Drishyam 2: ‘Re’making a monster hit
Experts explain what the crime-thriller did, which big-budgeted remakes like Vikram Vedha couldn’t
In a week where there is Ayushmann Khurrana and Jaideep Ahlawat battling it out in An Action Hero, Varun Dhawan is shapeshifting into a werewolf in Stree-fame Amar Kaushik’s Bhediya; a Hindi remake of a Malayalam film, about a middle-class man hiding a crime, is the only one marching towards the Rs 200 crore club.
Drishyam 2, starring Ajay Devgn, Tabu and Akshaye Khanna, has become exemplary in a year where remakes aren’t safe bets anymore. Even star vehicles like Vikram Vedha, with a competent plot and direction by helmers of the original Tamil version, failed to rake in the moolah. So, what helped Drishyam 2 at the box office? "Brand value," says Girish Johar, producer and film business expert. "The original Malayalam version was released on OTT directly. The good feedback and the reviews created a buzz which helped the Hindi version."
Film trade analyst Taran Adarsh reiterated the opinion. "The first Drishyam created a fanbase which helped the second film." The experts also believe that since Drishyam 2 (Malayalam) was not dubbed in Hindi for OTT, it left a gap for northern audiences which was covered by the Hindi version. "Drishyam 2 was a movie where the original version was released only in Malayalam with English subtitles. The Hindi audiences got to see the film in their native language, in theatres and with stars like Ajay Devgn, Tabu and Akshaye Khanna," says Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor, and distributor. "Also, the first instalment was such a cult hit, it helped build anticipation around this one."
Bollywood had a number of remakes this year, probably because makers didn’t want to roll the dice on new content and box office-tested stories were considered safe options. It started off with Akshay Kumar’s Bachchhan Paandey, a remake of the 2014 Tamil film Jigarthanda, then there was Shahid Kapoor starrer Jersey (remake of 2019 Telugu film of the same name), Nikamma (Middle Class Abbayi (Telugu, 2017)), HIT: The First Case, Good Luck Jerry (Kolamaavu Kokila (Tamil, 2018)), Laal Singh Chaddha (Forrest Gump (English, 1994)), Dobaaraa (Mirage (Spanish, 2018)), Vikram Vedha and Mili (Helen (Malayalam, 2019.)) All proved to be commercial failures. While Laal Singh Chaddha’s numbers suffered partly because of a huge online backlash, it was rather strange that Vikram Vedha, which was riding on the shoulders of Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan, couldn’t get the desired results.
"The problem was that the Tamil Vikram Vedha was available in Hindi online and the Hindi audiences had already seen it," says Taran. Girish, however, thinks the "top-heavy" costs of the Hindi version impacted the business (Vikram Vedha (Hindi) was made at a budget of approx. Rs 175 crore.)) "The reviews and the feedback were good but the star fees and the top-heavy costs affected the film’s box office," says Girish. "I think a lot of our content creators need to understand that a niche film, even if made with a superstar, is a niche film. The Tamil Vikram Vedha was a hit with two phenomenal actors who were not really superstars. Vijay Sethupathi was just getting started, while Madhavan, although a star, is unlike Vijay, Ajith or Rajnikanth. The first one worked when it comes to its size and scale," adds Akshaye.
It was also the way Drishyam 2 was adapted. The Hindi version, compared to the Malayalam original, was more racy, humorous and satirical. "The Hindi Drishyam 2 was well adapted to the market," says Akshaye. "The relatability and the jokes, all that is good, but ultimately, it’s the entertainment value which will sell tickets. Drishyam 2 had that."
The crime-thriller is now in its third weekend and has minted Rs 175 crore. "It’s the content that matched the expectations," adds Girish.
(With inputs by Shilajit Mitra)