Were you good at academics?
There was a love story in my life during that time. It was a period when people used to get married once they reached a certain age and the desire for cinema was a big crime. So, once my love story flopped, cinema was my only dream. I left home to look for a job. Hotel management was a trend back then. Though I didn't have any particular interest, I went for it because my father and relatives were in the field. Cinema was my only dream since school days. When you get out of my home and travel to either side, there's a theatre within a kilometre. It was in those theatres that I saw Tamil films like Captain Prabhakaran and Kumbakara Thangiah, which were some of the earliest Tamil films I saw. I used to lie that I was going for a prayer. We used to sing carols for nine rupees and used the money to watch movies.