Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Panorama Studios’ Drishyam (UA) is a thriller. Vijay Salgaonkar (Ajay Devgan) is a cable TV operator in a small town of Goa and lives with his family comprising wife Nandini (Shriya Saran) and two daughters, Anju (Ishita Dutta) and Anu (baby Mrunal Jadhav). Vijay is a school dropout and loves movies.
One day, Anju goes on a school excursion where she meets Sameer (Rishabh Chadda) who is from another school. Sameer is in the habit of taking pictures of girls on his cellphone, for which he is chided by one of the girls. After their return from the excursion, Anju is shocked when one day, Sameer shows her a video recording of herself bathing in the bathroom. Obviously, Sameer had shot the video on the sly with a view to blackmailing Anju. He asks Anju for sexual favours and warns her not to inform the police. A petrified Anju tells her mother who confronts Sameer when he comes to meet Anju behind her house in the night. Sameer is unwilling to delete the video recording despite fervent pleas by Anju’s mother. Instead, he also demands sexual favours from Anju’s mother after showing her the video clip on his phone. In a fit of fury, Anju hits Sameer on the head with an iron rod and destroys his cellphone. To the horror of Anju and her mother, they realise that Sameer has died because of the head injury. Scared to death, they bury the body in the open ground outside their villa.
On his return home from his office, Vijay is devastated when he learns of the murder. Without wasting time, he tries to get rid of the smallest of clues which would indicate that Sameer had ever come there. He takes Sameer’s car, which is parked close to his house, with a view to dispose it off. But a corrupt police officer, sub-inspector Gaitonde (Kamlesh Sawant), sees Vijay driving Sameer’s car. Gaitonde hates Vijay as the latter ridicules him for his corrupt ways. As bad luck would have it, Sameer turns out to be the son of Meera Deshmukh (Tabu), the Inspector General of Police.
Even while Meera starts investigating the case of her missing son (she is unaware that he is dead), Vijay prepares the ground to prove the innocence of his family. He trains his wife and two daughters to keep their cool if the police came investigating and asks them to not admit to the crime under any circumstances. He also readies witnesses who would tell the police that he and his family were not in town on the day of the murder. Meanwhile, sub-inspector Gaitonde, who, as mentioned above, has an axe to grind with Vijay, insists that Vijay has a hand in the case of the missing son of IGP Meera Deshmukh. Interrogations with Vijay and his family members begin and although every evidence, which they present, points to their innocence, IGP Meera Deshmukh’s reading of the situation tells her that Vijay and his family are somehow involved in the case. Sub-inspector Gaitonde only solidifies Meera’s belief. Even though Meera’s husband, Mahesh Deshmukh (Rajat Kapoor), feels sorry for Vijay and his family members for the third-degree tactics used on them, Meera is persistent.
What happens thereafter? Does Vijay crumble under the pressure and reveal the truth? Or does his wife spill the beans? Do any of his daughters give in? Or does Meera Deshmukh give up? Does Meera get to know of the MMS clip her son, Sameer, had made? Does she get to know that her son is no more?
The film is a remake of a Malayalam film of the same name and is based on a story written by Jeethu Joseph. The story is novel and interesting. Upendra Sidhaye has adapted the screenplay of the original. The first half moves at a leisurely pace and is devoted to mainly establishing the characters and the inter-personal relationships between them. The pace picks up after interval and the intriguing drama keeps the audience involved and engrossed but there are points when the pace slackens. Overall, the film seems too lengthy and it could’ve advantageously been made much shorter and crisper.
Of course, by its very nature, the drama is more cerebral because it is about Vijay’s mind games and it will, therefore, appeal more to the class audience. Again, the very nature of the drama makes it a little dry. Although it is a thriller, the exciting and nail-biting quality one associates with thrillers comes through only intermittently rather than throughout the length of the drama. This may be due to two reasons: firstly, the audience knows that Vijay, his wife and two daughters are lying after having committed a crime as heinous as murdering someone, never mind if that is by mistake, and the victim was an evil person; and secondly, the audience also feels uncomfortable that its hero (Vijay) and the super-efficient IGP (Tabu, who, incidentally, is shown to be a good cop) are working at cross-purposes. In other thrillers or, for that matter, in the majority of Hindi films, all the ‘good’ characters work in the same direction and use fair means; if at all, they work at cross-purposes, the one using unfair means does so for the good of others, rarely for his own good, but that is not the case here.
A question which keeps haunting the viewer is why the IGP and her subordinates are only after Vijay Salgaonkar and why they are not working on other theories. Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, the screenplay in the second half keeps the audience quite on the edge, especially in the scenes of interrogation of Vijay and his family members. In fact, a couple of scenes after interval elicit claps from the audience.
The viewers, however, do not experience the high expected in a thriller.
Upendra Sidhaye’s dialogues are good but could’ve been more punch-packed.
Ajay Devgan does an outstanding job of Vijay Salgaonkar. He remains true to the character of Vijay and delivers a noteworthy performance. Tabu shines in the role of IGP Meera Deshmukh. She excels as the lady in uniform and brings out the predicament of a mother also beautifully. Shriya Saran is effective as Nandini Salgaonkar. Kamlesh Sawant is extraordinary in the role of the unscrupulous sub-inspector, Gaitonde. His acting is truly praiseworthy. Ishita Dutta leaves a wonderful mark as Anju. In the role of Anu, baby Mrunal Jadhav is both, cute and convincing. Rajat Kapoor lives the role of Mahesh Deshmukh. Yogesh Soman (in the role of police inspector Vinayak Sawant), Himanshu Joshi (as Rajesh), Prathamesh Parab (as Jose), Sharad Bhutadia (as Martin uncle), Rishabh Chadda (as Sameer Deshmukh), Ajit Satbhai (as Nandini’s father), Amruta Satbhai (as Nandini’s mother), Samar Parshuram (as contractor Rane), Rakesh Yadav (as the cellphone shopkeeper), Abhay Khadapkar (as the private bus conductor), Sachin Pathak (as the lodge owner), Kishor Jayakar (as manager of Ashok Hotel), Rajesh More (as Kadamba bus conductor), Prasanna Ketkar (as Sr. PI Shrikant Prabhu), Sanjay Bhatia (as ACP Allwyn Rego), Ashok Beniwal and Arun Sakpal (both as IPS officers), Smita Inamdar (as the school principal), Tarun Shukla (as Swami Chinmayanand), Nandkishor (as the cinema projectionist) and the others lend great support.
Nishikant Kamat’s direction does justice to the script. But a faster narrative style and pace was the need of the subject as it would’ve greatly added to the audience’s excitement. Vishal Bhardwaj’s music is not of the popular variety. Although the ‘Dum’ song is fairly nice, the other songs are not at all of the kind which will come on the lips easily. Gulzar’s lyrics are of a fine standard. Sameer Phaterpekar’s background music is lovely. Avinash Arun does an excellent job of the cinematography. Sunil Rodrigues’ action scenes are very natural. Sukant Panigrahy’s production designing is effective. Aarif Sheikh’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Drishyam is a well-made film with some exciting moments but it has appeal more for the classes. It is also too lenghty. At the box-office, it will be difficult for the film to break even despite recovery of more than 50% of the investment (Rs. 65 crore) from sale of satellite rights alone.