Reviews

Drishyam: Stirring soul in a bland body

Among many things, a remake is about looking at a piece with a fresh pair of eyes. It is not where you take things from; it is about where you take them to. But director Nishikant Kamat doesn’t seem to agree with Godard. He stays so true to the Malayalam original which has already been remade into Tamil, Kannada and Telugu that it almost becomes a carbon copy. In fact, there is a Gulzar song in the film which talks about carbon copy. Copy it is, but a diminished one for a lot has been lost in translation and one of them is the social connection with the characters, which is the hallmark of the original.

In times when Hindi cinema is embracing realism like never before, Kamat’s version looks staged, reeks of unwarranted manipulation. Wish there were a carbon paper which organically transposed the characters and cultural roots according to a new setting and a new audience.

Reset in Goa, it is about Vijay Salgaonkar (Ajay Devgn), a school dropout who runs cable business in a small town away from the beaches and bikini side of the tourist spot. Obsessed with films, for Vijay cinema is an alternative school. A family man who dotes on his wife and children, his life goes topsy-turvy when one night an unwanted guest invites himself to his house and puts the family honour at stake leading to unexpected end. Or is it the beginning!

It is about Meera Deshmukh (Tabu) as well. A tough police officer, who. like Vijay doesn’t always go by the book, cracks when her motherly side takes over. At one level it is a clash between two families and another it is a class war where Vijay is judged to be dumb because of his lack of formal education. And when the common man uses his mind as the weapon, it makes for a fascinating story.

However, Kamat takes a long time in coming to the point and those 40-odd minutes of build-up –– establishing Vijay’s credentials as a social, worldly wise being are insipid. Kamat and his crew, which includes the much-feted cinematographer Avinash Arun, neither go for a good old school melodrama nor do they create a smart cut-to-cut breathless thriller. He doesn’t try to tie the loose ends in the original. Like when they get into trouble, why don’t the mother and daughter seek the advice of the husband, who makes most of the decisions at home. He doesn’t seek to reinterpret the gender roles either. What if a mother stands for the family? And the atonement bit which seemed integral in the original, comes across only as an add on here.

As the tone becomes uneven, it becomes difficult to invest in characters. The family doesn’t look like that it belongs to this small town of Pandolim. That they haven’t shopped in the last six months. Costumes don’t make you belong nor does the constant reminder that we are watching school drop-out and his 10th-pass wife. It is the body language, the accent and that something extra that make visuals deceptive. Here Shriya Saran as Vijay’s wife overdoes it and Ajay Devgn in an attempt to underplay reduces acting to a bland chore. The two crucial scenes: one where the mother and daughter plead to the boy not to blackmail them and the second when the youngest member of the family is tortured are treated in a ham-handed manner.

But then you can’t make a bad film with Jeethu Joseph’s almost water-tight story which has elements of Japanese film “Suspect X”. He combines family and thriller so well that it seems they are made for each other. Once again how the narrative shifts genres is spell binding. The film talks about visual memory and how seeing is believing. It quietly slips in how voyeurism is gathering mass in young minds and how upbringing is crucial in times when the society is on the cusp of change.

Amidst this tonal shift, Tabu gets a measure of IG Meera Deshmukh. She shows how to underplay without becoming a piece of furniture. She is restrained in her show of power and genuine in her emotional breakdown. You can’t take your eyes off her in the final scene in which she doesn’t have to utter a single word. On paper it belongs to Ajay but on screen it is Tabu who walks away with it. And even when she is effortlessly seeking attention, the underrated Rajat Kapoor excels as the husband who retains his sanity amidst the moral chaos.

Watch it for them, watch it if you haven’t watched the original.


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Printable version | Jun 8, 2021 11:38:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/stirring-soul-in-a-bland-body/article7486185.ece

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