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A Bitter Pill To Swallow, Drishyam 2’s Dark Message Left Me Uncomfortable

Posted: March 15, 2021

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Drishyam 2 throws an entirely different light on the meaning of revenge, which I found intriguing. But here’s why I think it was problematic.

The Drishyam series is an interesting one to dissect and analyse. No doubt, it is a well-written movie with top-notch performances.

A clever story will always leave certain clues for its readers to guess how it would tie its laces neatly at the end. You sort of know how the story would pan out at the end because the writer sets you up so. The writer leads you down the garden path. It’s a win-win for the reader and writer in their journey of the story together.

However, this movie is not without loopholes. The movie has come under fire from certain sections amidst the huge praise pouring in for the sequel. Especially the argument that the film is patriarchal, and the female characters are weak. And it led me to this question:

Would Georgekutty have gone to the same lengths to protect his family if it were his son who was innocent and committed murder in self-defence?

Here’s what I thought about the movie Drishyam 2

Here are my two cents!

On the big screen

In that case, Rani George, played by Meena, would go all out to protect her tainted son. A la Rhythm played ably by Keerthi Suresh in Penguin. The casting matters. And so, Meena would be swapped for Manju Warrier or Nayanthara as the female lead.

Mohanlal would be swapped for an actor with a metrosexual image. More Fahadh Faasil. Then the movie would be a feminist thriller with a strong woman character. Which reminds me Penguin started on a very promising note but ended up being bizarre and over-the-top.

At this juncture, I am also reminded of the movie Mom, with a similar plot as Drishyam, but set in an urban locale. The mother, played brilliantly by Sridevi, is forced to be a vigilante and find justice for her daughter. Some memorable performances by the lead and supporting cast in an otherwise average movie.

Would it have worked the same way in real life?

In real life, coming back to the question, ‘Would Georgekutty have gone to the same lengths to protect his family if it were his son who was innocent and committed murder in self-defence?’

I don’t think the gender of the child would’ve mattered to either parent in real life. They would still go to great lengths to protect their child. It depends on who’s the more courageous and risk-taker of the two.

As for the character of Georgekutty being unrealistic and how an ordinary man can conceive such illogical ploys to deceive the police, well, life is stranger than fiction. The most devious and brilliant plans can come from the unlikeliest people.

Remember Jolly Shaju, aka The Black Widow? Of course, her motives were more materialistic as compared to Georgekutty’s of protecting his family against the evil elite forces.

The movie did get some things right

Coming to what Drishyam gets right, the depiction of rural Kerala is apt. I know the characters pretty well. It’s how the natives talk—the hushed rumours of the town. Women like Rani George, who have been conditioned by patriarchy, exist.

Do we stop showing movies that portray weak women characters and only show powerful and inspiring women characters? Then again, I’ve also heard the criticism that powerful women protagonists equate to lazy writing. This isn’t always true, in my opinion.

Yes, writing strong women characters that behave a certain way and in a fixed template, stories can be predictable. However, it need not always be bad or lazy writing. The same argument can be held for stories with strong male characters. I do agree that we need to show more realistic characters on screen. Especially women, because there is a serious dearth.

Speaking of strong women characters, the Mardaani series has Rani Mukerji play a tough woman cop. Interestingly, in the second instalment of the series, the villain wasn’t looking for weak women to prey on, bully, rape, and murder. He wanted the bigger challenge of showing strong women their place in a man’s world.

It isn’t fiction, it’s our reality

I went into the theatre looking for an inspirational movie for my then ten-year-old daughter. But it only ended up leaving her scarred for months with recurring nightmares even in the daylight.

The truth is that movies like Mardaani, Drishyam, or Mom are not fiction. It’s a reality. We have news all around us about how strong women are targeted and broken down.

So, I cannot lie and paint a pretty picture of the world to my child. Simply because it’s not. We live in a terribly skewed, ugly, and unfair world. Once we acknowledge this fact, we can work towards changing it one step at a time.

The movie does become unreal in certain places

It is easy for critics to question why Rani George couldn’t ask their daughter’s molester to go to hell. And it is also very convenient to criticise Georgekutty for running away from the law, and not going to the police for protection. Because it doesn’t always work that way in real life. We know how caste and class politics work.

If you look into the history of the police, you’d know it was instituted solely to protect the rich and powerful. The policing is only for the common people, to keep them in perpetual oppression so they cannot unite and fight against the establishment.

What are the odds that the police would help a common man like Georgekutty’s daughter against an IG’s son?

Drishyam is a mirror to the current reality of the world. We see inequality in action every single day. Nodeep Kaur. Shiv Kumar. The Hathras case. And the Unnao case. The current farmers’ protests. This list is endless.

