Sunday, August 02, 2015


Manufactured Truth

Jeethu Joseph’s Malayalam film Drishyam was a very clever adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X.  Talk to Indian audiences about putting family above all else, and they don’t need any more hooks.

Mohanlal played the protagonist on the Malayalam film and Kamal Haasan in the Tamil remake, Papanasam. Why stars like them, and Ajay Devgan in Nishikant Kamat’s Hindi version, would be attracted to the man is easy to see. He is a hero, without any muscle-flexing heroics. It’s his mind that works overtime here, not his biceps.

Vijay Salgaonkar (Dvgan) is a “fourth class” drop-out, cable operator in a small Goan town. He is a happy family man with an adoring wife, Nandini (Shriya Saran) and daughters Anju (Ishita Dutta) and Anu (Mrunal Jadhav). His life is ordinary, almost boring. He spends many nights watching films in his office and learns from them the lessons he missed out at school.

Anju goes to a student’s camp where she is shot in the bath by a creepy young man; he then tries to blackmail her, paying no heed to her mother’s pleading. In the ensuing fracas he is killed. The panicked mother and daughter bury him in their backyard. When Vijay returns, they tell him about the incident.

The question about their not calling the police would not even occur to most people in rural India, who know just how the law functions.  That the guy happens to be the son of top cop Meera Deskhmukh (Tabu), nobody knows till this point.

Vijay promises to protect his family at all costs—provided they obey his precise instructions and keep calm. Then, the illiterate—rather movie-literate—man creates an almost perfect alibi.  Meera with her cop’s instinct as a cop and her mother’s heart, is sure that the Salgaonkar family is guilty, but even though a policeman has seen Vijay driving her son’s car, she can’t find a chink in their testimony.

The moral flag is not even raised, the audience is already a silent lynch mob—the young man deserved what he got. The female cop is judged, not just as a bad mother (how could she and her nice husband—Rajat Kapoor—raise such a monster?) but as a bad cop too. She puts all normal procedure aside to torture the family, including a little girl, but she had not bargained for an adversary like Vijay.

The plot is thrilling and suspenseful, though Kamat could have made it brisker and tightened loose strands—since he had previous remakes for reference,  Ajay Devgan just about managed  a role he is no longer right for (he would have been in his brooding actor days) and Tabu (too tight uniform) makes something of her glowering, one-dimensional character.

For those who haven’t seen the Southern versions, the Hindi Drishyam is worth a look.


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