Director: Abhishek Pathak
Writer: Aamil Keeyan Khan and Abhishek Pathak
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran
The movie takes us back to the world of Vijay Salgaonkar. It’s been seven long years since we had seen him hoodwink the police and get away with murder. A lot has changed since. But has it?
Vijay is now the owner of a movie theatre, he is an affluent man, but he still runs the cable TV business. The village has hardly changed; the movie theatre is the only change in the landscape. The canteen still looks the same and serves the same purpose as the cafes in the Tarantino movies. But the conversations that happen inside reflect signs of change—earlier Vijay was one of them and people rallied next to him in his quest to prove himself innocent, but now that he has climbed up the social ladder, his every action is met with suspicion. All is not well on the home front either. There is a growing disconnect between him and his wife, and worse, his elder daughter is suffering from serious PTSD. But Vijay seems unperturbed by all these goings-on. He is planning to turn into a movie producer and is working with a writer on the script. Suddenly, a new police inspector, IG Tarun Ahlawat (Akshaye Khanna), an ex-colleague of Meera Deshmukh (Tabu), comes to town. He seems to be hell-bent on digging up the skeletons of his past, quite literally. Meera also returns. They along with Sub-Inspector Laxmikant Gaitonde reopen the case. Would their dedication and hard work manage to bring the criminal to justice this time?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But then, it is great to have the spirit and guts to experiment, but not all experiments work. And this one doesn’t. The main problem with the remake is that nothing really happens in the first hour. Even the original had a slow first half, but the world it had managed to build in that duration—the sensitive portrayal of PTSD, the realistic take on the workings of the village grapevine, the depiction of how an upgrade in social and financial status breeds jealousy and changes the society’s perspective of an individual, etc–was far more rooted, layered and organic than what we see in the remake. The remake fails to utilize Jeethu Joseph’s extremely well-crafted original story to its full potential by focusing too much on ticking the boxes and touching the main plot points instead of building an environment for the story to breathe. Abhishek Pathak, who along with his dad, Kumar Mangat Pathak, and Ajit Andhare, had co-produced the remake of the first installment of Drishyam in 2015 (the film was helmed by the late Nishikant Kamat), is the director of Drishyam 2. In his very second directorial (he had made his debut with Ujda Chaman), this 35-year-old seems to have taken up too huge a challenge, a challenge he might not be fully equipped to handle. It seems he has not fully understood the Drishyam world and merely tried to use the story to churn out a commercially successful smart movie that is high on background score and stylized visuals.
Ajay Devgn enters the movie with his signature swagger. His Vijay Salgaonkar is markedly different from Mohanlal’s Georgekutty and it is by design. But both are equally effective in their own space. Devgn lives and breathes the character, and he does so with effortless ease and easy charm. He is sharp as Vijay Salgaonkar. However, this cannot be regarded as one of the career-best performances of this multiple National Award-winning actor who has films like Zakhm, Omkara, Company, and the likes to his credit. The 7-year time jump is reflected in his beard and a fuller face and affluence but not so much in his demeanor.
Tabu, who made her debut in Vijaypath (1994) opposite Ajay Devgn and has collaborated with the actor at regular intervals, has matured into one of the finest performers of our times excelling at playing complex characters. Although her Meera Deshmukh gets a much shorter screen time in the sequel, Tabu aces each scene making it an Ajay Devgn-Tabu movie.
But the problem is that it is also trying too hard to be an Akshaye Khanna movie. The actor enters the Dhrishyam universe as IG Tarun Ahlawat. The actor loses his wig, maintains his swag, and oozes confidence, but his performance comes across as a tad wooden. One feels that it is the director’s attempt and need to give Khanna the same importance as Devgn, and pit them against each other as stars, which somewhat spoils the impact of the movie. Unlike in the original, the focus is not on the police procedure but to build Khanna’s Tarun Ahlawat as a brooding and shrewd supercop. He is introduced as a super-intelligent person who analyses every move before making it (and of course, this is conveyed by making him sit next to a chess board plunged in deep thoughts…a trope that needs to retire) but the way he solves the case, which is mostly through luck, hardly reflects or needs this build-up. More than the original Malayalam sequel, the movie in its attempt to pit Devgn against Khanna, reminded me of Anees Bazmee’s Deewangee, a delicious thriller that had Devgn playing mind games with Akshaye Khanna and getting away with murder (the film had earned Devgn the Best Villain Filmfare in 2002).
Kamlesh Sawant, who is back as Sub-Inspector Laxmikant Gaitonde, gives a stunning performance. But, Shriya Saran fails to impress. She never really manages to live the character. Unlike Meena’s Rani, Shriya Saran Nandini remains a single-shade character. She is perennially petrified and reminds one of a frightened deer. She is too vulnerable and vanilla and too dolled up for the Drishyam world.
Basic static shots of the original are replaced with a hyperactive camera. While it makes the frames ultra-stylish, it somewhat takes away the emotional impact. In the original, the unflinching gaze of the camera records the complex and layered emotions of the actors, especially that of the protagonist (played by Mohanlal, whose expressive eyes have a separate fan base). But, that said, there is no denying the fact, that probably the second best thing about the remake (the first being Devgn’s performance) is indeed Sudhir K. Chaudhary’s cinematography. What is also impressive is the music composed by Devi Sri Prasad. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are poignant and effective. The title track makes an impact.
It is always interesting when a filmmaker refuses to do a scene-by-scene copy while attempting a remake. In fact, that might be the only way forward when it comes to remakes since thanks to the OTT boom, the originals are today more easily accessible than ever. Abhishek Pathak tries just that. He puts his own spin on this sequel. But sadly, the end result is a chaotic film with a lackluster first half and a second half trying too hard to pull off the taut climax of the original. It is Ajay Devgn’s nuanced performance as Vijay Salgaonkar along with the strong and deliciously twisted original plot written by Jeethu Joseph that saves this remake. Feel free to skip the first hour.