A movie with Tabu and Ajay Devgan? No, we are not talking about Vijaypath or Haqeeqat but Drishyam, a remake of the Malayalam superhit of the same name that had Mohanlal in the lead role. (Talking of Mohanlal,the Bollywood enthusiasts will remember him from Company as well as Aag). Drishyam promises to be a wholesome entertainer, a thriller with a whodunit premise, a genre that needs a serious revival.
During the early days of Bollywood, or the golden period, the black and white crime films, whodunits and plethora of innovation with limited resources made the genre extremely popular among one and all. The Guru Dutt produced and Dev Anand starrer CID comes to our mind for its brilliant mix of classical crime elements never seen before on screen.
Several other movies like Gumnaam, inspired by Agatha Christie’s Then There Was None, The Train, Doondh, Kali Ghataall were commendable whodunits and enjoy cult status nowadays. If you remember Gumnaam, you will see an islandwhere several people are trapped and they are killed one by one. Mehmood’s iconic song, sung by Mohammad Rafi, Hum Kalein Hein To Kya Hua Dilwale Hein, was another highlight of this movie.
Another important addition to the genre was given by the greatest superstar of the 70s-80s era. Amitabh Bachchan will always be known for his angry young man persona but two of his movies Parwana and Majboor can be considered whodunits. While in Parwana he plays the role of an obsessive lover who resorts to crime to win his ladylove, it is in Majboor where he excels in the role of a middle class trapped by circumstances and has to prove his own innocence. Majboor is nowadays considered as a classic and if we look at Drishyam it has quite a few similarities with it. The protagonist in Drishyam, Ajay Devgan commits a crime for his family and as the noose of law strengthens he has to keep his family safe. Similarly, in Majboor, we see Amitabh Bachchan who decides to confess to a crime he did not commit so that his family is safe and happy. He takes this drastic decision when he realizes he has brain tumour and the money he will receive will keep his family from falling into penury. However, he gets miraculously cured and now has to look for the real perpetrator.Majboor was extremely well made and very different from the roles we are accustomed to seeing Big B in.
After the 70s and 80s, 90s and the new millennium saw a string of movies that can qualify as whodunits but among them, Ram Gopal Varma’s iconic Kaun definitely stands out. A psychological thriller and completely experimental, Ram Gopal Varma totally changed the way Bollywood perceived the genre. Unfortunately, this tradition was not continued at all.
Another important movie to release during this time was Samay, starring Sushmita Sen and Jackie Shroff, was known for being the desi version of David Fincher’s Se7en. Not a major success at the box office,Samay reflected a trend where desi filmmakers looked west for borrowing plots. First, it was the Hitchcockian influence and later movies from more exotic locales like South Korea started dominating the narrative. Some movies were hit while the rest stumbled in the race to win the box-office.
However, one movie that really got its influence in place was Manorama Six Feet Under, directed by Navdeep Singh, and inspired by none other than Roman Polanksi’s Chinatown, is another example of a superb thriller mixed with middle-class values. Changing the entire template of Chinatown was extremely difficult but it was made possible by Navdeep Singh who established a well-made whodunit.Combining reality with fiction, throwing in titbits of political as well as social problems and turning the movie into a satire. Abhay Deol’s character becomes a reluctant detective trying to solve a crime that will change the entire political landscape of a state.
Another exciting whodunit cum thriller could be Kahaani, if we look at Vidya Balan’s character, we see the detective streak present in her, as she guides several characters throughout the movie as she searches for the elusive Milan Damji. Maybe Vidya Balan’s modus operandi matched with that of a private detective and hence we got to see her in Bobby Jasoos where she played a female detective, breaking taboos, romancing and solving crime. However, apart from Bobby Jasoos being a regular whodunnit, it can also qualify as a feminist fable about a woman entering a man’s world. Drishyam, in all sense is a bit different from these movies, but it is a mix, of both a thriller as well as a whodunit. Now if we see the character played by Ajay Devgan, we will find that he too is a sort of a detective who is using his skills to save his family, and hide a crime that he has committed and it is Tabu who is trying to break his defense at all cost.
Honestly, it is a good time to experiment and bring out new stories to the audience. DetectiveByomkesh Bakshy was one such movie that left audience as well as critics polarized but all agreed that it was extremely ambitious in its attempt to re-interpret a popular character from the pages of literature.Several other detective movies, thrillers are in the offing with the much awaited, Jagga Jasoos starring Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Govinda though reports suggest Govinda has left the movie.Bollywood whodunits or detective thrillers have one solid element, they always make it a point to have superb song and dance routine and all the above-mentioned movies are known for it. As one might put in it is a perfect blend and the genre can be dubbed as crime musicals. Hopefully, with Drishyam the genre will finally re-establish itself in the industry with the much needed makeover.