(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)
Drishyam is the story of a normal middle class family in Idukki district, comprising of cable operator Georgekutty (Mohanlal), his wife Rani (Meena) and their two daughters. Georgekutty is a fourth standard school dropout who dotes on his family while being a miser, much to the annoyance of his wife and amusement of his children. He spends most of his time at the cable office, watching movies of all languages. It is a peaceful family life filled with laughter, dreams and serenity.
All that changes when a friend his daughter made at a school nature trip - the son of a high ranking police officer - stops her in the middle of the road one evening. Having filmed her while she was in the bathroom, he tries to blackmail her threatening to release the video into the internet. The next day, the boy is found to be missing.
If the first half of the movie is slow and leisurely in pace, the second half is a different ballgame altogether, turning into a relentless cat-and-mouse thriller. How George kutty schemes to save his family even as the police focus their investigation solely on him right from the beginning due to a moment of bad luck is a masterpiece of story-telling. Barely literate, he needs to use his street smarts and years of watching movies as a sole guide to execute the perfect plan to save his family.
The yin to his yan is the mother of the missing boy, the Inspector General of Police played by actress Asha Sarath. Just as Mohanlal's character would do anything to save his family, the grieving mother too would go to any lengths to find out where her son is. As each layer of the investigation unfolds, along with the police you too get a glimpse of how well George kutty has thought ahead and prepared his wife and children for the psychological and physical tortures that the police would rain down upon them. The final twists in the tale are tremendously smart and form the perfect icing to this wonderful thriller-cake.
There are many who deserve applause for this movie. Kalabhavan Shajon, usually a comic side role, makes a very good villainous cop here who's out to get George kutty to settle old scores. Meena too is adorable as the wife who wants more for herself and her children before calamity strikes her family. Her scenes with her husband in the first half are sweet, naughty and so genuine that every middle class family can relate to them. I don't know the two girls who played their children but by God, they did a great job. Whether it was being coy while listening to their parents bicker or conversely breaking down out of fear, they are simply brilliant. For once, even the two songs of the movie actually are relevant as scenes within them take on a new interpretation later on in the movie. Asha Sarath as the mother of the missing guy is stubborn and breathes fire for the most part yet is vulnerable at times and does both roles with elan.
There are two people who will walk away with the main applause at the end. Mohanlal, of course, is an obvious choice. It is when he plays this role - the common man in trouble - that the best of his acting talents are showcased and Drishyam is a perfect example. Underestimated by the police because he is an illiterate simpleton, the plan he sets in motion to save his family is truly amazing. At no point during the movie does he resort to any filmy bravado - this is a poor man taking kicks, punches and verbal abuse submissively for the sake of his children while simultaneously playing a very smart game with the police.
The true hero, of course, is director Jeetu Joseph. Fresh after the success of the psychological thriller 'Memories', the director seems to be even more grounded here - the visuals of the idyllic countryside, the regular family life, the logical threat to a family and the sequences that follow - all of this could happen to any of us. Each scene serves a purpose, whether to give you an insight into the dynamics of the character or to set up a scene later on. Right from the meaning of the movie title down to the very last line uttered in the film, everything has a certain significance.
It is after a long time that I am seeing a crowd giving a standing ovation within a theater and this movie richly deserves it.
I'm going with a solid 5 out of 5 Appletinis for this one.
P.S. Two points did come to mind after watching this movie.
1. If it were your family in trouble and you knew you were up against a police official, would you trust the law and judicial system to be fair to you? I know my answer is the same as within the movie - a resounding 'NO'.
2. This was basically my status update after watching the movie - 'Learn Bollywood Learn. Making movies which are hated by everyone who saw it and then trumpeting that you earned 200 crores just because you released it in bulk with Rs 900/- tickets does not make your film good. Focus on making a believable film rather than one where the 'perfectionist actor' can turn his bike into a jet ski and back. Grow up, Bollywood. You can make entertaining thrillers without leaving your brains at home.