Guess what’s the best part about Durgamati? It has horror at the core of it, suspense as a strong ingredient and drama as the driving force. However, it’s the multiple twists that fill in the entire second half that makes it truly engaging, exciting and entertaining. Though you may get some sort of inkling around the big reveal round the corner, the motive isn’t something that you can crack and that’s what makes this twist laden thriller stand out from the films that are brought out in the horror genre.
In a way, director Ashok (who has also helmed the Telugu original Bhagmathie) pays a homage of sorts to Priyadarshan as well as Abbas Mustan. While there is Bhool Bhulaiyaa set up to the film with Bhumi Pednekar in a possessed avtar a la Vidya Balan, the kind of twists and the double crosses that come are reminiscent of the patent that the Race franchise boasts of. Now imagine marrying the two styles? That’s something that Durgamati boasts of which keeps your attention on right through its two and a half hours duration.
Could the film have been for a lesser duration? Yes. Had the comedy quotient (involving three low rung cops, including a female) been totally done away with at the script stage itself, the film would not just have been shorter but also crisper. Frankly, while Durgamati maintains a big film feel for most part of it, it is these portions that are totally deviant to the core of it. Also, the flashback sequence towards the climax when the revelations around the killing are made is way too stretched. Once the fact had been stated, the director could well have wrapped it up and then moved on to the epilogue.
That said, it’s the prologue that sets the tone right for the film which has history, mythology, modern day politics, horror, ‘bhatakti aatma’ and Rs. 1800 crores worth of scam all coming together. In a usual scenario, one may have wondered if the makers are biting more than what they can chew. However, after having watched the original, it is apparent that the producers (Akshay Kumar, Vikram Malhotra, Bhushan Kumar) were convinced that the pan-India audience would gobble this out and out masala show with glee as well.
In comes Bhumi Pednekar, an IAS officer who has killed her boyfriend (Karan Kapadia) and is now in jail. Her mentor (Arshad Warsi), a politician with a spotless career of 35 years, finds himself in a political conspiracy where the bigwigs rope in a CBI officer (Mahie Gill) to entrap him into a crime that he may or may not have committed. Then there is a cop (Jisshu Sengupta) who has a bone to settle as well with Bhumi. With nowhere to go, the lady further finds herself all by herself in a haunted mansion which was once the legacy of THE Durgamati.
While there are usual tropes associated with horror that are embellished into the narrative of Durgamati, what makes it different from the rest of the ilk is the whole political angle. This is where the second half of the film becomes all the more interesting due to the manner in which the mystery unfolds. Also, one has to keep the thinking hat right through as well since there is a lot that risks being missed out even if five minutes of the film are skipped.
As for the actors, it was a very difficult role for Bhumi to crack and barring an instance or two (where she has to raise her dramatic pitch, something that she could improve upon), she nails it quite well during the entire narrative. Watch out for her when she gets possessed and gets into Durgamati avtar. She is present right through the narrative and keeps a solid hold.
As for Arshad, I have always maintained that he needs to be utilised in a much better way by Bollywood and thankfully he gets to play a rock solid part where he is integral to the core plot. In a serious dramatic avtar, he shows yet again how he can do something far beyond comedy too.
Another actor who deserves a lot more is Mahie. She has a major part to play and delivers a performance that stays true, though there didn’t really seem to be a need for her to play a Bengali with a made up accent. Otherwise, she is just right for the part and carries it with grace. Jisshu can be relied upon and he makes his presence felt too. Also, he gets to play andar better part than what he was saddled with in Sadak 2. Karan registers his presence in a small but important part, and while he comes across as a tough guy on screen, he could do better in the emotional scenes.
All in all, Durgamati turns out to be one of those rare films (especially in the current times) that you can watch it comfortably with your family. Play it on and you won’t be disappointed.