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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Durgamati – The Myth Review: One Remake Too Far

Hindi remakes of South-Indian films in 2020 haven’t been quite the winning formula.

In Diwali, Raghava Lawrence’s Laxmii was hugely unsuccessful and now Akshay Kumar returns with another remake (produced by him) with Durgamati – The Myth on Amazon Prime Video.

It is an adaptation of director G Ashok’s very own 2018 Tamil-Telugu film Bhaagamathie, starring Anushka Shetty in the main lead.

Interestingly, this film, like Laxmi, is also a violent horror story focused on revenge.

The narrative focuses on Chanchal (Bhumi Pednekar), an imprisoned IAS officer, is shifted to the infamous ‘Durgamati Haveli’ by a team of cops (Mahie Gill and Jisshu Sengupta), who wish to interrogate her about a local politician (Arshad Warsi).

It doesn’t go as planned, as Chanchal is possessed by an ancient spirit and old secrets are unveiled. 

Like the Telugu film, this too follows the same storyline and similar chain of events. Besides the language and actors, the other difference is their budget.

I appreciate this concept and style, even when Bhaagmathie released. It is fascinating to see this novelty and then seeing an esteemed actor like Anushka Shetty taking centre stage sealed the deal for us.

Also, the cast of Durgamati – The Myth is very promising. It unites some fine talents, exuding fresh combinations, which is what initially enticed me.

It promises to have a spooky and supernatural twist in the backdrop of political unrest and increased immorality.

However, if anything, the horror seems cliched, garish and melodramatic. It’s not unintentionally funny either but leaves us scratching our heads.

Even the comedy sequences with two officers (one of which is played by Chak De India‘s Tanya Abrol) is also cringe-worthy and pointless.

The biggest downfall of Durgamati – The Myth is the lack of character-building and the loud directorial approach.

Whether it’s Chanchal’s love story with Shakti (Karan Kapadia) or her vulnerability when she is in the abandoned mansion, nothing seems developed or compelling.

During the sequence when she is possessed by the spirit of Queen Durgamati, we as viewers don’t feel empathetic towards her situation nor do we really care either?

Not to compare but as a reference point, when Avantika in Bhool Bhulaiyaa gets ‘possessed’ by Manjulika, we at that point relate with how wronged she was and the harsh circumstances she faced.

Of course, with due respect to Bhumi Pednekar, she tries her hardest to explore a new style of cinema and a role which is layered and unexpected (you’ll see why in the film). 

But in sequences, when she has to act ‘possessed’ the director should’ve guided her to be more subtle.

During the dialogue deliveries, it seems like a bizarre hybrid of Baahubali and the Naagin series. It is too loud and bravado (unless if it was intentional?) 

Having said that though, I appreciate Bhumi’s attempt in this movie. Even respected actors like Arshad Warsi, Mahie Gill and Jisshu Sengupta also give their best shot. 

Karan Kapadia, who made his debut in Blank, has come leaps and bounds as an actor in this. He leaves a mark and is on par (and even beyond) with the experienced actors. Would like to see what he has to offer next. 

If the viewer has watched the original film, it is quite predictable to know what will happen next. Had this been customised in a less melodramatic and nuanced way, then perhaps this could’ve worked – by margins. Sadly, Durgamati remains a myth. 

On a serious note, I think most Bollywood gatekeepers need to introspect on what style of contents they are backing and why. I get that it is a business, but to what extent should creativity compromised at the hands of commercialisation?

Instead of looking at digital platforms in a positive way, it seems as though it is being used as a dumping ground for some lacklustre and half-baked ventures, rather than as an opportunity to make some creative and daring pieces of cinema that showcase various talents in India.

Durgamati – The Myth is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

⭐⭐ (2/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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