Durgamati starring Bhumi Pednekar is a faithful remake of the Anushka starrer Bhaagmathie, which was released in 2018. The original was an enjoyable take on the age-old tropes of the dilapidated mansion and possession. Yet, despite talented actors like Bhumi Pednekar, Arshad Warsi and Jisshu Sengupta, Durgamati misses the mark.
In the case of remakes, comparisons are inevitable. Bhumi Pednekar is a proven performer, but this is not her best outing. She underplays as the IAS office turned convict Chanchal with annoyingly slow dialogue delivery and overplays Durgamati to hearing-impairing heights. Anushka has left a powerful mark in the princess avatar and it is difficult to match her screen presence. However even as a stand-alone role Durgamati (the character) does not hold up. Part of this could be because of the dialogues that she is given to say. The Telugu dialogues have been translated as-is and do not leave the same impact in Hindi. To top it, the director also seems to want the delivery in a lyrical format that just does not come out right (‘Durgaaaa-maati hoon mainnnnn‘ sounds unintentionally funny).
Mahie Gill as the Bengali cop sleepwalks through the role, intermittently stopping to break into forced Bengali. The real Bengali in the cast, Jisshu Sengupta, continues his Bollywood journey of playing supporting characters that suffer from bad writing. Arshad Warsi is the only standout performer in an author-backed role. Even in comparison to Jayaram (whose act in the Telugu original suffered from the out-of-sync dubbed voice), Arshad’s performance is better. It is a shame that we do not see more of this talented actor on screen outside of the Golmaal franchise and shoddy reruns of his 90s hits. If Karan Kapadia is missed out in the above list, then it is because it is easy to miss his lacklustre presence on screen.
As far as storyline goes, Bhaagmathie did not have any novelty, but it worked as an entertainer if you suspended the logic behind an ex-IAS officer being interrogated in a haunted mansion. With the lead performer not holding the audience’s attention with her performance in Durgamati, all other loopholes of the script stick out. Like the idol theft subplot which turns out to be ‘side business’, or the Stanford-returned saviour of the masses who seems to need anger management lessons. Bhaagmathie worked well in the commercial space. Durgamati on the other hand, arriving only a couple years after the original, feels surprisingly dated. Godard once said about remakes, ‘it does not matter where you take things from, it matters where you take them to’. Unfortunately, in the case of this remake, the makers fail to take it anywhere satisfactory. The only mystery one is left with after watching the movie is “how do you feed every scene of a successful movie into a remake conveyor belt and pick up an unpalatable output at the other end?”
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.