Drishyam 2 on Prime Video: The Phenomenon Called Mohanlal

Lalettan, with a trimmed beard and cropped, jet-black hair, seems to be reverse-aging. His stare, sure to make anyone's knees shake, betrays the Himalayan calculations going on in his mind.
Drishyam 2 on Prime Video: The Phenomenon Called Mohanlal

Everybody loves the triumph of the protagonist. The thrill and adrenaline rush of such a triumph multiplies when it is achieved in the face of hardship and impossibilities. Moreover, a juicy twist in the tale to mark the beginning of the end of the adversary increases the euphoria exponentially.

These experiences were embodied by Drishyam (2013) and they are only reinforced strongly by its recently released sequel Drishyam 2, both the films directed by Jeethu Joseph. The theme of the first film – common-man hero taking on the powerful police simply with better intelligence and, in doing so, avenging a heinous act – was lapped up by all and sundry. Its success not only spawned remakes in several Indian languages, but also one in Mandarin. Now its sequel delivers an equally plot-driven narrative, with close attention to effective concealing of information (a must for good thrillers) and the archetypal grand reveal, all with the iconic Mohanlal as its centrepiece.

Drishyam 2 opens with the most important scene of the film, such that missing the beginning of the film would render much of the rest incoherent. The family is established as trying to move on while the ghosts of the past keep revisiting them, especially Anju. Mohanlal's Georgekutty has made a fortune for himself, but has to keep reconciling with the bygone events. The makers have fleshed out existing characters and introduced new ones, and extensive exposition dominates the screen for the majority of the first half.

However, the mood shifts from precariously sombre to brazenly confrontational when the first incitement to the plot is revealed. Without revealing much in a review, it is difficult to convey the palpable tension that follows. In a storyline parallel to the central one, Georgekutty has a newfound love for cinema. He is willing to go the extra mile to produce a dream project. Consumed in this, he never talks about the events of the past, but his wife is constantly urging him not to evade the elephant in the room.

The police have not given up and they are still on their quest to solve the case that started in the first film. In the sequel, there comes a time when it seems that everything is over for Georgekutty and his family, and that the police have finally emerged triumphant. But Georgekutty is someone who will leave no stone unturned to keep his family unscathed and, as per the trend set by the first film, he always has an ace up his sleeve.

The much-venerated twist in the first film seemed to be an entirely convincing and real one, something quite possible in reality if one can think enough. However, how things are shown to have panned out in the sequel seemed more like fan service than believable writing, which is not necessarily a bad thing, given a film starring Mohanlal will seldom detach itself from being a fan vehicle. While one can always justify the outlandish in cinema, what worked in the first film was that even the big brains of the police can get tricked by simple manipulations and red herrings. In the sequel, that is not to be.

The very process of Georgekutty winning over the police (represented by the stern officer played by Murali Gopy), in a subtle game of one-upmanship, is undoubtedly enjoyable and rousing, but could have been a bit more grounded in reality. The writing is imaginative, in some parts excessively so, and the acting of the lead cast is tremendous. But, that being said, Drishyam 2 is an unapologetic star-show for the brilliant Mohanlal. Lalettan, with a trimmed beard and cropped, jet-black hair, seems to be reverse-aging. The camera is always looking to fix itself on him and his menacingly calm expression. His stare, sure to make anyone's knees shake, betrays the Himalayan calculations perpetually going on in his mind.

The Drishyam franchise has earned its place for creatively showcasing the willpower of a determined individual to protect his family. However, it should also be given due credit for the relevant social commentary that it provides. Scopophilia, blackmailing, stigma, society's suspicious gaze on the woman as being the enabler rather than the victim in cases of sexual misconduct – all these are relevant themes that the franchise deals with under the garb of being thrillers. Drishyam 2 is an able successor to Drishyam in all aspects. The icing on the cake is surely reel Mohanlal talking about the release of a Mammootty film! Did anyone say starstruck? I am.

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