What is the difference between a truth and a lie? Between fact and fiction? Between life and movies? Or let’s say, between experienced reality and constructed reality?
Jeetu Joseph’s Papanasam, his Tamil remake of his own Drishyam, never feels three hours long. In fact, it’s an extremely riveting thriller drama that works purely on the craft of the reality he has recreated again, made all the more compelling by performances, especially by the leading man, the lady (a fantastic Gautami returns to the big screen), the children…and in fact, the entire ensemble including Ananth Mahadevan, who we ought to see more of.
If Mohanlal was subtle and sublime in the Malayalam original, Kamal Haasan, who wears his Sivaji Ganesan fandom like a badge of honour, decides to go all out to showcase his range. And is most likely to move you to tears in that scene when he opens up to Ananth Mahadevan. That one scene alone is worth a repeat watch. Kamal Haasan is not just good, he’s God. And the Devil. Because, the devil is in the details, you see. If you are an actor, to study how to bring detail to performance, just watch and learn from this master class.
While the film stays largely loyal to the original, this strangely feels a lot tighter despite the longer length. Why does a thriller need three hours, I asked myself, bracing myself to spend an entire day in the preview theatre after the show at noon didn’t start until 2.30 p.m.
(The interval was hijacked with the screening of an entire 106 minute long Second Hand Husband because Dharmendra, whose family owned Sunny Super Sound, was there himself and the second half started at 6 p.m and the show ended at 7.30! Yet, instead of being exhausted, the audience was applauding the film. “This was the first time I clapped during a press show,” as a critic friend admitted.)
Yes, the film does take 90 minutes just to set up the world and to get to the point where the investigation begins. But it’s the seeds of all those little details and the cheeky red herrings planted in the first half that help the narrative reap the fruits during the wholly satisfying second half that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The first half is the experienced reality. Life. Facts. Truth.
And the second is the constructed reality. Movies. Fiction. Lies.
As Papanasam launches into this story-telling game, it becomes a meta-film about the power of movies to educate, enrich and empower people from the remotest towns and villages in the country. It’s a great homage to cinema and a must watch for movie buffs.
Even if you have read Devotion of Suspect X or watched Suspect X… actually, especially if you have read or watched the debatable source of influence, you would appreciate this a lot more because Jeetu Joseph not only makes it his own film but makes it a film that’s essentially our own.
A film about our love for lies. For fiction. And movies.
Honestly, I think critics are scared of panning a Kamal Haasan movie. If one were to call a spade a spade, this is an extended remake of a dumbed down remake of a film adaptation of an intelligent novel. As levels trickled down, the intelligence quotient died too.