Drishyam is the 2013 thriller about a family who stuck together against all odds. When this movie was released, it became an instant hit and almost everyone I spoke to talked about it. I knew every shot from the beginning until the end, thanks to the enthusiastic friends I’ve had. Like a typical audience member who came across the spoiler, I was not that keen to watch the movie. After 3 years, I have decided to give it shot as it remains one of the highest-grossing films in Malayalam cinema and remade into several languages.
The first half and second half are completely different in terms of structure and genre. The first half is about Georgekutty’s (Mohanlal) family and their loving relationship. Georgekutty is a school dropout working in the cable business. His wife Rani (Meena) always bickers around the fact that he spends less time around his family and his penny-pincher nature. He has two daughters, Anju (Ansiba Hassan) and Anu (Esther Anil). They were a happy family going forward with dreams. Until, one day, Anju was violated by a lascivious young man named Varun (Roshan Basheer), whom she met in a nature camp.
Over the years a lot of films related to violence against women and sexism came into the rounds and, after the 2012 Delhi incident, people were enthralled by those films which had the content related to how these male perpetrators were “taught” a lesson. I have been told that every father with daughters should watch this movie. Drishyam’s success had a lot to do with it, along with Mohanlal’s popularity, Asha Sharath’s tremendous presence and the suspense. Just like any other typical Malayalam film, including 22 female Kottayam, Drishyam showed everything wrong when it comes to dealing with VAW. However, this is also one of the most thrilling films which kept the audience at the edge of their seats. By the second half, certain scenarios are so captivating that you might hold your breath till the resolution, the best part being the climax of the movie. Instead of having long monologs, the film showed every scenario with visuals and montages. The back-to-back structuring gave it the thrill and we won’t anticipate what is going to happen next. The cinematography is well executed notably due to the fact that it had continuous movement with apt editing during the tensed sequences. So, even if the movie is spoiled, you will end up enjoying it. Mohanlal’s performance makes this movie what it is. His acting quality is guaranteed, whether it is a common man or super-cop. He doesn’t have any macho man moments and uses his intelligence to overcome all odds. He does that with the help of his instincts. Meena delivered lively performance but her speech is artificial due to her voice being dubbed. Along with Mohanlal, the other person who stole the show is Asha Sharath who was spectacular in her role as a mother looking for her son and a tough police officer. She runs the show in the second half of the movie and what takes the cake is the fact that she was right about the investigation all along, her cleverness matches with Georgekutty’s slick moves even though he has the upper hand. You don’t get to see female characters like that in Malayalam cinema. That being said, she is the one person who does everything unethical and morally wrong, including giving her son too much freedom. Geetha Prabhakar is not a perfect person but that is her attraction in a way. Asha Sharath deserves every single accolade she received for her profound portrayal. Siddique was expected to do the show in her place, it was nice to see him play the good guy and step aside for Asha Sharath to have the authority. Ansiba Hassan wasn’t up to the point in her role, especially in her dialogue delivery and emotional scenes where she was too artificial. She overdid some scenes, notably the one where she was “pretending”. Esther Anil has a bright future as an actress. She delivered an adorable performance where she is honest and frightened in her approach. It is usually difficult to watch comic actor Kalabhavan Shajon play the antagonist, but in this movie, he was apt. Roshan Basheer is depicted as the “typical” bad guy who looks like a possible pervert as per the social perception; an ultra modern boy with frizzled and dyed hair, green eyes and a scowl, giving him the villainous look. There was no proper establishment of Varun’s character initially so may think “Where did he come from?“. Maybe that’s what the director wanted as he didn’t want the audience to anticipate it, but a jerk is felt by the second half of the movie.
The base of this film is VAW. I couldn’t digest the idea related to a family committing a crime and hiding it. What’s even disturbing is their decision to not speak up due to the stigma related to society’s perception of a woman who is violated. Varun wanted to have sex with Anju and that’s why he blackmailed with a video of her bathing. This lead to the “drishyam effect“, where young girls and woman check and recheck their bathroom doors and windows several times before changing. Anju accidentally kills Varun but her father’s decision is to conceal the crime. This lead to a thrill ride, but is it right? The movie tries to justify it from Georgekutty’s point of view. Maybe this could be a satisfactory film for women and parents with daughters who might enjoy watching a perpetrator get what he deserved. Even then, what the family did itself is a crime. And when will the Malayalam industry (or society as a whole) stop shaming and victimizing women who are affected? Both Anju and Rani claim that the entire family will be forced to commit suicide if the video goes out. Anju agrees to meet Varun when he threatens to expose her. Varun is able to do it because of this general stigma against the victims of MMS and rape. Killing the rapist alone will not end the crime as the mindset remains unchanged. Georgekutty’s friends and relatives are shown to be very supportive of him throughout the crisis as he is said to be a very cordial and down to earth person. This raises the question; would they be equally supportive if the video of Anju goes online? She didn’t do anything wrong; as the son of IG, Varun might get more power from the authority, will the social perception of the victim change? We live in the age of social media and millions of girls are being violated by boys and men; women face online abuse, obscenity and most of their pictures are morphed by perverts for their entertainment purposes. In such cases, women are further victimized, they are asked not to upload their photos to avoid being violated. No one questions the boys who do all the crime. Also, what Varun did is no different from what Mahadevan, Appukuttan, Govindankutty, and Thomaskutty were trying to do in In Harihar Nagar (1990), but back then the audience members laughed and applauded and even claimed that “boys will be boys”. That being said, entertainment scenarios are not expected to be 100% friendly with the facts and law. But a film is watched and admired by millions, in some cases, people follow. There was a case in Kerala earlier, where a father killed a boy who was stalking his daughter and hid his body. Misrepresentation of gender-based crime and victimization of women will lead to such scenarios, not to mention most genuine victims are reluctant to complain fearing the stigma. Apart from this instance, except for the character Geeta Prabhakar and the message raised by Siddique which blamed their roles as parents in their son’s improper upbringing, this movie is not feminist friendly. Georgekutty makes rape jokes and most men bring up one sexist joke after the other. Also, indirectly the movie is trying to bring the blame on Anju for going to the nature camp and for letting Varun come close to her. People will end up saying “she shouldn’t have gone to the camp at all“, victim blaming culture is yet to extinguish. Siddique’s character says that Varun is given more freedom and luxuries than an average student; like internet, mobile phones etc. Exposure to improper materials can corrupt a young mind, but, it is not the internet or porn, it is the mindset that prompts people to commit such horrendous crimes. Malayalam films should stop glorifying the culture of victimizing women by calling her “damaged” and show a scenario which states over and over to the victims, irrespective of age and gender, that it is not their fault and that they will have full support during the crisis.
Leaving my rants aside, Drishyam is a very well made film with apt three act structure, technical marvel and intense performances from Mohanlal, Asha Sharath, Siddique and lovely portrayal by Esther Anil. Watch it especially for the direction quality.
Featured image: cinemachaat.com