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Drishyam Is A Well-Written Series, With A Brilliant Climax, But One BIG Letdown

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TW: Sexual violence

Spoiler alert!

The Drishyam series is an interesting movie to dissect and analyse. No doubt, it is a well-written movie with top-notch performances. A clever story will always leave certain clues for its readers to guess how it would tie its laces neatly at the end. You sort of know how the story would pan out at the end because the writer sets you up so. The writer leads you down the garden path. It’s a win-win for the reader and writer in their story journey together.

However, the movie is not without loopholes. The movie has come under fire from certain sections amidst the huge praise pouring in for the sequel. Especially the argument that the film is patriarchal, and the women characters are weak.

And, it led me to this question.

Would Georgekutty have gone to the same lengths to protect his family if it were his son (gender-reversed) who was innocent and committed murder in self-defence? 

Here are my two cents!

On The Big Screen

In that case, Rani George, played by Meena, would go all out to protect her tainted son. A la Rhythm played ably by Keerthi Suresh in Penguin. The casting matters. And so, Meena would be swapped for Manju Warrier or Nayanthara as the female lead. Mohanlal would be swapped for an actor with a metrosexual image. More Fahadh Faasil. Then the movie would be a feminist thriller with a strong woman character. Which reminds me Penguin started on a very promising note but ended being bizarre and over-the-top.

At this juncture, I am also reminded of the movie Mom, with a similar plot as Drishyam, but set in an urban locale. The mother, played brilliantly by Sridevi, is forced to be a vigilante and find justice for her daughter. Some memorable performances by the lead and supporting cast in an otherwise average movie.

In Real Life

Coming back to the question,

Would Georgekutty have gone to the same lengths to protect his family if it were his son (gender-reversed) who was innocent and committed murder in self-defence? 

In real life, I don’t think the gender of the child would have mattered to either parent. They would still go to any lengths to shield their child. It depends on who’s the more courageous and risk-taker of the two.

As for the character of Georgekutty being unrealistic and how an ordinary man like him can conceive such illogical ploys to deceive the police, well, life is stranger than fiction. The most devious and brilliant plans can come from the unlikeliest people. Remember Jolly Shaju, aka The Black Widow? Of course, her motives were more materialistic as compared to Georgekutty’s motive to protect his family against the evil elite forces at all costs.

What Drishyam Gets Right

Stills from Drishyam 2.

Coming to Drishyam, the depiction of rural Kerala is apt. I know the characters pretty well. It’s how the natives talk—the hushed rumours of the town. Women like Rani George, who have been conditioned by patriarchy exist.

Do we stop showing movies that portray weak women characters and only show powerful and inspiring women characters? But then again, I’ve also heard the criticism that powerful women protagonists equate to lazy writing, which is not always true, in my opinion. Yes, by writing strong women characters that behave a certain way and in the fixed template, stories can be predictable, but it need not always be bad or lazy writing. And the same argument can be held for stories with strong male characters. I do agree that we need to show more realistic characters on screen. Especially women, because there is a serious dearth.

Speaking of strong women characters, the Mardaani series has Rani Mukerji play a tough woman cop. Interestingly, in the second instalment of the movie series, the villain wasn’t looking for weak women to prey on, bully, rape, and murder. He wanted the bigger challenge of showing strong women their place in a man’s world. I went into the theatre looking for an inspirational movie for my then ten-year-old daughter, and it ended up leaving her scarred for months with recurring nightmares even in the daylight.

But, the truth is that movies like Mardaani, Drishyam, or Mom are not just fiction. It’s a reality. We have news all around us about how strong women are targeted and broken down. So, I cannot lie and paint a pretty picture of the world to my child. It’s not. We live in a terribly skewed, ugly, and unfair world. Once we acknowledge this fact, we can work towards changing it one step at a time.

It is easy for critics to say why Rani George couldn’t ask their daughter’s molester to go to hell. It’s also very convenient to criticise Georgekutty for running away from the Law, and not going to the police for protection. Because it doesn’t always work that way in real life. We know how caste and class politics works.

If you look into the history of the police, you’d know it was instituted solely to protect the rich and powerful. The policing is only for the common people, to keep them in perpetual oppression so that they cannot unite and fight against the establishment. What are the odds that the police would help a common man like Georgekutty’s daughter against an IG’s son?

Drishyam is a mirror to the current reality of the world.

We see inequality in action every single day. Nodeep Kaur. Shiv Kumar. The Hathras case. The Unnao case. The current farmers’ protests. The list is endless.

