a politician with a 35-year career, Ishwar Prasad of Arshad Warsi. His ex-PA convicted of murder – IPS Chanchal Chauhan of Bhumi Pednekar. An incorruptible cop – Jisshu Sengupta’s ACP, Abhay Singh. A CBI officer tasked with finding information on Ishwar Prasad – Mahie Gill’s Satyakshi Ganguly. And an enchanted mansion – Durgamati Haveli. When Ashok G’s Durgamati came out on Amazon Prime Video, we were sitting there with a lot of popcorn, equal parts hope and skepticism. After about two and a half hours, there wasn’t a single frame, a single scene, a single camera angle that we hadn’t already seen in Bhaagamathie, the telugu film by star Anushka Shetty, of which this film is a remake. Disappointment does not quite describe how RN feels.
Durgamati and Bhaagamathie are twin sisters as Bollywood has shown us over the years – ek hasti hai toh dusri bhi hasti hai. And with that, not only does subtlety have nothing to do with them, but they also live in another continent. Unfortunately, the kind of horror has always been neglected in Bollywood, except for a tumbbad here, or a stree there. Thus, when the unarmed guard of the titular haveli disarms us from our sensitivity by shouting “chudail hai woh” at the ghost, albeit female, lurking in the mansion, we say “ok” and enter. But the horrors of the story are not only found in hasli.
“Aaj ki zaamane mein insaan ki maanta kaun hai.” Log sirf bhagwan aur shaitaan pe bharosa karte hai,” Chanchal says in one scene. And it is this Bhagwan Rupi Shaitan that we are essentially pursuing. For a politician whose 35-year career has been flawless, that in itself is a horror story. Both Bhaagamathie and Durgamati could have been limited to that, without the real pursuit. But alas, that is not the case, he puts a normal love story in the bag and what we have in front of us is a pizza with chicken and kheema pineapple. Oh, the horror!
It is impossible to write a review without spoilers on a film that is a frame-by-frame copy of another film that is also dubbed in Hindi. You even know when the jump panics are coming. And it’s just as difficult to evaluate the performance of new actors. But we’re going to try.
While the Ishwar of Arshad still has a bit of meat in its mouth, and it does, the Abhay of Jisshu offers little for the actor to explore. He always tries to do his thing without letting his performance become a caricature. The same cannot be said of Mahies Satyakshi. The Bengalis don’t drop Bengali keywords into a Hindi conversation to add their flair. Boka” and “matha kharap” is exactly what we feel when we hear it.
But there are also other characters who take a similar path. A Gujarati member of the CBI investigation team adds a “che” while a Sikh member of the same team speaks with a Punjabi accent so strong that it is unintelligible. We then realize that this may be revenge for all the times we have reduced the characters of “South India” to mere caricatures.