The press that Adoor Gopalakrishnan inaugurated

Jose Joseph, the founder of Printers Castle in Ernakulam, passed away on 15 January 2015. Ramu Ramanathan finds out about the man of many parts; and why he is adored in Kerala

08 Jun 2023 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Jose Joseph: 25 December 1942 to 15 January 2015

Adoor Gopalakrishnan was very popular after the release of his first feature film, Swayamvaram in 1972. It was Prof Peter L Attipetty who introduced Adoor Gopalakrishnan to Jose Joseph. On his request, Adoor Gopalakrishnan consented to inaugurate the press. It was a simple ceremony where Adoor Gopalakrishnan lit the lamp, and sweets were distributed. Biju Jose, who was only three years old, says he has no memory of the momentous day.

Jose Joseph started the press with his wife, Daisy Jose, as its proprietor. Biju Jose says “In those days, the Indira Gandhi government encouraged women entrepreneurs and gave them special incentives to start an industry. My mother, till date, continues to be the proprietor of Printers Castle, though she hardly has any involvement in the daily activities of the press.”

Printers Castle printed flyers, newsletters, posters, and journals related to movies. Equally importantly, Printers Castle was also an adda. A meeting place for prominent writers, script writers, scholars and journalists. Biju Jose says, “The meetings took place in my father’s office room after office hours. Printers Castle first began operating at rented premises belonging to my grand uncle at Convent Road, Ernakulam, which was very near to the very famous St Teresa’s all-girls college. That was a possible reason which attracted his young friends to assemble in front of the press even before office hours ended.”

Victor Leenus, a Malayalee author, was a very close friend of Jose Joseph. Through Jose Joseph, Printers Castle became a meeting point for writers and scholars. Some of the usual suspects were: Victor Leenus, Raphael Joseph (Ponjikkara Rafi), Mohanachandran, John Abraham, John Paul, and NM Mohan (Poompaatta Mohan). Apart from these names there was, Ashraf Padiyath (uncle of Director Kamal), Artist Kitho, Vaikom Chandrasekharan Nair, R Gopalakrishnan, lyricist Mullanezhi, the sports journalist Babu Mather, Sebastian Paul (former MP) and so on.

Biju Jose says, “The discussions ranged from literature to family issues. Books, stories, politics, religion, movies, art, and culture were some of the subjects they enjoyed discussing and debating. All of them were in a friendly atmosphere. I am uncertain if we have the patience to conduct such discussions cordially.” He adds, “While discussing movie scripts, someone read aloud the script, and the listeners pointed out the errors and changes required. Something that remains in my mind is a script reading session, where someone reads, “Radha (the heroine) gets down from the train looking tired. She slowly walks out of the railway station carrying a bag on her shoulder. She stops in front of a bunk and asks for a soda. The shopkeeper opens the soda and hands it to her. She collects it and proceeds to wash her face with it.” On cue, someone shouted, “No... no... how can our heroine wash her face? She will ruin her makeup”. Biju says, it was a small lesson on how to zoom in on finer details of a screenplay.

Jose Joseph and the technicolour printing press
When I ask Biju Jose why did his father start Printers Castle in 1973? he replies, “His love for books and magazines might have been the main reason for his passion for the printing press. Jose Joseph was a voracious reader. He read anything and everything, from the Bible to Harold Robbins. Apart from the books, he used to read tons of magazines. He loved subjects related to sociology and theology. I cannot pinpoint any particular author he loved. But he had a good collection of books written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and C Radhakrishnan.

Before starting the press, he managed the rubber estates of KJ Joseph & Company (refer to the box item). A fallout with my grandfather regarding the sale of a particular estate might have fuelled his thought for starting a printing press. My grandfather was never in-sync with the idea of a printing business.”

Everyone says your father was a successful print firm owner. In what way, I asked Biju? He says, “His attention to detail and uncompromising attitude toward good quality products would be the reason. He would get upset when someone pointed out a small mistake in the printed product, even a minor spelling mistake. That attitude rubbed onto the employees, and they strived to deliver superior quality. This reputation brought in many customers.”

Biju says, “My father always believed that printing was a noble profession. He considered it on par with teaching. As per his interpretation, a doctor, an engineer, or a legal professional had to be taught the profession by a teacher. But for the teacher or the student, the source of information mainly came from a book or a publication, which we printed. Times have changed, but I still believe in his mantra and consider printed products the primary source for getting reliable information and attaining knowledge.”


Adoor Gopalakrishnan inaugurating the press in 1973


 Jose Joseph with the newly elected office bearers of KMPA in 2014