Decoding Mohanlal & Ajay Devgn’s interpretation of Drishyam

Ajay Devgn has adhered to the original character’s moral blueprint and yet alchemized the man of the house into something much more than a patriarchal stereotype.

Subhash K Jha November 24, 2022 09:46:37 IST
Decoding Mohanlal & Ajay Devgn’s interpretation of Drishyam

Watching Ajay Devgn play the protective patriarch Vijay Salgaonkar in Drishyam 2, I couldn’t help but wonder how far Devgn has come as an actor. His one major drawback, his onscreen indolence, is now his biggest USP as an actor. Playing a family man (Manoj Bajpayee in Raj-DK’s series seems to have been inspired by Drishyam’s Daddy Cool who will go to any lengths to protect his wife and daughters from extraneous threats) Devgn’s Salgaonkar gives nothing away.

Shakespeare once pointed out that people who are reticent are often so as they have nothing to say. Is Vijay Salgoankar short of words for the loss of words or he is secretive? It suits Devgn just fine to say little. Indolence has been effectively transmuted into an implosive steely reserve.

Mohanlal of course is the master of understatement. For him, less has always been more. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Drishyam 2 in Malayalam where the paucity of renewed vigour dampens the sequel’s spirit. By the time a resolution is reached, writer-director Jeethu Joseph exhausts his narrative with repetition: the same chai-dhaba with the townsfolks gossiping about George Kutty (did he or didn’t he?) and his newly-found ill-concealed affluence, the same climax where the mother of the murdered boy (Asha Sarath, making a belated entry) slaps up George Kutty’s family trying to force a confession out of them while the officer on duty (Murali Gopi, excellent) looks on stoically.

But George Kutty is made of sterner stuff. He has trained his family well to kept its peace about the family secret. If only the sequel in Malayalam to the much-acclaimed film showed as much discipline and self-restraint as its protagonist!

Devgan in the restrained resonant remake in determinedly shakes off the excessive self-congratulatory attitude of Mohanlal’s George Kutty. No matter how much of an effort Mohanlal makes to stay in character he cannot help slipping into playing to the galleries.

Devgn will have none of that. His Salgaonkar is a fuss-free father, and resolute husband. There is work to be done. He is not going to wait for the claps. No matter how hard his wife tries to tease information out of him Salgoankar remains resolutely reticent. He has sealed his information outlet from all outside threats. He is at once the warrior and the protector.

One doesn’t know how much of Vijay Salgaonkar’s differences from George Kutty are attributable to director Abhishek Pathak and his co-writer Aamil Keeyan Khan; Devgn is not known to indulge in soul-searching rehearsals. What he has given us in Drishyam and its sequel is a patriarch who doesn’t think he is doing anyone a favour by protecting his family.

There are two ways of doing a remake: either play it as a faithful facsimile or go the other way and disregard the original completely. While doing Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, Shah Rukh Khan paid no heed to what Dilip Kumar had done in Bimal Roy’s Devdas. Shah Rukh made sure not to watch Dilip Kumar in Bimal Roy’s film as he didn’t want to get influenced in any way.

Devgn has adhered to the original character’s moral blueprint and yet alchemized the man of the house into something much more than a patriarchal stereotype.

Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.

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