Director: Jeethu Joseph
Cast: Mohanlal, Meena, Ansiba Hassan, Esther Anil, Asha Sarath, Siddique, K.B. Ganesh Kumar
A friend and fellow journalist quipped the other afternoon, “why could they have not stopped with Drishyam 1, instead of coming out with a sequel?” She had a point. Honestly a franchise, and that is what, Drishyam, seems to be transforming into, is hard to sustain. Yes, some like the Bond series have managed to stay on without flagging. But this is more an exception.
The 2013 Jeethu Joseph's Drishyam was a phenomenal hit, and there were two important reasons for this. Police brutality in States like Kerala is no secret, and the middle class as well as the poor, have borne the brunt of this for years. The other was Mohanlal’s brilliant piece of performance, and he is arguably one of the best in India, nay the world, today, slipping into characters with amazing ease.
As Georgekutty, a man who could not even clear standard four of his school education, because of grinding poverty, he rises to own a television cable shop, and endless hours of watching films educate him in a variety of ways that comes in handy when he has to keep his small family of wife, Rani (Meena) and two daughters, Anju (Ansiba Hassan) and Anumol (Esther Anil), safe.
When Varun, the arrogantly brash teenage son of the Inspector-General of Police (Geetha Prabhakar playing Asha Sarath), takes a picture of Anju while she is bathing during a school picnic and blackmails her into sleeping with him, things go horribly wrong. Anju in an act of defence kills the boy, and all hell breaks loose.
Georgekutty is not a man to be cowed down, and the rest of the movie is an exciting game of how he foxes the cops and saves his family. The twist, in the end, is simply superb.
Drishyam was remade in several languages – Tamil with Kamal Hassan essaying Mohanlal’s character, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Sinhalese and even, believe it or not, Chinese. All of them did extremely well, with audiences everywhere rooting for Georgekutty and his family.
It, therefore, came as no surprise that Joseph would work on a follow-up, Drishyam 2, which has just dropped in Amazon Prime. In Malayalam with the same star cast, Mohanlal and others, the movie, I felt, has a lost a bit of its pulse-pounding excitement that was pretty much evident in the first part.
Here Georgekutty (Mohanlal again) has risen up the ladder; he owns a theatre and drives a swanky car. He has started to drink, much to the annoyance of his wife, Rani (again played by Meena). But he soothes her by saying that when he is with friends from the cinema world, a bit of alcohol helps.
The man nurses an ambition. He has a story and script ready, and is on the lookout for a producer. The plot has been published in the form of a book, and later, this will turn the tide in his favour. The old case of Varun's disappearance, with his body never being found -- although audiences would remember that it was buried under the newly constructed police station, a place that the men in khaki would never dream of looking – is still the subject of local gossip, Georgekutty's rising prosperity fuelling jealousy as well.
When a new police chief takes charge in Georgekutty's town, the case against him is reopened, and the cat-and-mouse game begins with the teenager's parents flying down from the US, where Asha Sarath and her husband had migrated to.
Georgekutty's peaceful family life once again comes under scrutiny, with Anju having developed epilepsy following the traumatic police interrogation in part one of Drishyam. Her condition, pushed by new fear, worsens, but Georgekutty had taken a pledge that, come what may, he would protect his family.
Drishyam 2 narrates how he does this, though this part lacks a bit of the pulse-pounding excitement we saw in the first edition. There are a couple of situations that are somewhat hard to believe, and the courtroom scene is terribly dull.
While Mohanlal sparkles with his cunning outsmarting cops in ways they could never even dream of, the other actors really do not match up to him. In the end, it falls upon him to carry the film on his shoulder.
Drishyam may or may not have another part. Who knows! For, the work illustrates a common man's middleclass dreams, aspirations and fears – which are universal. It is also about how he feels uncomfortable with the police. Little wonder, then, we root for Georgekutty, we forgive him for his misdeeds, because he is out to keep his family out of harm's way. And for the world, the family is still precious. Is it not?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author of a biography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan)