By: Sarojini Chatterjee
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran, Tabu, Rajat Kapoor
Directed by: Abhishek Pathak
2022 has witnessed numerous remakes of South films in Bollywood. From Vikram Vedha to Godfather to Good Luck Jerry to HIT: The First Case to Mili, the new formula for success in Bollywood is to emulate and adapt successful South movies. And not just that, Bollywood producers are now heavily investing in more films across Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada and experimenting with scripts (such as Liger and RRR) to better understand how they can capture the interest of the audiences back. Alongside filmmakers, actors are also more open to acting in films which allows them more exposure to a varied set of viewers. Times are truly changing and with it, is the formula of a successful cinema.
The makers of Drishyam 1 (Hindi) have been an early adopter of this trend. The original Malayalam Drishyam (2013) starring the celebrated actor Mohanlal, received widespread critical acclaim with critics praising the screenplay, the performances and direction. Ensuring that the impressive script was held together by an easily compelling story, the Hindi remake also presented a notable cast featuring Ajay Devgn, Shriya Saran and the bewitching Tabu who delivered justice to the much-acclaimed crime thriller. The script of the first remake remained the same as the Malayalam original, ensuring that the tried and tested formula of writer Jeethu Joseph was not tainted with.
In 2021, Drishyam 2: The Resumption, the second instalment of the Malayalam movie was released on OTT to widespread critical acclaim, praising the story by Jeethu Joseph, the narration style and performances (especially of Mohanlal). Keeping up with the same, the Hindi remake helmed by Abhishek Pathak released in November 2022 with certain changes to the overall Malayalam story. Coiled with deceptions and twists, the latest movie veers off from the calm and compose of the first instalment and instead hinges too close to desperation and ambition.
Drishyam 2 opens seven years after its prequel when Vijay Salgaonkar (Ajay Devgn) is running a posh theatre and looking far more comfortable with his actions than the rest of his family who are swimming in emotional uncertainty. Not just a cable TV operator, now he owns his own multiplex, makes his own decisions of which movie is bound to be a hit after reviewing them and is also extremely close to his definitive dream of producing his own film. But the investigation into the murder of the son of the relentless IG Meera Deshmukh (Tabu) continues to haunt him and his family. This time around, there is a new cop in town, officer Tarun Ahlawat (Akshaye Khanna) who has steadily invested a few years into Vijay’s family to build a solid case in proving them guilty in court. What follows is a far-fetched tale of trickeries and melodrama that leans on nimble direction and an even weaker narrative.
With Drishyam 2, director Abhishek Pathak doesn’t really hit the ground running and has unnecessarily complicated a successful franchise. The choice of deviating from the original Malayalam story has resulted in a loss of intrigue that essentially glues the script together. The forced addition of bringing the abusive inspector Gaitonde back also resulted in writing off Tarun Ahlawat’s character and downplaying his substance.
Even in all its faults, the ending of film holds the viewers’ intrigue. Weaving together a tale of eccentricities, the finale is grand celebration of poetic justice as opposed to a legal judgement.
Ajay Devgn as Vijay Salgaonkar portrays gravitas but his actions do not justify his elaborate persona of not just a family man and a cinephile but also the narrative’s protagonist and antagonist, a con man, and even the narrator itself. The ordinary charm of Mohanlal’s George Kutty is difficult to emulate, but Devgn sometimes even fail to be inspired from it. However, only few actors can convey the sense of authority and control as Ajay does.
Akshaye Khanna is a promising addition and brings flavour to the film. Under the shadows of scarce character arc, his talent is left unexplored and instead viewers are left with cliches of an unremarkable genius cop playing chess with himself and saying dialogues such as “Film woh shuru karega, ending hum likhenge.” He is left to be no different from his quirky cop characters in 36 Chinatown, Ittefaq and Mom.
When one looks too closely, the lead men in the film somehow still manage to explore some growth and progress. Even in his limited screentime, Rajat Kapoor as Mahesh Deshmukh (Meera’s husband and Sam’s father) shines through with sincere remorse and yearning for closure.
Unfortunately, the women characters are even more stunted when it comes to the writing. On one hand we have Tabu as Meera Deshmukh whose mourning of the loss of her son has evolved into vengeance. On the other we have Shriya Saran playing the role of Vijay’s wife, Nandini Salgaonkar who is portrayed to be naïve to the point of foolish. The writing pushes too hard to mirror Nandini’s innocence against Meera’s cunning revenge which results in two very forgettable characters, neither of whom the audiences empathise with.
Drishyam 2 is an interesting watch for viewers who have not seen the Malayalam original. But for fans of the franchise and Mohanlal, this is a hard pill to swallow.
This is also an intriguing experiment as the year ahead promises multiple South remakes in Hindi with films like Soorarai Pottru featuring Akshay Kumar based on the Tamil original of the same name, Shehzaada the remake of Telugu film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) featuring Kartik Aryan, Gumraah the Hindi remake of Tamil film, Thadam (2019) and even the much-awaited Salman Khan starrer Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan which is an adaptation of Tamil film Veeram (2014) along with many more. With a durable script in their kitty, directors and producers are hoping to cash in on films that are hits in their original languages by remaking them for a large Hindi-speaking audience. But a successful remake needs to be looked from a lens of audience’s evolving priorities and not just star power. The trend of dusting off, recasting and replicating successful films will not be enough – it is what the filmmaker does with the original film that will keep the audiences hooked.