Writer-director Jeethu Joseph’s Mohanlal-Meena starrer Drishyam 2: The Resumption is perhaps one of the most successful sequels to come out in recent times. It capitalises on the lingering intrigue around the first part and leads the audience into the protagonist Georgekutty’s (played by Mohanlal) world, six years down the lane. Quite a lot has changed for him and his family post the traumatic incidents of the first part, Drishyam. While on the outside the family atmosphere remains the same, on the inside they are haunted by the possibility of being found guilty of the crime they have been successfully covering up all these years.
Drishyam 2 is a decent second installment to a much pedestalised, celebrated first part. While all the positives of the film still stand, the entire franchise of Drishyam suffers from some foundational problems that need to be brought into conversation. Mainstream entertainment cinema has seldom been mindful of the representation of women. It often plays into the tropes of popular morality which distorts women’s agency, and the universe of Drishyam is no exception.
The daughter’s body: A site of shame
The central conflict of Drishyam 2 is rooted in an incident the elder daughter faced in the first part of the franchise. Varun films her taking a bath on his mobile camera. Thereafter, he blackmails her with the clip and tries to coerce her into giving him sexual favours. He reaches her house to threaten her and her mother Rani intervenes. Rani begs at first and asks him to leave to which he responds by demanding Rani to sleep with him instead. His eventual death is the consequence of Anju, the elder daughter’s act of self-defense. This is the incident that sets in motion the central narrative of Drishyam – Georgekutty’s cover-up of a murder to protect his family from going to jail.
It is very important to note here that the foundational conflict in the universe of Drishyamrides on the idea of shame connected with the daughter’s body and nudity. Though Georgekutty’s attempt is to protect his family from the possibility of a jail term, his larger concern is his daughter’s reputation in the event of the clip being floated into the public domain. Six years down the lane, the sequel also makes it evident that a woman’s life must be a constant effort to please the society that is ready to assassinate her character at the drop of a hat. The people in the town are shown spinning rumours around the girl’s relationship with Varun, concluding that Georgekutty murdered him after he found her and Varun engaging in sexual intercourse. This makes the girl increasingly underconfident and as a repercussion, the younger daughter is strictly chastised by Rani. It almost feels as if Drishyam 2 is a statutory warning for women to be cautious of their bodies and sexuality to be able to maintain reputation.
The correlation of a woman’s body to her social acceptance is not new. Women have always been mandated by social morality to adhere to its mandates in order to be respected. Here, we are talking about a girl who is the victim of sexual misconduct and its resultant trauma. Not once in the course of either film does anyone assure her that her value does not lie in a clip that was recorded by an abuser. Instead, her entire existence is pigeon holed into that incident and her trauma is amplified each day.
When a film like Drishyam 2 with such mass appeal sanctions such a conservative approach towards a woman’s nudity, it sends a problematic message to the society. We are aware of real-life instances where women die by suicide after being blackmailed with their nude images and videos. In a society that is already founded on patriarchy’s unforgiving dos and don’ts for women, a film that fortifies such views must be questioned.
Had the girl been supported by her family to recognise that she was being stalked and blackmailed, the entire premise would have been altered. She would have resorted to legal remedies and he would have been put behind bars. Instead, the family goes to great lengths to cover up the entire thing so that their daughter’s future will not be affected. Let us also understand here that in this context ‘future’ refers to her eventual marriage into a ‘reputed’ household. It also pushes me to imagine what the case would have been had the clip been that of consensual intercourse between the girl and Varun. Then, the negotiation perhaps would have been about getting Varun to marry her, despite the fact that she was being blackmailed by him, also to save her ‘future’. She would of course be blamed and locked up while they negotiate the marriage, that goes without saying.
In essence, Drishyam 2 underlines the patriarchal idea of a woman’s body as something that must be concealed and made available to a man only through a chain of patriarchy-approved events irrespective of the context. It pays no heed to a woman as an entity with agency, expression or right against abuse, and instead constantly attempts to victim-blame Anju (the elder daughter) for what were the actions of the perpetrator.
