This apple was a bit hard to resist: just how different is the original Drishyam to Papanasam, and how different was Mohanlal's performance to Kamal's?
((Spoilers ahead: If you have not seen Papanasam yet and plan to, do read this after watching the movie. Else this might spoil the experience.))
Many reviewers, recounting purely from their memory, have said Papanasam stays true to the original. Even I wrote that on my blog, but after watching it again just now, I have to say there are more differences that I had originally thought.
1. The screenplay: This is a bit of a surprise. But there are some poignant moments in the first half of Drishyam focussed on the lead pair of George Kutty and Rani (played by Meena) that have been chopped in the Tamil version. A segment that offers some insight into George Kutty's pysche where he wants his daughters to continue in a local school against the "better English Medium" school that Rani wants, is missing in Papanasam. And some exchanges that George Kutty has with his father-in-law, that establishes well his middle class moorings are also missing. There is a delightful scene in which George Kutty complains that Rani keeps buying utensils that she never uses. In the Tamil version, Delhi Ganesh makes just a fleeting appearance as Suyambulingam's father-in-law.
Also, there is a subtle but important difference in how Drishyam shows Anju's attack on Varun. It shows an enraged Anju directly striking at his head. Whereas in Papanasam, Selvi targets his hand but inadvertently ends up striking his head. (This is referenced in the climax scene, in Suyambulingam's dialogues, and becomes a key differentiator between the movies.)
But the biggest change in the screenplay of Papanasam is its interval block. In Drishyam, which runs at around 2 hrs 46 mins (15 minutes shorter than Papanasam that clocks 3 hrs 1 min), the interval comes just after the first hour mark, with George Kutty returning home and discovering what had transpired on that fateful night. The interval credits appear with him standing near the compost pit. The tone of the movie changes exactly at this point. But in Papanasam, the interval block is more or less at the mid-point, a few scenes past the discovery.
This screenplay works better in Drishyam, in my opinion, because what happens in the genre-altering second half works better as one continuous block.
2. The pacing: Drishyam moves at a much slower pace, especially in the first few minutes leading to George Kutty's introduction. This seems to be a deliberate device used by Jeethu Joseph that actually helps contrast with the breakneck pace of the second half. George Kutty's introduction is less flamboyant than Suyambulingam's, and the story itself appears very laid-back in the first half.
Papanasam, on the other hand, tries to bristle a bit more with its humour and seems to be paced just a tad bit faster. Suyabulingam's first dialogue is in itself a character definition: the man knows his cinema.
3. The performances (of everyone else): Twenty minutes into Drishyam, one thing is very clear. Leaving aside the legends, most actors have put in a much better performance compared to what we see in Papanasam. Meena is pretty brilliant, and also perhaps benefits from the scripts that allows for a bit more nuance than what, at least the end product of Papanasam, seems to have allowed Gautami Tadimalla. Meena enjoys the advantage of having just a slightly more defined characterisation in Drishyam.
The antagonist Constable Mahadevan in Drishyam is played by Kalabhavan Shajon, who I gather was a comedian that Jeethu identified to play the role of the villain for the first time. His performance is a lot different than what we get from Kalabhavan Mani in Papanasam. Shajon is not menacing by any stretch, though he does bring out his grudge at George Kutty adequately. It is not an "in your face" kind of performance. Kalabhavan Mani, on the other hand, has a body language that is more menacing.
One actor who has scored in Drishyam over his counterpart in Papanasam easily is the person who plays the tea shop owner (Kozhikode Narayanan Nair, who I have absolutely no idea about). He just seems more at ease playing the tea stall owner than M.S.Baskar was in Papanasam.
That said, in Papanasam, Anant Mahadevan has put out a far superior performance to the role portrayed by Siddique in Drishyam. This is especially true in that unforgettable last scene, where he is the perfect foil to Kamal.
And Asha Sarath too has put in a better performance in Papanasam. It could be because she has already played it twice, and was able to emote better.
4. Techniques: Though we have the same editor and cinematographer in Ayub Khan and Sujjith Vaasudev, the end product in Papanasam is slightly different. There are far more shots closing in on Suyambulingam's eyes and it almost feels like the Tamil version was slightly dumbed down in trying to explain the plot points for the audience. There is a lot more foreshadowing in Papanasam compared to Drishyam.
5. Mohanlal vs Kamal: And now to the juicy bit. I wont go into who was better, but just how the two legends have approached it differently.
Mohanlal's George Kutty and Kamal's Suyambulingam are poles apart. Both actors have internalised the script well but have approached it from very different points, which probably says a little bit about their preparations for the character of a small town middle class father.
Mohanlal's George Kutty is a slightly short-tempered man who does not display his emotions easily. He plays it a bit nagging, as one that does not shy away from a fight and is very nearly adamant. George Kutty sheds tears but silently almost in a manner that attempts to belie a sense of vulnerability.
Kamal's Suyambulingam, on the other hand, is all heart, a bit of a romantic and is highly emotional. He cries when watching the black and white Sivaji Ganesan starrer 'Paasa Malar' and says "Paasa Malar paathu azhaathavalam manushana?" (A person who does not shed tears while watching 'Paasa Malar' is not human.) At this point, the cable TV assistant reiterates Suyambulingam's highly emotional disposition. He says "Neenga Nadigar Thilagam paera potta odaneye azhuthurupeengaley" ("You would have cried as soon as you saw Nadigar Thilagam (Sivaji Ganesan) in the title card.")
George Kutty is a man of habit and does not want to be drawn into conversations. At his home, he switches off the lights where they are unnecessary but does not have to say a word. He plays it in a way, where it is almost a natural impulse.
Suyambulingam, on the other hand, is a motor mouth. He necessarily has to point out and speak his mind.
During the course of their investigation, when the police strikes his family, George Kutty shows more defiance and even tries to take on Constable Mahadevan. But Kamal's Suyambulingam endures a lot more pain, and this is shown physically as well when Constable Perumal dislodges one of his fingers. The contrasts are wonderful, and are probably indicative of cultural differences. Just studying how these actors have brought out the nuances is like a master class in cinema acting.
6. THAT LAST SCENE: Where Drishyam and Papanasam are most different from one another is in that incredible last scene.
In Drishyam, George Kutty is both repentant and defiant at the same time. He gives the former IG Geetha Prabakhar and her husband an indirect answer to their question on the fate of Varun and even while he asks for forgiveness, he is not overwhelmed by guilt. His body language is stiff here, almost as if he is frozen. He holds his hands together in a frozen posture, as Geetha Prabhakar and her husband leave.
In Papanasam, Suyambulingam is overwhelmed by guilt and as he makes a more earnest attempt to tell the truth, he loses cohesiveness even while mumbling "ava kai thavari thappu nadathuduthu" (She hit by mistake). (This was facilitated by the change in the screenplay I referred to earlier.) Kamal's body language takes a different tenor here. He is trembling and shaking, almost like he is begging for forgiveness.
Both Mohanlal and Kamal have made Drishyam and Papanasam milestones in their career, and any discussion to argue who played it better will be a waste of time.
This post first appeared on Karthik Subramanian's blog page.
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