Durgamati Movie Review: Durgamati is relevant but the storytelling lacks the spirit it needed

Durgamati

Synopsis

In a world where politics is synonymous to hooliganism to some and egalitarianism is an alien concept (again, to some), ‘Durgamati’ does have a lesson or two to impart but the narrative and its storytelling technique is so bland that it slips through the cracks.

Durgamati

Durgamati Movie Review: Durgamati is relevant but the storytelling lacks the spirit it needed

STORY: Life turns upside down for disgraced IAS officer Chanchal Chauhan when she is taken to a deserted mansion for police questioning. There, she is possessed by a spirit who was wronged and –make no mistake – she will be avenged.

REVIEW: IAS officer Chanchal Chauhan (Bhumi Pednekar) was just a few days shy of being married to social activist Shakti Singh (Karan Kapadia) when tragedy struck. Chauhan is behind bars for brutally murdering her fiancé. In a not-so-distant world, Minister of Water Resources, Ishwar Prasad (Arshad Warsi), is on CBI’s radar for the mysterious disappearance of multiple idols from renowned ancient temples. Chauhan’s fate is sealed and Prasad is evading capture – what’s the connect between these two government servants together? Why is Chauhan being questioned in an abandoned, deplorable building notorious for paranormal presence and often labelled as ‘cursed’? And, most importantly, upon reaching the venue, why did Chauhan claim to be the physical avatar of the ghostly Durgamati, and who was she?Ashok G’s Hindi retelling of his 2018 Tamil-Telugu bilingual ‘Bhaagamathie’ is daring but dated, relevant but rancid.

Writer-director Ashok G’s ambitious project ‘Durgamati’ rides on the horse-and-buggy theme of ‘good over evil’ with ‘Vox Pop’ serving as undercurrent in this socially inclined horror-thriller. Barring the first scene – where women, children are seen flying around and being dragged out of their homes by an evil entity – the first 30 minutes is solely dedicated to building the premise and laying it all out for the audience to get hooked. Premise we get, hooked we don’t. For starters, Bhumi Pednekar as the dejected bureaucrat-behind-bars paints a gloomy picture and the viewer is invested well enough to be curious about her back story. But, once the shift from this demure persona to a vengeful former queen (who is incessantly singing her own praises, pfft…) happens, Bhumi becomes this bombastic devi whose heroism and subsequent plight is one that makes you wince and shudder. With the drastic makeover – permed hair and sari-draping fashioned on Hindu goddesses – Durgamati is an epic misfire on revenge and redemption, women empowerment and political conspiracies.

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From the standpoint of a horror flick, ‘Durgamati’ disappoints – shadowy presence looming at the back of a room, flicking of the hair, a scary neck sticking out of nowhere are medieval and flat-out passé. Jakes Bejoy’s background score worsens the situation for its director – too dramatic, too archaic. Now, observing the storyline from a thriller perspective, ‘Durgamati’ is neither here nor there. If anything, it is the sum-total of all that’s wrong, with the world with no in-depth focus on one subtheme: too peripheral for our liking. The climax is foreseeable, if not in its entirety. Likewise, the comedy bit is a decade too late – ‘Gopi, tumhare angur kyun kaap rahein hai’ extracts cringe out of the audience in 2020, not a chuckle. Even the doling out of gyaan is too utopian to be real and does not land where it’s supposed to.

Assuming you would agree when we say that Bhumi is a natural and this movie was no exception to that phenomenon, the versatile actress was out of her element as the feisty ghost – is it the meek writing? Who’s to say! Karan Kapadia has a Swades-esque moment, he was in the US, following which he comes back to the village of Panna and works towards the betterment of his countrymen. As Shakti, he is angry, a straight shooter and has only limited screen space. It would have been interesting to see more of him on the big screen. Mahie Gill is the corrupt Joint Director of CBI, Satakshi Ganguly, and although this fine actress tries to maintain the seriousness of the plot… there’s not much for her to do.Also, Bengalis’ lack of understanding of the Hindi language is one Bollywood stereotype that is as old as dear time. Arshad Warsi’s Ishwar Prasad wants to change the nation through honest and fair means and that man is just as impactful. ACP Singh (and Shakti’s elder brother in the film) is Jisshu Sengupta – even in his brief, underdeveloped role he charms us the way he always does, effortlessly!

In a world where politics is often synonymous to hooliganism to some and egalitarianism is an alien concept (again, to some), ‘Durgamati’ does have a lesson or two to impart but the narrative and its storytelling technique is so bland that it slips through the cracks. A dialogue around strong ideologies including women empowerment is always welcome, but it could be delivered better.

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