Abhishek Pathak’s Drishyam 2, the remake of the 2021 Malayalam crime thriller of the same name written and helmed by Jeethu Joseph, has got off to a flying start. Collections of more than Rs 15 crore in India on the first day itself and excellent viewer feedback indicate that the film will be a long-distance runner at the box office.
Apart from its strengths, the Hindi version of the new release will benefit from the popularity of Drishyam, its 2015 predecessor directed by the late Nishikant Kamat, which was also a remake of the 2013 Malayalam film of the same name written and directed by Joseph.
Pathak, the commander-in-chief, navigates his ship skilfully, re-creating the remake of the original film set in Kerala in the culturally different environment of Goa. Akshaye Khanna’s performance as the Inspector General with an attitude — and a rapidly ticking mind — can make the viewer wonder why he appears in films so infrequently. The story starts slowly, but its gripping last half an hour defines the class of a well-scripted crime thriller in which most of what has occurred earlier has for a reason.
Drishyam 2 has hit the marquee in the age of OTT platforms, a change facilitated by the compulsion of staying imprisoned in our homes during the nationwide pandemic-induced lockdown. Addicted to films in languages other than their own during that cursed period, many have, therefore, seen Jeethu Joseph’s Malayalam offering with Mohanlal as the protagonist Georgekutty after its direct-to-digital release on Amazon Prime. These viewers would be aware of how the character brings out every weapon from his mind’s arsenal and unleashes them on those wanting to take his family to task for an accidental murder by Anju, his elder daughter.
The triumph of Drishyam 2’s Hindi version is that it ensures that an awareness of how the story will broadly progress does not result in less interest in the proceedings. The remake, in other words, is a well-made film with a distinct appeal of its own.
In the first film, Vijay’s elder daughter Anju hits a boy on his head with a rod after the latter blackmails her with a video clip that shows her having a bath during a nature camp. All she wants to do is take away the cell phone that has the video clip, and her desperation leads to the boy’s instant death. What happens in a fraction of a second would become a life-changing experience for the Salgaonkar family.
If the Malayalam Drishyam films belong to Mohanlal, Ajay Devgn is equally terrific as Vijay Salgaonkar in their Hindi versions. Mohanlal is, of course, known to excel in films with good scripts helmed by equally good directors, while Devgn has his own history of delivering in serious roles when the maker and writer get it right. His Vijay in Drishyam 2 has grown older and prosperous. He is a movie hall owner and wants to produce a film. The Salgaonkar family seems to be experiencing a phase of calmness, but one can sense that turmoil is a while away.
That happens, turning their lives upside down, only to reveal that Vijay has played his cards shrewdly and readied himself to face the worst. The manner in which he manipulates the gullible and stays one step ahead of the law form the core of the story about a determined person’s triumph over a system that is not always right.
Like Georgekutty, Vijay is a complex character. They are two like-thinking people with different personalities who are trapped in the same set of circumstances. Fiercely protective about his family, calculating in his interactions, Vijay, like Georgekutty, wants to produce a film someday. Devgn lives his role, making his character as memorable as Mohanlal’s from the original. The remake works mainly because of him — with help from Khanna and Tabu — the latter shining in her role as she usually does.
The success of Drishyam 2 gives rise to the obvious question. Should Bollywood continue to make remakes, considering so many of them have failed in recent times? It can, occasionally and cautiously, without making them every-other-week affairs.
The author, a journalist for three decades, writes on literature and pop culture. Among his books are ‘MSD: The Man, The Leader’, the bestselling biography of former Indian captain MS Dhoni, and the ‘Hall of Fame’ series of film star biographies. Views expressed are personal.
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