But we, the common people, must continue to hope, unite, and fight. We have no other option for survival.

Drishyam made me uncomfortable as a middle-class, minority woman

I won’t be lying that certain scenes in the movie made me very uncomfortable. Like the neighbour couple’s drunken brawl! What’s with Malayali filmmakers and their dark fantasy of slapping their women on screen.

The wife-slapping scenes should be banned, in my opinion. Georgekutty urges the woman to lodge a police complaint, and she refuses out of her love and loyalty to her man. However, better sense prevails and the woman does file a case against her husband.

The other scene was the policing of the daughter by the mother. When one of the daughters comes out on the front porch in her sleeveless nightdress, the mother admonishes her to go inside and change.

The scene also brought to mind the short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid -centred upon a mother’s angst about her daughter turning into a slut.  I rolled my eyes during this scene in the movie. Usually, it’s the men who police their women regarding their dressing.

Secondly, when you have three women against a man in a house, it’s unbelievable to think that they would still want to live like it’s a man’s world. Even in their own homes. It doesn’t work that way in the modern-day world.

But it doesn’t end there!

Another scene that made me uncomfortable was the mother’s eagerness to get her eldest daughter married as soon as possible. That is primitive thinking, but again, not very far from the truth.

Most Indians think of marriage and childbirth as the magic-pills to all problems. A Zinda Tilismath! Again, thankfully in the movie, the daughter puts her foot down, and the father agrees with his daughter’s decision.

Another scene that makes you want to tear your hair out is when Rani reminds Georgekutty that he shouldn’t forget he has two daughters (read double the responsibility) to pack off. And that he shouldn’t be wasting money on his dreams.

Also, the scene when Rani tells Georgekutty how the entire town is talking rubbish about their family. Yes, I understand these are typical middle-class problems, ‘Log kya kahenge!’ and all that!

The climax was probably the most problematic

Yes, it was a brilliant climax because of the redefinition of the word ‘revenge’ and its detachment from all things material. We’ve all heard how ‘success is the best revenge.’ But in Drishyam 2, the writer throws an entirely different light on the meaning of revenge, which I found intriguing.

However, it’s the message that is so dark, hopeless, and problematic that it makes Drishyam a hard pill to swallow.

Despite Georgekutty’s intelligence and success in hoodwinking the entire police and elite forces, he and his family have to live in a state of perpetual fear and unrest. And that is the worst kind of punishment and way to live.

Why should the middle-class girl and her family suffer the consequences of a crime committed out of self-defence?

I remember this 90s Telugu thriller, Kshana Kshanam, where Sridevi escapes from the police out of fear. In the climax, the police inform her that she was unnecessarily running away from them, as they knew she couldn’t be the murderer. At least, the climax in the movie brings hope, justice, and closure.

The logic somehow seems a little twisted

Thrillers are meant to be intelligent. It’s highly preposterous to think that in a state like Kerala, all of them in the family are utterly clueless about nonconsensual porn laws.

Georgekutty has the smarts to think through all the legal loopholes to outwit the establishment. He gets the media to the police station to report the news when his daughter was assaulted by the police. But, he has no clue about how he can use the nonconsensual porn laws in his daughter’s favour.

It’s a twisted logic to suggest that the girl and her family have no salvation at all, despite being on the side of the right. Despite the fact that Georgekutty successfully evaded punishment and the evil schemes by the elite powers.

Anju, the daughter, is undergoing psychiatric treatment for her trauma after the murder. What kind of justice and closure is this? Drishyam 2 ends on a dark, twisted, and hopeless note.

In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, we see an open-ended climax. The mother, played by Frances McDormand, is still on the prowl for her dead daughter’s rapist, and as viewers, we know it can go either way. But the glimmering hope leaves us calm.

I hope this isn’t the end

I hope this is not the end, and the writer comes up with a more progressive outlook, logical and hopeful message in the next instalment of the series. If Drishyam 2 is the final movie in the series, it’s an extremely bitter pill to swallow and digest. Even if the writer shrugs his shoulders and quips, “Well, it’s the reality! The rich and powerful always win!”

I believe every story must be told. Who is weak or strong is for the viewers to decide and judge for themselves! We cannot be the sole harbingers of Truth. We cannot play God and decide for the populace.

Unless we watch all kinds of movies, analyse, and critique them, we cannot bring insightful discussions to the table and change.

Have you watched Drishyam? What are your thoughts on the movie?

Picture credits: Still from the movie Drishyam 2

Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award (2019) in association with the Government of Telangana for ‘

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