August 15, 2020
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The trademark, heavy-lidded intensity of Ajay’s Vijay is too casual and throwaway instead of powerful and impassioned.

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Starring: Ajay Devgan, Shriya Saran, Tabu, Rajat Kapoor
Directed by Nishikant Kamat

Too much of anything can be bad. After having watched the original Drishyam in Malayalam and its Tamil version, Papanasam, there is nothing much that could hold my interest in this latest remake, in Hindi, largely because Nishikant Kamat doesn’t bring anything uniquely his own to the film. In remaining faithful to the Jeethu Joseph film, his remake also gets lacklustre and mon­otonous. However, if you are totally ignorant about this blockbuster franchisee, you might find the goings-on engaging, if not exactly riveting. It will help add­itionally if you get into the cinema hall without having read Keigo Higa­shino’s The Devotion of Suspect X, the book from which the films have taken their basic premise—of an unknowingly committed crime and clever cover-­up, the perfect alibis, the confusing evidences and the mind games.

Like the predecessors, the Hindi version too takes its time in taking off, though it eventually turns out marginally better paced. Besides, a needless rape reference gets deleted here and the setting gets shifted to a Goa village, where the ubiquitous eatery round the corner (fittingly called Martin’s Corner, a real-life Goa favourite) serves chilled beer and fried fish ins­tead of vadai and kaapi. And, yes, a new police station is under construction here as well.

Like in the other films, protagonist Vijay (Ajay Devgan) is a fourth grade dropout and a film fanatic whose entire knowledge of crime, punishment and the legal system (right down to habeas corpus) derives from the movies. He makes a living out of managing a local cable business and has a wife and two daughters who mean the world to him. His bete noire is the corrupt local cop Gaitonde. In the Tamil version, Kamalahaa­san harnessed his epic histrionics to his best so as to set apart his flamboyant Suyambulingam from Mohanlal’s muted Georgekutty. The trademark, heavy-lidded intensity of Ajay’s Vijay is too casual and throwaway instead of powerful and impassioned. Shriya, as his wife, looks way too young to carry off the role of the mother of a teen with conviction. Even the usually bankable Tabu, as the cop who locks horns with Vijay, seems strangely faded and dispassionate and Rajat Kapoor as her husband (a role that Anant Mahadevan gave his everything to in the Tamil version) seems most disinterested in all that’s happening around him. The theme of family loyalty, the clash of one family against the other, the playing off of one family’s guilt against the other’s loss and the aud­ience’s own distorted moral compass—all get portrayed rather tamely in the most significant pre-climax confrontation scene. Which had been the highpoint of Papanasam. It’s the cat ’n mouse games, twist in the tale and the final revelation that are the stuff of collective audience sighs. That too only if you are watching it for the first time.

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