Drishyam 2 review: Akshaye Khanna’s cerebral cop vs Ajay Devgn’s chauthi fail! Who wilts first?

Producer Abhishek Pathak takes over the director’s reign for the sequel, a Hindi remake that perhaps outshines the original Malayalam film.

Rating: 4 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

Though not an underdog, the Drishyam franchise has given Indian cinema its smartest chauthi fail ( failed fourth grader). Meera Deshmukh [Tabu] admits to underestimating the chauthi fail Vijay Salgaonkar [Ajay Devgn]. The former Inspector General of Goa was unable to crack her missing son’s case. The egg on her face led Meera to resigning to fate. Despite her loss, one felt relieved that the humble Salgaonkars beat all odds to be declared innocent.

If that was the last chapter in this tussle, audiences would have gleefully accepted the verdict and simply moved on. Jeetu Joseph, original creator, then decided to reopen the case turning his Malayalam film into a franchise. Surely, every day is not a Sunday. How long can the failed fourth-grader escape from the clutches of the law? If Georgekutty [Mohanlal’s character in the original Malayalam film], faced intense scrutiny again, then how could Bollywood’s Vijay Salgaonkar live happily ever after?

Drishyam 2 [2021] opted for digital release last year. The Malayalam film perhaps evoked mixed reviews. If the sequel of the original didn’t fare all that great, was there much scope for the Hindi remake to do better? Honestly, we kept our expectations low. As it turned out, the Hindi remake Drishyam 2 [2022] almost mirrors the original sequel. So, what is it that separates the two films? The answer is simple – director Abhishek Pathak’s film is not lost in translation. In fact, it gives a better experience than the original.

As a non-Malayalee, we can never be the best judge of the original [sequel]. But we can’t afford to fluff our lines in the Hindi remake. Producer Abhishek Pathak steps into the shoes of the late filmmaker Nishikant Kamat (1970-2020). He is joined by Aamil Keeyan Khan [screenplay]. The action, new methods of probe, all mirror the original. However, the impact here [Hindi remake] comes from the new personnel. Seasoned pro Akshaye Khanna steps into Drishyam 2 as Tarun Ahlawat, the new Inspector General who devises an altogether new strategy to bring Vijay Salgaonkar and his family to justice. There are loose ends in a perfect murder too. One just needs to find them.

Call it a stroke of destiny, one that arrives in the form of an unlikely witness, who himself was running from the law at the very time when Salgaonkar was allegedly brushing his sins under the carpet. Seven years later, this witness intends to cash in on that info. But is it reliable? That’s for the viewers to decipher themselves. This witness idea though was enough for Joseph to build the next chapter in his Drishyam franchise.

Seven years later, it’s a slightly different Vijay Salgaonkar too. The cable operator has made it big in life as the cinephile builds his dream theatre. The much-improved financial condition has also given him access to better security measures. The high-definition CCTV cameras help Vijay get a drishya [visuals] of all the important places in the vicinity. However, despite the riches, the family still has to play the defined roles to conceal the big secret. Vijay is Sphinx-like, cold as a stone but his wife Nandini Salgaonkar [Shriya Saran] and their grown-up girls – Anju [Ishita Dutta] and even little Anu [Mrunal Jadhav] are still vulnerable. Maybe, therein lies the loose end.

Salgaonkar’s defence strategy acquires a literary flavour that is too good to digest in a reel court. What makes it believable though is the quality writing and the intense acts by Devgn, Akshaye Khanna and co.  

Tarun Ahlawat is no in-your-face cop. He is unassuming and a quiet guy but jeez those eyes, they tell a story of their own. Pathak and his cinematographer Sudhir K. Chaudhary use that vision as a probing tool. If we recall well, he only confronts Salgaonkar in one pivotal long sequence. There is no eye contact when they cross paths again. Tarun has a wicked sense of humour. Jeez, he is intimidating in that too. The man turns uninvited at the Salgaonkar house when Vijay isn’t home.  “Yes, I’m your chor police wala cop,” Tarun tells Nandini before taunting them as a fine law-abiding family. Tarun unsettles, unnerves Nandini and Anju with his layered talks. Khanna looks frail, almost jaded. Maybe, that is all part of the role. But oh boy, the seasoned actor steals a march over everyone with his flawless performance.

In a typical Bollywood world, the Vijay Salgaonkar and Tarun Ahlawat conflict would have been hyped up as a fire vs ice battle. But there’s no fire here, as both are ice cold. It’s just a question of who melts first?  Clearly, Tarun has finally met his match in Salgaonkar and vice versa.  

Shriya Saran and Ishita play their roles finely. Tabu’s Meera is happy to take a back seat and let Tarun run the show. Where the film differs slightly from the original is how director Abhishek Pathak and Amil Keeyan Khan are mindful of not allowing a raging bull Gaitonde [Kamlesh Sawant] to stamp on a little child.  There is a dash of old and new humour too. Pathak uses Salgaonkar’s popular ‘Swami Chinmayananda Satsang ke liye Panjim…’ line from the first film. There’s mention of demonitisation and even ‘Pawri Ho Rahi Hai’ [famous words by Pakistani citizen Dananeer Mobeen that became a social media rage]. 

For those like us who’ve seen the original, the Hindi remake still keeps us on the edge of our seats. The gripping background score makes the tense moments more immersive. The early lone song, too, doesn’t break the momentum. Above all, the impressive show by the leading cast ensures that Abhishek Pathak doesn’t drop the ball.  You do question a certain ‘bone’ chilling disclosure. Maybe that is as close as it gets to leaving a loose end. Then again, the law was laid down before. We leave it upon the viewers to judge themselves.

At the end of it, we are left with a highly engaging Hindi remake. It seemed like we’d reached a dead end with part one. The sequel, too, evokes the same feeling.  But who knows what’s happening inside that head of Jeetu Joseph? He could still reopen Georgekutty’s case. Vijay Salgaonkar, too, says that this probe will continue till the family is alive. Tarun Ahlawat doesn’t strike as a man who will give up easily. Given the thrilling experience of the Hindi remake, would director Abhishek Pathak toy with the idea of a standalone Drishyam saga?  It’s all a matter of one’s vision.

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