Two mothers: Both products of patriarchal morality
Another significant theme in the franchise of Drishyam is how the incident affects two other important female characters – Rani, and Geetha Prabhakar (played by Asha Sharath). Geetha is Varun’s mother and an Inspector General of police. While Rani is concerned about her daughter’s image in the public eye, Geetha pines for revenge. In the sequel, Rani’s character is emotionally manipulated based on her concern about getting her daughter married. She believes that marriage is her only way out and even asks a psychologist if that is an option to help her daughter with her trauma. Geetha, on the other hand, uses all her institutional power to hound the family. The sentimental representation of Geetha as a mother who lost her son is extremely problematic. It must be understood here that Varun was an abuser and Rani’s daughter the survivor. It is a prey-predator relationship and nothing else.
While the sequel is invested in Georgekutty’s brilliance, this fact is conveniently forgotten. The survivor’s family is cornered while the abuser’s mother, a public servant and keeper of law and order behaves as if it is her right to do so. In a narrative that focuses on glorifying the hero’s saviour complex, the women in the story become pawns.
While applauding the making and performances, it must be pointed out that the franchise of Drishyam is set in a patriarchal universe with the man of the family as the protector. Jeethu Joseph uses the small-town life as a tool to convince the audience that this is how it is in real life. The entire psychological fabric of the characters is founded on the anti-female morality of the town they live in. The first part also has instances where Georgekutty refers to his wife as someone who is bound to stay in the house, cook and nurture. This set up makes the film convincing, but it is not agreeable enough to let it go without question.
Let me underline here that the film would have worked well even if the murder of Varun was not related to the girl’s nudity. If the film is only about a man circumventing the law, it could have been done so without being essentially anti-female. Therefore, the choice of the writer-director to anchor Drishyam 2 on a woman’s chastity is an active one, guided by patriarchy’s indifference towards female agency.
We must remember that cinematic liberty is also a political tool. There is not a single dialogue in the original or the sequel where the victim of Varun’s abuse is told that her life is more than an unfortunate instance of sexual proposition. Not a single scene in Drishyam 2 is dedicated to remind the audience who Varun was and why he was murdered in the first place. Geetha is never questioned on using her professional clout to avenge the murder of her son, an abuser, who should have been booked by her department had he been alive. The use of domestic violence by the shadow police as a trope to lure Georgekutty’s family into confession is another example of how the film misunderstands violence against women and treats it as a means to further the hero’s story.
Films like Drishyam with the most loved, bankable stars reach all kinds of audience. Hence, they have a responsibility to be informed by egalitarian politics and a better understanding of female representation. The film capitalises on our conservative morality and uses it to garner popularity. The net effect is that it normalises women being restricted from mingling with men, going on school excursions and encourages the isolation of survivors of sexual abuse.
For everyone out there who is blown away by Georgekutty’s sharpness of mind, let me also remind you that this is not about him. Varun was a conniving, stalking, intimidating sexual abuser. There was no need for the family to stretch it this far. Blackmailing a woman with her nudity is a crime and it is her right to seek legal remedy. She does not have to hide inside her bedroom for having a body and sexuality. Her empowerment does not lie in a man protecting her reputation by going on a spree of cover-up. It lies in her ownership of her body, her raised finger against her abuser, with or without solid support systems, to do so. As a society, we must ensure that she will have the back up she requires. That is the only acceptable way for a progressive, egalitarian society to be. Georgekutty and Jeethu Joseph seem to have forgotten this. But let us not.
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Hi Sukanya, this is the most brilliant review of the movie I have ever read. You have articulated all the points that I have been thinking, talking, and writing about ever since I saw the first movie and now the sequel. So glad to see that I am not alone in thinking this way. In a sea of voices that seem to be carried away by the cinematic brilliance of this movie, it is disheartening to see how few people are able to see how truly problematic it is, so its great to read articles like this!
I was not comfortable about the way women were portrayed in the movie.They seemed like mindless puppets who needed protection in the microcosm of the society which is fully male.Even the policewoman was typically portrayed as an abused woman who says she is paying for the sin of loving a man against her family’ wishes.. I love Mohanlal and he is brilliant but was not happy about his family’s portrayal .
