Even though Jethu Joseph's Drishyam had Mohanlal in lead ensuring the film would earn some profit, no one could have predicted that a movie without any of the usual trappings would do so well with the audience.
Reportedly the most sought after film of 2013, Drishyam -- made at Rs. 3.5 crore -- has so far collected Rs. 15 crore in theatrical admissions. Besides, the movie has been sold to the Asianet television channel for a record Rs. 6.5 crore. The remake rights have garnered another Rs. 1.55 crore.
With Drishyam running into its third week and in 90 screens in Kerala and elsewhere, the picture has thrown up a question -- why is it so popular? There are no item numbers, no romantic songs and dances set in any exotic location, and there are no fights where the hero vanquishes the villain. Certainly no gimmicks of any sort that the audience expects.
A still from Drishyam.
The answer came to me when I watched the film at a Chennai multiplex the other day. It was a noon show on a week day, and the auditorium was almost packed. Every time Mohanlal's
Georgekutty scored a point with the police - not through physical bouts, but smart moves using his cerebral powers - the crowds in the cinema clapped hysterically.
To me the answer came from the sound of the applause: here was a nation clearly angry with the men in khaki, here was a country of overwhelmingly poor people frustrated by police brutality.
Drishyam proves precisely this, and on Wednesday, angry crowds stormed a police station in Chennai after an inspector shot at an underprivileged juvenile delinquent. The boy was wounded, and the cop, in utter violation of norms, had kept the teenager in a lockup for a whole night.
In Drishyam, this is what is seen when Georgekutty, his wife and two young daughters are brutalised by policemen on the orders of an inspector general of police, whose son is missing. Georgekutty and his family are suspects here, and there are gruesome scenes of a burly cop beating up not only the man, but also his wife, and horror of horrors, the daughters, one of whom is just about eight or nine years old.
With an excellent performance by Mohanlal, and some notable moments by Meena (essaying Georgekutty's wife, Rani) and the younger daughter, Esther's Anu, Drishyam rolls off as a simple family drama of a cable television operator.
A primary school dropout, Georgekutty is extraordinarily brainy, having learnt hell of a lot from the movies he watches on the telly throughout the day. For the inspector general, this is the sore point, being outwitted by a virtual illiterate, and the fact that she is the mother of the missing boy merely adds to her ire - driving her to seek extrajudicial means to ferret out the truth.
Scripted more or less in a convincing manner and mounted with finesse, writer-director Joseph fleshes out his characters. However, Drishyam often seems like a radio play, long dialogues mar its cinematic qualities, and like many other helmers, Joseph too does not know where to end his film. Cinema need not be so explanatory; certainly this is not how contemporary movies are made.