Saturday, February 1, 2014

REVIEW 243: DRISHYAM

Release date:
December 19, 2013
Director:
Jeethu Joseph
Cast:

Language:

Mohanlal, Meena, Ansiba Hassan, Esther, Asha Sarath
Malayalam


Drishyam is a thriller that packs in some wonderful and some troublesome unstated observations on the hazards of modern technology and of the family in a patriarchal social set-up. The film stars Mohanlal as Georgekutty, a movie-crazy small-time businessman who grew up as an orphan in rural Kerala. Georgekutty watches films in all languages, at all times of day, deriving knowledge from them and even inspiration for his real life from various scenarios he has witnessed on screen. His wife Rani (Meena) is a homemaker whose immense fondness for her husband does not stop her from repeatedly pulling his leg about his movie mania. Their daughters Anju and Anu enjoy the perennial affectionate banter flowing between their parents.

Despite his eccentricities, Georgekutty is well-liked in the area by everyone except a local policeman Sahadevan (Kalabhavan Shajon) who is confronted for his corrupt practices by our leading man. Elsewhere in the picture is a wayward boy called Varun (Roshan Basheer) whose mother, Inspector General of Police Geetha Prabhakar (Asha Sarath), is blind to her child’s ruinous ways despite warnings from her more level-headed husband (Siddique). Georgekutty’s blissful existence is rocked when these two worlds collide unexpectedly one day.

Since Drishyam was released in Kerala a few months back, I assume most of the Malayali film buffs among you have watched it. For the benefit of those who’ve not (after all, it’s just a December 2013 release) I’ll avoid giving away too much of the plot. Let’s just say that it involves an unauthorised shoot on a cellphone, blackmail, the potential shaming of the victim rather than the perpetrator, an accidental murder and ingenious cover-up. Writer-director Jeethu Joseph’s storytelling style is so smooth that it’s hard not to be completely immersed in the film until that final, breathtakingly revelatory scene comes around right at the end.

Aiding him in this journey is some wonderfully apt casting and his own straightforward, unornamented, largely balanced writing. For instance, while it is a cellphone camera that creates havoc in the lives of the players in this film, Joseph does not fall into the trap of damning all new technology in an unthinking manner as so many conservatives tend to do. Likewise, while there is no doubt who the boss is in Georgekutty’s household – as it would be in any patriarchal family in the real world – we are also pointed in the direction of another reality: of Prabhakar and IG Geetha Prabhakar’s more liberal home where husbands and wives are equal partners, as they should be.

Where Drishyam displays undertones of gender prejudice is in the fact that while the good children in the film are children of a traditional middle-class family where the Mum does not work outside the home, the bad kid who destroys their peace of mind is Geetha Prabhakar’s son. Yes yes, I know some of you may point out that the narrative does not at any point, in so many words, accuse Ms Prabhakar of being a negligent working mother; nor does it lecture us, in so many words, about the neglect of children in homes where mothers are busy professionals; yet in a society where this is a prevalent notion, it would be naïve to deny this subliminal message being sent out by the film. The writer could have made the villainous Varun’s mother a stay-at-home mom, and his dad could have been the influential IG, without affecting the flow of events one bit; Georgekutty’s wife Rani could very well have been working outside the house; neither of these altered elements in the story would have made an iota of a difference to the impact on us of Georgekutty’s actions, but sadly – whether intentionally or unintentionally – Drishyam cashes in on widely held social stereotypes.

That being said, this is an incredibly enjoyable thriller. Drishyam is riveting from start to finish. In media interviews, Jeethu Joseph has insisted that – contrary to speculation in film viewing circles – his story was not inspired by the Japanese novel The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, which too was about the admirably systematic, highly calculated, perfect cover-up of an unplanned crime. I suppose one has to give Team Drishyam the benefit of the doubt on this one since Joseph insists that he was inspired instead by a certain real-life incident; however unconvincing that claim may seem.

The acting performances in this film are uniformly powerful, with the ever-dependable Mohanlal getting to flex his histrionic muscles in the sort of role we don’t see often enough from him these days. The children, Ansiba and Esther, have the natural ease of veterans before a camera. My pick of the cast though is Asha Sarath as Geetha Prabhakar. Her character is the least likeable of the four adult leads yet she manages to garner empathy with the shades of gray she summons up where a lazier actor may have settled for black and white.

The duality of the social comment emerging from the film is unfortunate and an important matter that merits debate; what’s beyond debate though is the fact that Drishyam is a captivating, enthralling entertainer. It’s the sort of film where you fear going out to buy popcorn during the interval because you may miss a second or two of the proceedings after the break. There’s no greater compliment than that for a thriller.

Rating (out of five): ***3/4 (Stars out of 5)

CBFC Rating (India):
U
Running time:
165 minutes



17 comments:

  1. Totally looking forward to this one!! :D

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  2. #1nenokkadine review please please madam.)))