Jesus man relax it’s just a movie. Why do feminists have to ruin everything? Your reasoning would’ve been valid in a western society where modest clothing and the concept of arranged marriage ISN’T the norm. Unfortunately the movie takes place in Kerala where getting a job and being married off to affluent family is the measure of success in a woman’s life. Which is why the chastity of the elder daughter needs to be protected. Ask yourself….would you want your daughter’s nudes leaked to the internet where everything remains forever? Sure you might be willing to go with the legal proceedings and ready to face the repracausions( where things go public) but like I said when you live in a society where your reputation precedes you, the common man will be hesitant. I’m assuming you don’t have a degree in sociodynamics or else you wouldn’t be writing this article.
While the best possible solution could have been legal help (which is also tricky as the predator is son of an IG) movie need to realistic about what an average mother will do in such cases.
It is also to be noted that in Drishyam 2, parents never blamed the daughter for what happened and supported her to recover from trauma via proper medical help.
Regarding Varun’s mother, she accepts that what she is doing is a cheating but a right thing to do from her perspective just like how George Kutty trying to escape from the legal procedures.
Good answers the reviewer must note.
/Let me underline here that the film would have worked well even if the murder of Varun was not related to the girl’s nudity. /
Will you be kind enough to give an example of an alternative scenario of murder where the film would have worked just ‘as well’ as you claim?
It is certainly not obvious.
The conservatism of the mileu is pretty much essential for the film to work.
One may find it problematic – as you rightly do – but that is the engine of the drama.
/Not a single scene in Drishyam 2 is dedicated to reminding the audience who Varun was and why he was murdered in the first place./
In fact the film precisely shows how the establishment (Geetha and the IG) are casually glad about the fact that Varun’s misdeeds won’t come out because of the way Georgekutty confessed. Not surprising but damning isn’t it?
The IG is out to hunt, it’s an ego-issue for him, and he would gladly, shamelessly let his friend’s son’s misdeed remain suppressed. He almost chastises Prabhakar for being unbelievably kind. Remember in the first film Prabhakar is the one who expressed that it is their failure as parents that caused all the catastrophes.
/Geetha is never questioned on using her professional clout to avenge the murder of her son, an abuser, who should have been booked by her department had he been alive./
What is questioning? You mean, say, a scene where a superior authority is giving her a slap on the wrists at least. Sure there is no such scene. But wouldn’t such a cardboard-scene be weak?
The film actually does manage to register to the audience that her excessive clout-flex is ‘wrong’, doesn’t it?
Prabhakar is shown to wring-hands. The IG says ‘let her vent’ when she slaps Georgekutty. The audience’s sympathy is clearly structured against her always, isn’t it?
/ The use of domestic violence by the shadow police as a trope to lure Georgekutty’s family into confession is another example of how the film misunderstands violence against women and treats it as a means to further the hero’s story./
Just because the shadow couple uses domestic violence as a front, the film misunderstands it?? How? Can you back up this statement?
If anything Georgekutty’s repeated urging ‘Go to the police, seek recourse, they are NOT going to hurt your husband’ is a very positive message coming from a mass hero.
And the local inspector Philip does not know that they are shadow police when he issues the husband a warning. That is, Georgekutty was indeed proved right in urging Saritha to seek police assistance.
/Hence, they have a responsibility to be informed by egalitarian politics and a better understanding of female representation. The film capitalises on our conservative morality and uses it to garner popularity/
Again, this film is about such a people and a milieu. To expect every film/character, regardless of milieu to subscribe to a progressive moral code is antithetical to the art process itself.
It is one thing for you to point out the problematic conservative morality that is at the heart of this film. But to expect every film creation to be circumscribed by it is commissarial.
It is very natural for a mother like Rani to behave the way she does. She sees a mainstream harmless mainstream Hollywood kissing scene in her living room and asks her teenage daughter not to watch that ‘shameless movie’.
The film is hardly making the daughter look wrong or making light of her mother’s concerns.
They both exist. The tensions exist. They will sort it out. Isn’t that a more honest snapshot than
any pre-decided ideological grandstanding that sit-ill with the characters’ tendencies?
