It was tempting to begin this post stating that I was putting off reviewing Drishyam until I watched both Malayalam and Hindi versions of this film; but that would be lying. The truth is, I actually didn’t think to review them until I watched the hindi version and realized I ended up comparing them throughout the movie watching experience. I figured that since I already mentally compared them, it would be interesting to do a review that compared the same movie but in different regional versions.
Basically, the main plot-line of Drishyam is this: a film-obsessed man uses the knowledge gained from watching various movies to plot and ensure that his family does not go to jail for a crime. Georgekutty/Vijay is a cinema owner who lives in his own little happy world. He sells movies for a living (watching movies is his hobby as well) and resides with his wife Rani/Nandani and two daughters: high school student Anju and the younger Anu. The four exist in a happy medium. Georgekutty/Vijay is well liked by his town as he’s very easy-going and nice. One day, Anju goes on a class fieldtrip and a boy films her changing her clothes. The boy attempts to blackmail her — by promising to release the tape of her undressing if she didn’t sleep with him. During this attempt, Rani/Nandani also comes across him and the trio get into a fight, with the women attempting to take the boy’s cellphone in which the video resides. In the resulting fight, the boy accidentally dies. Anju and Rani/Nandani are shocked and attempt to hide his body, which is seen by Anu. When Georgekutty/Vijay comes home, the women confess and he gets to work. First he takes the boy’s cellphone, breaks the battery, buys a replacement and throws the phone on a random truck. Secondly, he takes the boy’s car and drives it into a large body of water. Then he takes his family on a trip where they listen to a religious talk, eat in a restaurant, watch a movie, and stay overnight in a hotel. The next morning, they head back.
Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that the dead boy was actually the son of the police commissioner, Geeta/Meera. Geeta/Meera becomes concerned when her spoiled son doesn’t return home and launches an investigation. Unfortunately, when Georgekutty/Vijay was disposing of the car, he was seen by a policeman, Sahadevan/Gaitonde, with whom he already shared bad blood. Sahadevan/Gaitonde tells Geeta/Meera about what he saw and Georgekutty/Vijay and his family are brought in for questioning. It’s shown through flashbacks how Georgekutty/Vijay had already prepared his family for the police questioning. At the end of the movie, Georgekutty/Vijay and his family are released as there is no other evidence linking them to the murder. However, throughout the questioning period and even later, the movie flashbacks to showing how Georgekutty/Vijay used his movie knowledge to escape the police.
If it’s not readily apparent, this is a fantastic movie. It has an incredibly unique storyline and keeps the viewer guessing until the last moment. Definitely one of the more unique films I’ve seen.
That said, let’s get into the comparison. To be honest, I far preferred the Malayalam version, as it felt for more realistic. I think it has to do with the actors casted and the general feeling of the story-line.
In the Malayalam version, Georgekutty is played by Mohanlal and Rani by Meena. Not only did the two look age appropriate (i.e. old enough to be parents to two girls), but they also felt more cohesive. You could imagine the two as a couple.
Whereas in the hindi version, Vijay was played by Ajay Devgan and Nandani was played by Shriya Saran. While you could imagine the two as a couple, it was very difficult to imagine Nandani as the mother of a teenager. She just looked far too young! The hindi movie tried justifying this by adding in the plot-line of Anju being Vijay’s adopted daughter. However, to be honest, I didn’t really understand or like that plot. It didn’t seem to anything to the movie and I felt it was useless. As nice and good Shriya was to look at and in her acting, I think an age-appropriate-looking actress would’ve fit the bill better than the adoption storyline.
The original version doesn’t have this adoption story. The original version just focuses on Georgekutty and his happy world consisting of his family. Hence, there’s a seeming aura of realism throughout the Malayalam movie that makes the movie more enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like we’re watching a stylized film. It just feels like we’re watching some days within this man’s life. And I think a lot of this is due to Mohanlal’s acting. His acting adds in nuances that elevate the movie. Whether its the little teasing to his wife and daughters or his joking around, Mohanlal makes Georgekutty feel real. Which also translates really well for the movie, as in my opinion, part of the movie’s appeal came from the whole common man aspect.
Everyone loves a good underdog story and by having a common man, who isn’t particularly smart or good-looking, be the hero through his knowledge, gleaned from movies no less, it lends the movie an element of personal connection. And this personal connection is furthered through Mohanlal’s acting and makes the climax of the film even more satisfying when you watch. (It’s actually even more remarkable when you realize that Mohanlal is a gigantic star in the South Indian movie industry and yet manages to perfectly embody a character the opposite of his star status and ensure that his star status doesn’t overtake the character).
Whereas the hindi version wasn’t as successful in this. While Ajay Devgan’s acting was convincing, it just felt lacking at some points because of his looks. He read and felt too fancy. In other words, he didn’t necessarily feel like the common man. It sort of felt like the audience was watching a stylized movie rather than a slice of a man’s life. Hence, the common man element was missing. However, the others actors are decent as well — particularly Tabu and Asha Sarath who played inspector Geeta/ Meera.
That said, I will say that both films are excellent films — just because of the story-line. However, when the two versions are compared, I find the Malayalam version to be better than the Hindi version.
My rating: Watch this movie to enjoy an almost meta, incredibly unique, suspense movie about movie cliches