Today I saw “Drishyam” an amazing Malayalam movie that’s awesome on so many levels. Not only did the movie have a smartly executed story, it was also philosophically grounded in that it touched upon questions of right and wrong with such straightforwardness and simpleness.
I went to watch the movie thinking it’s a murder mystery, but it is not. At least not in the traditional sense. Sure there’s a murder, but then focus here is on how the hero gets away with it.
The story is about the character played by Mohanlal, an orphan who has made it on his own. He is a 4th standard fail – so not someone you would expect to be smart in the traditional sense – but that’s not the case with this fellow. He is street smart, has a well developed sense of morality and right and wrong, and seems to enjoy what he is doing and believes in fairness and good service. He is a loving husband (wife played by Meena, a pleasure to see her after a long time and she was great in this role!) and a doting father to his two daughters.
The first half of the movie is about Mohanlal’s little family and their life in the village/ town where the movie is set. At the end of the first half certain events conspire leading to the wife and elder daughter killing someone. They didn’t intend on killing him, and the victim was a jerk who wanted to sleep with the daughter through blackmail, so there’s no need to be queasy about him getting killed. Question is, though, how do you avoid getting caught? And that’s what the second half is about.
Mohanlal comes up with an alibi and gets his family to stick with the alibi. His point being that no one knows what happened to the victim so it’s purely a question of their story versus the police. And the family goes to great lengths to provide proof for the alibi – which is what the title “drishyam” refers to (“drishyam” loosely translates to “sights” or “what you see”). Meanwhile the cops – who have a vested interest in the case try to break the alibi through hook and crook and a lot of illegal means. They are on the right track, but the family sticks together and so they are unable to break the case. Eventually resort to illegal torture and are finally exposed in a well planned turn of events – very well planned in fact, and in a convincing way too, nothing “filmy” about it.
Eventually the family does get away with the murder. Which is very unlike most Indian movies as these tend to be moralistically upright and so the hero killer is always eventually caught or just surrenders, but not so in this case. The movie is firm on its moral grounds and justifies its stand. Right and wrong are not absolutes, they are relative and depend upon context and situation and there is nothing to feel uncomfortable about standing for your “right” even though it may not be another person’s “wrong” or even simply “wrong” in society’s eyes. I loved the balls in this stand, it’s commendable!
There’s a final trick revealed at the very end too. Again, an excellent sleight of hand!
One aspect of Mohanlal’s character reminded me a lot about myself. As it’s driven home now and then he is movie buff and a lot of things he learnt in life is via watching movies. I am like that. I immerse myself in movies and it amazes me at times how characters in certain movies are so dumb in terms of what they do (like hiding a murder) because if they were any sort of a movie watcher they should know how to handle the basics and be prepared for things. This movie is a meta-movie that does that. All of Mohanlal’s planning are based on what he learnt from watching other murder mysteries and that’s what he uses to train his family and be a step ahead of the cops. On top of that, the movie pays homage to the concept of movies and visuals when it comes to creating evidence for their alibis and getting away with the crime.
My only gripe about the movie is the long torture scene towards the climax. That was well taken and necessary but also heart wrenching. The director and actors build up the tension so well in those scenes, and especially the camera when it focuses on the cop who is about the beat up the youngest child in the way. Just excellent! Heart wrenching and scary, but excellent!
“Drishyam” – aka “How to commit a murder and get away with it”!