@ManuJosephFan is spot on. The author is making valid points about the ideals that should be portrayed, but the movie is portraying what life is unfortunately still like for many in the Indian diaspora. In fact, the fact that the movie showed this reality I think got even more people fired up in thinking the way things currently work in indeed wrong and needs to be changed. This story would not work without these sad reality of how women are treated as 2nd class citizens is portrayed.
Superbly written @ManuJosephFan. If the film had all those idealistic stands, people would never connect with the film, because such an ideal family doesn’t exist. The film would become a preachy film without an iota of reality in it. In the name of idealism and political correctness, we are killing an art form.
A fresh take on the movie. While everyone else are going gung ho about the movie, Author has taken the path less trodden.
Instead of enjoying a movie and it’s story as a part of an entertainment and appreciating the creative aspects of the movie…We find comments which starts justifying and unjustifying the moral aspects of everything and anything….If we go this way, then we will not be able to show anything on the silverscreen or drama platform….Because certain section of the society will immediately start weighing the moral aspects of anything and everything on the weight machine…..which I think is a little too much.
Agree. All movies can’t be moral classes. Malayalam movies have always had strong female centric roles. Women have not just been pretty thing in short dresses running around trees. So to argue that the movie is misogynistic maybe morally right, but artistically incorrect . There are all kinds of people and let’s stop moralising
Drishyam2 is dragging
Suddenly everything gets over in last 15 mts
This article does a beautiful job dancing around the fact that anju stops being the victim the moment she murders varun. The video stops existing and for the rest of the movie she is only a victim to the trauma of her own actions (murder). It is a gross misunderstanding of the movie if this article feels Georgekutty’s motivation is to hide the existence of a video that doesn’t exist anymore; it is to hide a murder (a justified murder). This article is doing exactly what it is criticizing the movie of doing ( making it all about her body and erasing her only act of agency). The movie has a lot of issues and cannot be called feminist, but this article hardly makes any valid criticism instead focusing on how it fails to meet some overly idealistic expectations while ignoring that this is the reality of the majority of Indian women. The movie does not disagree with the article’s last few statements , it just chooses not to make a comment on the (flawed) reality we live in. I would not like movie set in a fantasy reality where real world societal issues suddenly cease to exist. The article fails to realise that the movie is not trying to make a statement and if it is, it is that the legal system is corrupt.
This article does a beautiful job dancing around the fact that anju stops being the victim the moment she murders varun. The video stops existing and for the rest of the movie she is only a victim to the trauma of her own actions (murder). It is a gross misunderstanding of the movie if this article feels Georgekutty’s motivation is to hide the existence of a video that doesn’t exist anymore; it is to hide a murder (a justified murder). This article is doing exactly what it is criticizing the movie of doing ( making it all about her body and erasing her only act of agency). The movie has a lot of issues and cannot be called feminist, but this article hardly makes any valid criticism instead focusing on how it fails to meet some overly idealistic expectations while ignoring that this is the reality of the majority of Indian women. The movie does not disagree with the article’s last few statements , it just chooses not to make a comment on the (flawed) reality we live in. The article fails to realise that the movie is not trying to make a statement and if it is, it is that the legal system is corrupt.
The movie has always been problematic for me. I went in to watch the first one and left in the middle when I realized how steeped it was in patriarchy. In the first, there is a scene where Georgekutty is getting turned on watching a rape scene from a Malayalam movie ( he terms it a sex scene). That itself told me I was not going to enjoy the movie.
The movie was regressive even the first time I watched it with women relegated to playing second fiddle to the male protector. In real life, women aren’t as passive as movies project them to be. They stand up and fight back. I have seen it time and again not only in Kerala, but even in rural Tamil Nadu. They fight tooth and nail for their daughters and go to any extent to protect them even when the men around them stand by and watch. Such movies give the wrong message to women telling them they need a man to protect them. They are also not realistic. Such movies are just vehicles to pamper to the male ego.
In Drishyam, Georgekutty doesn’t get turned on by a rape scene. It’s an erotic song from the Hindi movie ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’.
You’re exactly what’s wrong with modern feminism it’s not a woman needs a man to stand up for her but a father protecting his daughter (you wouldn’t say this if it was a single mom doing the same thing as georgekutty). God you just want a reason to hate on men huh? I wonder who hurt you
Movie is a mirror and it shadows the reality as existent in the society. The good, the bad, the ugly. Unless reality is altered, would changing or polishing the mirror make any significant change.