But we, the common people, must continue to hope, unite, and fight. We have no other option for survival.

How Drishyam Made Me Uncomfortable As A Middle-Class, Minority Woman 

I won’t be lying that certain scenes in the movie made me very uncomfortable. Like the neighbour couple’s drunken brawl! What’s with Malayali filmmakers and their dark fantasy of slapping their women on screen. The wife-slapping scenes should be banned, in my opinion. Georgekutty urges the woman to lodge a police complaint, and she refuses out of her love and loyalty to her man. Thankfully, in the movie, the woman does file a case against her husband.

The other scene was the policing of the daughter by the mother. When one of the daughters comes out on the front porch in her sleeveless nightdress, the mother admonishes her to go inside and change. The scene also brought to mind the short story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, which is centred upon a mother’s angst about her daughter turning into a slut.

Drishyam 2 stills.

I rolled my eyes during this scene in the movie. Usually, it’s the men who police their women regarding their dressing. Secondly, when you have three women against a man in the house, it’s unbelievable to think that the women would still want to live like it’s a man’s world, even in their own homes. It doesn’t work that way in the modern-day world.

Another scene that made me uncomfortable was the mother’s eagerness to get her eldest daughter married as soon as possible. That is primitive thinking, but again, not very far from the truth. Most Indians think of marriage and childbirth as the magic-pills to all problems. A Zinda Tilismath! Again, thankfully in the movie, the daughter puts her foot down, and the father agrees with his daughter’s decision.

More scenes that make you want to tear your hair out are when Rani reminds Georgekutty that he shouldn’t forget he has two daughters (read double the responsibility) to pack off, and he shouldn’t be wasting money on his dreams. And when Rani tells Georgekutty how the entire town is talking rubbish about their family. Yes, I understand these are typical middle-class problems! Log kya kahenge!

But, Here’s What I Found The Most Problematic In Drishyam 2

The climax.

Yes, it was a brilliant climax because of the redefinition of the word ‘revenge’ and its detachment from all things material. We’ve all heard of the quote of how success is the best revenge. But in Drishyam 2, the writer throws an entirely different light on the meaning of revenge, which I found intriguing.

However, it’s the message that is so dark, hopeless, and problematic that it makes Drishyam a hard pill to swallow.

Despite Georgekutty’s intelligence and success in hoodwinking the entire police and elite forces, he and his family have to live in a state of perpetual fear and unrest. And that is the worst kind of punishment and way to live.

Why should the middle-class girl and her family suffer the consequences of a crime committed out of self-defence?

I remember this 90s Telugu thriller, Kshana Kshanam, where Sridevi escapes from the police out of fear. In the climax, the police inform her that she was unnecessarily running away from them, as they knew she couldn’t be the murderer. At least, the climax in the movie brings hope, justice, and closure.

Thrillers are meant to be intelligent. It’s highly preposterous to think that in a literal state like Kerala, all of them in the family are utterly clueless about nonconsensual porn laws. Georgekutty has the smarts to think through all the legal loopholes to outwit the establishment. He gets the media to the police station to report the news when his daughter was assaulted by the police. But, he has no clue about how he can use the nonconsensual porn laws in his daughter’s favour.

Drishyam 2 stills.

It’s twisted logic to suggest that the girl and her family have no salvation at all, despite being on the side of the right. Despite the fact that Georgekutty successfully evaded punishment and the evil schemes by the elite powers. Anju, the daughter, is undergoing psychiatric treatment for her trauma after the murder.

What kind of justice and closure is this? Drishyam 2 ends on a dark, twisted, and hopeless note.

In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, we see an open-ended climax. The mother, played by Frances McDormand, is still on the prowl for her dead daughter’s rapist, and as viewers, we know it can go either way. But the glimmering hope leaves us calm.

I hope this is not the end, and the writer comes up with a more progressive outlook, logical and hopeful message in the next instalment of the Drishyam series. If Drishyam 2 is the final movie in the series, it’s an extremely bitter to swallow and digest. Even if the writer shrugs his shoulders and quips, “Well, it’s the reality! The rich and powerful always win!”

Final Thoughts

I believe every story must be told. Who is weak or strong is for the viewers to decide and judge for themselves! We cannot be the sole harbingers of Truth. We cannot play God and decide for the populace.

Unless we watch all kinds of movies, analyse, and critique them, we cannot bring insightful discussions to the table and Change.

Have you watched Drishyam? What are your thoughts on the movie? 

You must be to comment.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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