Drishyam is the story of a chauthi fail aam aadmi who turns out to be mastermind. I know that he is chauthi fail because almost every speaking character in the film says it at least once. There are many other things that Vijay Salgaonkar, played by Ajay Devgn, does. But his defining trait is that he never went beyond Class 4.

So how did he get so smart? By watching Hindi movies. By that logic, I should be Einstein. 
Vijay runs the local cable operation in a small town in rural Goa. He lives a happy life with his doting wife and two daughters. Until, as he puts it, a ‘hadsa’ happens and Vijay finds himself pitted against the mighty IG of Police, Meera Deshmukh, played by Tabu.
 
The best thing about Drishyam is the twisty and suspenseful story by Jeetu Joseph. It’s satisfying to see a street-smart hero take on the powers that be. The hero’s role has heft. Not surprisingly, the film was first made in Malayalam, with Mohanlal; then in Kannada, with V Ravichandran, then in Telugu with Daggubati Venkatesh and then in Tamil as Papanasam, with Kamal Haasan. This is the fifth interpretation. Director Nishikant Kamat sticks closely to the Malayalam original. And yet, something is lost in translation. The plot keeps you hooked, but the characters aren’t engaging. There is little detailing here. Everyone is painted in broad strokes and the small-town textures rarely feel authentic.
 
Vijay is supposedly a plain-speaking, middle-class, uneducated man, but then he says lines like: “Woh raaz mere dil mein mehfooz hai.” Maybe he got that from the movies too!
Both Ajay and Tabu are National Award-winning actors and they deliver competent performances with ease. But there are no flashes of brilliance. Meera is a layered character — she is both the unforgiving head of police and a distraught mother — but the film hardly explores these dualities.
 
The supporting cast is banal, especially Vijay’s family, led by Shriya Saran who plays his wife. She is impeccably dressed and made-up, even when she’s being interrogated by the police. The horror of her situation doesn’t distract her from her lipstick. The daughters who propel the plot have even less personality.
 
Despite the many scenes of domestic tranquility, Nishikant isn’t able to make us emotionally invest in these characters. Which is why, when they get into trouble, we aren’t troubled. We just want to know how Vijay will stay one step ahead of the police. 
 
The cops, incidentally, are mostly monsters. At one point, a particularly nasty one is brutalising Vijay’s six- or seven-year-old daughter while Meera watches. It’s just ugly.
 
There’s also Rajat Kapoor as Meera’s industrialist husband. He gets to stand around and watch the mayhem his wife unleashes. Occasionally he asks, “You ok?”
What’s enjoyable is the elaborate cat-and-mouse game between Vijay and the police. The film defends a dubious morality — at the end, Vijay says, “Isme kuch bhi sahi ya galat nahin.” Still, you root for him to get away with his crimes. 
 
You can watch this one for him. I’m going with two and a half stars. Check out the video review here:
 
 

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