Hi Sukanya, Your analysis of the movie with a feminist microscope is definitely comprehensive and has brought just about everything wrong with the social construct of the same. However neither George Kutty or Mohanlal, were anywhere near trying to moralise anything in this movie. My take is that, this movie is purely an entertainment piece, which uses the theme of how a father would go at any length to protect his family. Hence the emotional fragility of all the women in the family was magnified to give intensity to the theme of the said screenpaly, period. Perhaps when you wrote the review, you could have written it from a social perspective, which would have been apt. Instead you critique was targetted at the screenplay which was produced with specific entertainment parameter. All the issues like women emancipation, breaking patriachal traditions etc, which you highlighted, are valid arguments that have plaqued our society since time immemorial that needs to be addressed and reengineered. Instead when you target your critique to a movie, as in this case, sometimes the intended purpose of your message would not go beyond that movie. Movies are intended for entertainment, unless it is an art movie, or movies which has specific social message that they would want to highlight for example “The Great Indian Kitchen” or the likes. Though you have highlighted critical social issues from the movie but it would have been more meaningful if you would have penned it as social commentator rather than a movie critique. As a commercial movie, the closer the reel to the real, the higher the level of appreciation it will draw.
What an uninformed review- I wonder if the reviewer actually watched the film?
George Kutty’s larger concern isn’t the clip spreading- it’s barely mentioned in this movie. It’s protecting his family. The one time it is mentioned, it is the predator’s mother trying to make sure that the fact he recorded this clip doesn’t come into the public eye. FIlming someone naked without their permission, is wrong whether the person being filmed is male or female.
Her daughter’s trauma comes as a result of her being a murderer, and is constantly afraid of being caught. And not because she is being victim shamed throughout the movie or any sexual trauma. You can see her shudder whenever there is a police siren or she see’s policmen, it’s an understandable PTSD reaction to feeling guilty.
The situation in the initial film was blackmail, but it could have amounted to much worse given the way the predator was behaving hence why she acted in self defence. If someone comes to my house, and starts advancing on my mother, I don’t think “a legal remedies” are the first thing I’d think that about. Even if he didn’t come to the house and act in a threatening manner, and maybe the threat of blackmail came via an email etc, if you actually watched the film you’d see that it would be very unlikely that the family would find any justice.
Some of the family’s views are outdated for sure, but it’s clearly repeated and reiterated throughout the film that the parents are not well educated, nor are they aware of modern culture- not knowing what an Audi is or what a sleepover means, or thinking that camera phones have technology that automatically film people nude.
If you are going to write a feminist’s perspective, then please write one constructively, instead of creating an entirely different narrative that’s in opposition to even the basic jist of the story.
Did you actually see the movie you uncultured sw*ne? The daughter is the one who kills the boy and the father is trying to save his family from being caught…the plot isn’t about the video clip going viral. Why do feminists have to ruin everything?
This seems like you are capitalising on Drishyam’s fame to write an article!:) I am sorry that’s the only way I can see it. Because this is not about the clip of the elder daughter. That issue is not what the first or the second edition of the movie was dealing with. The issue was that because of the clip and the way Varun behaved with her mom, in a momentary fear and rage, she killed him. Now as u said legal recourse could have been taken, and even if delayed, maybe they would have received mercy because of the situation at hand.
Instead as small-towners, and fearing what the law and justice holds for themz they or rather George Kutty tries to save his daughter. No. Not because he is an antifeminist and can’t let the daughter deal with this. But because she is a teenager and is absolutely clueless, as they would be :p after killing someone albeit accidentally. So as a father he tried to do what instinctively came to his mind. Plus yes this is fiction and they have dragged it to make it an interesting plot.
Let’s not find faults just because we have to!
Isn’t the movie depicting reality that exists in the society as it is, not as it ought to be? Nowhere in the film the negative existing societal attitude is justified, it just shows it. It is a slice of the world that exists, not of one that ought to exist. If you consider this aspect, this entire article becomes redundant.