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  3. What do u think about Meena's portrayal of Rani?

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    1. Hi Tusshar,

      I liked Meena's work in the film very much. Hope you can understand that it wasn't possible to list the entire cast individually though I liked them all, which is why I specifically commented about four of them and then added: "The acting performances in this film are uniformly powerful…"

      Regards,

      Anna

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  4. Never ever thought of such a subliminal message as u said while watching th movie.. most of us not.. who cares about who s working women and who is a nonworking women in a movie which makes us to be on the edge of seats till the end .. kudos to Jeethu Joseph for such a brilliant script and awsome exectution ..

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    1. Dear San,

      It's precisely because you "never thought of such a... message" that I used the word "subliminal" to describe it. Thank you for proving my point, even if unwittingly so.

      My review too offers kudos to Jeethu Joseph, but the fact that a film is entertaining doesn't alter the fact that it subtly makes a point about working mothers, which is particularly worrisome because in our society most people - just like you - don't care about that point.

      Regards,

      Anna

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  5. A well adapted climax,Really got thrilled by the climax scene.I would compare its climax with all time great movies like The usual suspects,the silence of the lamb ....

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  6. A well adapted climax,Really got thrilled by the climax scene.I would compare its climax with all time great movies like The usual suspects,the silence of the lamb ....

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  7. Surprised that you dint elaborate on the nuances of Mohanlal's acting prowess in the movie!! As most people know, he is the finest actor India has ever produced!!! I can assure you that noone in India can come close to what Lalettan did in pulling off the same!!!

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    1. :) Exactly how long did you want my review to be, Dear Anonymous? :) I did discuss Mohanlal's acting in my review but I'm afraid to my mind, the star of this film is Jeethu Joseph, which is why I've spent much more time discussing the direction and writing, both of which departments are the cornerstone of any film. Anyway, while I think Mohanlal is a brilliant actor, I'm afraid I disagree with your claim that he is the finest this country has ever produced - "most people know", do you say? No place for disagreement or debate? Sorry, but even looking within the Malayalam industry alone, may I ask how you ignore Madhu? Or Sharada? And 100 years of actors in so many other Indian languages? Let's agree to disagree, instead of telling people what they ought to think :) Regards, Anna

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    2. Dear Mam,
      Then i'm sure u didnt watch much malayalam films.Most of film critics had no doubt in mohanlal's versitile acting prowness.Personally i count him as the best actor in the country along with Kamal hassan.If u have time spare,please review his vanaprastham,bharatham and thanmathra.I hope u will change ur mind

      Thanks and regards,
      Sachin

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    3. Dear Sachin,

      I see… So if I say I don't think he is the finest actor the country has ever produced, you immediately jump to the conclusion that I'm saying he's not good? And if I believe there are others who have been as good or better, then you automatically patronise me and assume that I've not watched enough Malayalam films? That's a disappointing reaction, even if not entirely unexpected. You say "personally I count him as the best actor in the country…" The key word there that you probably used inadvertently is "personally". It's your personal opinion contrasted with my personal opinion about a creative person. I'm not insecure about my opinion and I am happy to respect your right to differ with me, so it's sad that your reaction is to get condescending and assume that my knowledge is limited. Love the way you assume that I've not watched the Mohanlal films you've listed here :)

      Take care,

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    4. Madam,
      First of all i never impose my personal opinion on urs and I never meant that u said lal is not good in acting.As long as we are in democratic country u can have ur personnel view and i expressed mine, so no offense in that i hope.And im serious that u should write a reviews for his vanaprastham and other art films.Atleast you can prove art films review are not always reside on the hands of intellectual movie critics(In malayalam we call "Buddhijeevi") :) "Mushinja Joobba-Katti Kannadi-Neenda Thaadi"(Their appearence).Be grateful to me for such an idea.

      Thanks and regards,
      Sachin

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  8. I just got disappointed with these lines.."The writer could have made the villainous Varun’s mother a stay-at-home mom, and his dad could have been the influential IG, without affecting the flow of events one bit; Georgekutty’s wife Rani could very well have been working outside the house"...so do you think the story could have moved very well? OR do you mean to say that that kind of strong and influential IPS women officer couldn’t have existed in real society? I"m a 27 year old male and I know how many mothers talk to some of their boys, like the same as in Varun's case, where the dad is terribly weak all areas. The film was a huge success in Kerala because it was able to connect with masses due to its naturality. Apart from that, I am always baffled at why you always do the gender carve up everytime and look only on what female gets? That’s the single reason honestly I don’t read all your reviews. I sometimes think its so biased. Other than your language, I don’t buy your ideology. So finally I want to add that whether a women being a house wife or a IPS offcier, its upto them to think about it, whether they are happy or not. Do you have any problem with happy house makers? I don’t think anybody need to grieve for them.

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