Director Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, once said, "There is no terror in the bang, only in its anticipation." He also explained the difference between 'suspense' and 'surprise'. The first is about being aware of the bomb under the table; the second is the bomb going off unexpectedly. Jeethu Joseph's Drishyam had both. The 'bomb under the table' was the accidental murder and cover-up; the 'bomb going off' part was the climax. Now, when you add, as protagonist, an ordinary man hellbent on protecting his family, you get a dynamite combination. And Drishyam 2 has all of these in spades.
I have to confess I was not a big fan of Drishyam, mostly due to the artificiality of the performances (excluding Mohanlal, of course), especially in the first 45 minutes. But, it picked up after the central conflict reared its ugly head. Drishyam 2, on the other hand, is far superior, not only because it corrects most of the flaws of the original, but also as it amps up the stakes by introducing more characters, thereby expanding the world set up in the first film. It more or less follows the structure of the original. Georgekutty (Mohanlal) had to deal with a threat from a single direction in the first film. This time, however, he has to look in many directions.
Remember how in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan expanded the Batman universe established in Batman Begins by making us also pay attention to the secondary characters? Jeethu Joseph does something quite similar in terms of the world-building and the twist-generation. It would be safe to say the fate of Georgekutty and his family depends on two other families.
Besides, there is also the matter of Georgekutty's current position in society playing a significant part in the narrative. He is a movie producer and theatre owner dreaming of making a film. He is working on a script. And Georgekutty being Georgekutty, we get the feeling that it won't be an ordinary script. Jeethu cranks up the excitement by linking the final twists with this 'script', and in doing so, makes a sly statement on suspending disbelief in cinema. Perhaps he is also taking a dig at those who often say that cinema inspires real-life crimes. When one character mentions something about a 'novel', Drishyam 2 seems to be asking, "Why point fingers at cinema alone? Why is nobody talking about all those crime novels?"
But the most impressive move Jeethu makes here to enhance the sequel is casting Murali Gopy in the role of, well, Georgekutty's nemesis - an astute, calculating senior police officer named Thomas Bastin. He is essentially the Hercule Poirot of this film. He orchestrates some moves you don't see coming. Unlike the murdered boy's parents, Geetha Prabhakar IPS (Asha Sarath) and her husband (Siddique), Thomas has the advantage of not letting his emotions interfere with his thought process. For the parents, their emotions often get in the way of a proper investigation, whereas Thomas can think with a clear head. Interestingly, Jeethu also makes this character do a 'recap' for audiences who haven't revisited Drishyam.
I've been waiting a long time to see Murali Gopy do a character like this. Thomas is not someone who shows up in a couple of scenes. Aside from the brilliantly back-to-form Mohanlal, it's the mesmerisingly natural Murali - he speaks in the film exactly as he does in real life - who succeeds in commanding our attention right from the moment he makes his entry and sustains it until the finale. Making you notice his performance despite the presence of a big superstar in the same film is no easy feat.
The most appealing thing about both films, above everything else, is the protagonist himself - an ordinary man who, I'm sure, is not proud of what he did in the first film. When Drishyam 2 opens, we see that he and his family are not out of the woods yet and that things may have gotten much worse, what with the nasty rumours about Georgekutty's elder daughter floating around. The trauma following the events of the first film has hit the family hard, and the narrative proceeds in a way that makes his chances of evading the law seem very slim.
Is this a perfect film? Certainly not. There are more, far better twists this time around, and the question of logic will naturally arise. I'm not sure all of them worked, but when their cumulative effect is so overwhelming, does it really matter? After all, isn't this cinema? It's a question that even Georgekutty echoes in one scene when he suggests how it's very much possible for a film's protagonist to get lucky, but the same may not work outside. The world of Drishyam and Drishyam 2 is 'realistic' for Georgekutty and the other characters, but not for us, the viewers.
It's only recently that a breakthrough in a shocking murder case, which plagued Kerala for decades, was made, and the arrival of Drishyam 2 in its wake seems apt.
Successful sequels are a rarity, and rarer still is a sequel that surpasses the original. Drishyam 2 is one such. The audience has grown leaps and bounds since the first film, which means anything that is not as good or better than the original, would have been unacceptable. If Drishyam were a device operated only by wires, Drishyam 2 could function without them. Towards the end of the film, one character asks another, "Did you expect it?" No, Jeethu, I did not expect it at all.
Director: Jeethu Joseph
Cast: Mohanlal, Meena, Murali Gopy, Ansiba, Esther Anil
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video